Manchester City knocked off Chelsea, 5-3, in what proved to be a thrilling friendly Saturday night.
It didn't take long for the scoring to get underway.
Henrique Hilario had a hard to time finding an open man to pass it out to. With the more compact pitch, his options were a little scarce. He eventually found an open Oscar who immediately tried to give it back to Hilario. It was a comically poor pass and Gareth Barry ended up pouncing on the chance.
Three minutes in and the score was already 1-0. It's quite a collector's item as Barry has only scored 47 goals in 497 Premier League matches. The goal was also a testament as to why Hilario is nowhere near quality enough to be a backup keeper for Chelsea. Both he and Oscar were equally culpable, but Hilario could have prevented the whole thing by getting rid of the ball much better.
As Mike Prindiville of ProSoccerTalk noted, this match had the makings of becoming a defensive farce:
Samir Nasri got on the score sheet, finding the net in the 29th minute. He was tremendous the entire match and was the best player on the pitch.
The first half ended with City ahead, 2-0. Both managers chose to make a couple of substitutions at halftime.
One of the subs for City was goalkeeper Richard Wright. Just seconds into his inclusion, he had to deal with a charging Ramires. The midfielder was able to round Wright and get the easy goal. It's hard to blame Wright too much as David Luiz had delivered a perfect ball for Ramires, and the keeper would have needed a little bit more time to adjust to the match.
On the other hand, Alex Labidou of Goal.com was less than impressed with Wright's first action of the match:
If you weren't convinced this was going to be a unique match, surely James Milner's goal in the 55th was all the assurance you needed. He had some space in the box and did well to finish off the chance and put City ahead, 3-1.
Ramires and Nasri each added another to make it 4-2 going into the last 25 minutes of the match.
It looked like City was going to cruise to victory. A two-goal lead would be tough for Chelsea to overcome, especially in a friendly. However, nobody told Juan Mata that he should take the rest of the match off as he delivered what is becoming a trademark Mata free kick. Wright was frozen in his place as the shot found the back of the net in the 82nd minute to make it 4-3 in favor of City.
Brent Atema of Global Football Today was just left in awe of Mata:
Just two minutes later, Edin Dzeko went to the other end of the pitch and gave City its two-goal lead back. He found himself with a little bit of space a couple of yards outside the box and hit a nice shot into the bottom left corner.
After a feverish final few minutes, City was the 5-3 winner. Considering it was nothing more than a friendly, this was a very entertaining match. It had a little bit of everything, and the players were not simply sitting back letting the time elapse. Both clubs wanted to win this, and the fans who were in attendance or watched on TV shouldn't have been disappointed.
Samir Nasri, Manchester City: A+
It's after a performance like this City supporters wonder why Nasri would perform so badly at various points this season. It might have been a friendly, but it's not as if the Frenchman had a clear path to goal the entire match.
Nasri was composed on the ball, did well getting forward and finished off his chances. Sure it was only a friendly, but Nasri left you believing he still has a role to play in this squad next season.
James Milner, Manchester City: B+
Milner isn't always the most fun player to watch, but there's something to be said for how versatile he is on the pitch. Not only that, but he's a tireless worker. This was a typical Milner performance as he was running all over the place.
What was different was that he was able to score a goal. He's only got 30 of them in his 326 league matches. Here's to hoping somebody gave him or Barry the match ball because it will probably be a while before either of them find the back of the net again.
Ramires, Chelsea: A+
Like Milner, Ramires was everywhere on the pitch Saturday night. Unlike Milner, he was a constant threat going forward.
Wright did make a mess of Ramires' first goal, but the midfielder did well to control the ball and set himself up for the easy finish. Aside from scoring the second goal, it was Ramires who was fouled to set up Mata for Chelsea's third goal.
Juan Mata, Chelsea: B
If Juan Mata had played the entire game, his grade probably would have been much higher. Instead, he has to settle with a B.
When he came on the pitch, he added a new dimension to the Chelsea attack. It was a smart substitution because Mata could provide an immediate impact and lead the Blues' late charge.
And you could probably watch Mata take free kicks for 90 minutes and still be awed. He's so lethal on set pieces.
Manchester City Starting XI Grades
Chelsea Starting XI Grades
|D||Nathan Ake ||B-|
With the season over, most of the focus after this match will shift to Chelsea and Manchester City's action during the summer.
Both need new managers. Jose Mourinho has been heavily linked to the Blues, so much so that the players are acting as if it's a done deal. Paul Chronnell of The Guardian reported the Citizens will name Manuel Pellegrini as the new manager on June 3.
City and Chelsea had underwhelming campaigns in 2012/13, so they'll be looking to add some reinforcements this summer as well. The owners will be eager to spend big in order to give the new managers the players they need to fit their respective systems.
It should be an entertaining summer at both Stamford Bridge and the Etihad.