Tevez' return inspires Man City comeback
Manchester City 2 Chelsea 1
After six months in disgrace, Carlos Tevez returned a hero as he helped inspire a triumphant Manchester City comeback against Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium.
With City trailing to Gary Cahill’s deflected opener, and their title hopes about to suffer a potentially fatal blow, Tevez was given 24 minutes to do something about it.
And the controversial South American answered the call.
First Tevez began the move that ended with Sergio Aguero equalising from the penalty spot.
Then, five minutes from time, he created the opening which allowed Samir Nasri to grab a precious three points.
It was City’s 20th Premier League home win on the trot, a new record. Far more importantly, it cut Manchester United’s lead at the top to a single point.
Both sides had come into the game with central defensive problems.
In the absence of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott, Roberto Mancini solved his by moving Micah Richards into the centre as Kolo Toure’s partner and picking Pablo Zabaleta at full-back.
Chelsea were more straightforward as Gary Cahill and David Luiz were given the job of subduing Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero.
The importance of victory for the hosts could hardly be understated and they tore into their opponents from the first whistle.
Zabaleta had a shot deflected wide and David Silva scooped another over before Nasri rattled the crossbar.
The former Arsenal man might not have lived up to the lofty expectations of him following his summer move north, but he remains a class act.
And after taking down Yaya Toure’s long pass magnificently on his chest, the Frenchman lifted his first-time shot over Petr Cech, only to see it come back off the bar.
Nasri was behind City’s most incisive work but their next clear sight of goal did not come until the half hour mark, and then the architect was a member of the opposition.
Lampard was not thinking as he rolled a pass along the halfway line and Mario Balotelli seized possession and raced forward to leave the Chelsea defence streaming back in his wake.
However, Cech showed all his experience, staying tall and making the young Italian decide which way to go. Balotelli went left and Cech dived to push it round for a corner.
With Tottenham looming on Saturday, maybe a point would not have been the worst outcome for the visitors.
Their performance was certainly far removed from the thrilling display that eliminated Napoli from the Champions League seven days ago.
Fernando Torres was retained and he worked hard enough after finally breaking that long goal drought.
Juan Mata only got close enough to support once in the first half though, and his finish was poor.
In replacing Balotelli with Gareth Barry at half-time, Mancini was aiming to fill the midfield.
The England man did his job too as it was his tackle that helped create the attack that ended with Nasri firing a disappointing shot over from Toure’s lay-off.
Again, City tightened their grip on the game.
Cech got his angles wrong as he attempted to push Nasri’s cross over and succeeded only in shoving it against the bar instead.
Zabaleta turned the rebound into the six-yard box, where David Silva’s flick was deflected wide and from the corner, Sergio Aguero hooked a shot over.
It was only a matter of time before the opener arrived. But no-one expected it to come at the other end.
City felt Luiz should have been penalised for a shove on Barry but referee Mike Dean ignored the protests, which allowed the ball to run on for Cahill.
His shot would have been saved by Joe Hart without the massive deflection off Yaya Toure that left the City keeper totally stranded.
That was the trigger for the arrival of Tevez.
For so long as the row over his non-appearance in Munich last September rumbled on, it seemed he had no future at the club. Against all odds, he is still here.
And while the Argentinian still looks like he could lose a pound or two after his extended career break, he retains the ability to make an impact.
It was his pass to fellow substitute Edin Dzeko that earned the corner from which Michael Essien handled Zabaleta’s shot.
Aguero is now City’s number one Argentinian penalty taker and he coolly sent Cech the wrong way.
But Tevez was not finished.
With five minutes left, he collected Nasri’s pass on the edge of the area, turned and nicked the ball through to his team-mate, who had continued his burst into the box.
This time Nasri found the finish too, cheekily nicking the ball over the advancing Cech to send the stadium into uproar and breath fresh life into City’s championship challenge.