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Lampard earns ten-man City a point against former club Chelsea

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Frank Lampard put his hand to his mouth,

turned and walked back to his own half with a

half-shrug of non-celebration. He had

received a rapturous welcome from Chelsea

fans when he had come on as a 78 -minute

substitute for Aleksandar Kolarov and even

before that the away support that delighted in

claiming that Lampard had won more titles

than Manchester City. But with five minutes

to go, it was suddenly the home fans who

chanted Lampard’s name after he had scored

an equalizer to savage an improbable point

for his side – and, it seemed, extend the title

race beyond the end of September.

To make such calls after five games, of course,

would be absurd, but if Chelsea had won, it

would have been five victories out of five this

season and it would have stood eight points

clear of City. This had looked like being a

classic Jose Mourinho performance, a

counter-attacking master-class. City was 1-0

down and down to 10 men. It looked, in all

honesty, as if it had run out of ideas. But then

James Milner stretched to clip a volley across

the box and a tumbling Lampard forced the

ball in. After a leaden-legged performance in

the first half against Arsenal last week, it had

seemed his time at City might be a curious

footnote to his career; as it is, he has scored

what is probably City’s most important goal of

the season so far.

It was a game of much striving, much good

defending, and very few chances which, given

the leakiness both sides have shown recently,

probably didn’t disappoint either manager

greatly. This felt like a welcome throwback to

the days of the last decade and beyond, when

the meetings of big teams were grinding,

physical affairs in which each pass, each

moment of space, had to be earned amid the

clashing of giant bodies. This was like two

mighty stags rutting in the forest, a spectacle

notable less for any subtlety or finesse than

for the sheer mass of the protagonists.

The

battle

between

Diego

Costa

and

Vincent

Kompany

quickly

established itself as the game’s principle

sideshow. Costa is an awkward forward, all

elbows and with few qualms about using

them. As he showed against Everton, the

repertoire of things he will do to get the better

of his man extends beyond what is permitted

under the laws. Kompany, meanwhile,

although he has a tendency to dive in at

times, is a generally unflappable defender.

Again and again the two clashed, Costa full of

shrugs and plaintive looks at the referee,

Kompany making a show of being unruffled,

chest outthrust, eyes as impassive as a statue.

At one moment in the first half, he received

the ball under pressure to the right side of the

City box: Costa chopped at him, Kompany

shrugged him off; Costa again reached his leg

around the Belgian to try to steal the ball

away, and again Kompany kept going. Only

when he clattered him a third time did the

referee Mike Dean final give a free-kick,

although Kompany still had possession. The

two patted each other’s bellies in a gesture of

mutual respect.

Eliaquim Mangala, the £32million summer

signing from Porto, made his first appearance

alongside Kompany and offered an

impressively muscular presence. The line form

City had been that it would bed him in slowly,

working on the training ground to get him

used to playing alongside Kompany; his

inclusion was either a indication that that

process is complete, or that Pellegrini has

been so concerned by the form of Martin

Dimichelis that he has accelerated the France

defender’s integration.

Not until

10

minutes

after the

break did

either

side have

a notable

shot on

goal,

Fernandinho blasting a snapshot wide from

the edge of the box after a corner had been

half cleared. Two minutes later, Thibuat

Courtois pulled off a fine save low to his left

from a Sergio Aguero shot on the turn and

Ramires just got to the rebound before Edin

Dzeko.

But just as it seemed City may take control,

Pablo Zabaleta was sent off. He had perhaps

been a little unfortunate to be booked in the

first half for what looked a clean challenge on

Eden Hazard – although the referee Mike

Dean indicated he was being cautioned for

repeated foul play – but his foul on Diego

Costa was clearly worthy of another yellow

and so off he went. Costa was booked for

grappling with the Argentinian, but you

suspect he would mind that too much; having

failed to rile the center-backs, he had

managed to take another defender out of the

game.

Four minutes later came the opening goal.

Hazard won the ball and swung it left, and the

ball passed through Cesc Fabegas, Branislav

Ivanovic and Costa before arriving back at

Hazard who had advanced down the right. He

crossed low, and Schurrle arrived at the back

post to turn the ball over the line.

At that point it seemed the story would be the

same as last year; Chelsea holding City at

arm’s length and striking on the counter.

Costa could have won it when his shot came

back off the post. But that was to reckon

without Lampard and a remarkable twist.

Chelsea stands five points clear of City, which

is still significant, but it is manageable. The

title race remains alive.

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