Frank Lampard came off the bench to incredibly deny his former club Chelsea victory at Etihad Stadium and rescue a precious point for 10-man Manchester City. Chelsea’s all-time record goalscorer had been on the pitch less than 10 minutes before he popped up with a trademark goal five minutes from the end against the side he left after 13 years in the summer.
It could yet prove to be a goal of significant consequence, too, with Chelsea having looked set to open up a five point gap at the top of the Premier League table and an eight point advantage over the champions. Having frustrated City in typical Jose Mourinho fashion for the first two-thirds of the contest, Chelsea pounced on the break through Andre Schürrle less than five minutes after Pablo Zabaleta have been shown a second yellow card. Chelsea appeared in control and even came close to extending their lead when Diego Costa struck a post. But very much un-Mourinho like, the visitors switched off to allow Lampard, on loan from New York City FC, to volley home, as he so often did in a Chelsea shirt, after arriving in the penalty box with impeccable timing.
The result ends Chelsea’s 100 percent start to the Premier League season and in a manner that will surely cause Mourinho much fury, particularly after his side also relinquished a lead against Schalke in the Champions League in midweek. Still, it is a result that all the evidence suggested he would have gladly taken at the start of the contest. For much of an encounter that was not always entertaining, but almost always intriguing, Manchester City were unquestionably the team most intent on emerging with all three points. With big summer signing Elliaquim Mangala making an impressive debut alongside the imperious Vincent Kompany at the back, City kept Diego Costa quiet and played with real purpose going forward early on.
But Mourinho showed once more that he is an expert at shutting a game down and frustrating the opposition, with Thibaut Courtois essentially untested in the opening 45 minutes. Referee Mike Dean was considerably busier. Six yellow cards were awarded in the first half, including one to Zabaleta for a foul on Eden Hazard which was certainly on the harsh side. The officials also waved away a penalty appeal at other end. Both were probably just correct, as was the decision not to point to the spot when Yaya Touré went down early in the second half.
Manchester City regained their intensity after the interval and this time were able to seriously threaten Courtois. Sergio Agüero turned adroitly in the box and stumbled over a challenge before drilling a low left-footed shot that Courtois did exceptionally to get down quickly to and block away, before Ramires denied Edin Džeko the chance to seize upon the rebound. City’s hopes of pushing for a win were then dealt a major blow in the 66th minute. While Zabaleta could have just complaint about his first booking, he had no such cause for remonstrations after his second. The experienced full-back foolishly showed his frustration with Costa by kicking out at the Chelsea striker from behind.
It looked set to be a costly red. Ruthlessly taking advantage of their opponents’ numerical disadvantage, Chelsea launched a typically incisive counter-attack to take the lead. Hazard led it superbly, first with a cross-field pass and then with a pinpoint ball across the face of the six-yard box that was perfect for Schürrle, on the pitch just eight minutes, to slide low into the net. Up a goal and a man with less than 20 minutes remaining, few will have predicted, despite Chelsea showing increased defensive fragility this season, that the result would be anything other than an away win. That surely would have been the case if Costa’s deflected strike had found the net rather than the foot of Joe Hart’s left-hand post.
Instead, as against Schalke, Chelsea gave their opponents a route back into the game. Schürrle allowed Milner to run in behind him and volley David Silva’s delightful chipped pass across the box and Lampard found the back of the net, just as he had done so many times in a Chelsea shirt.