Riyad Mahrez’s fabulous finish proved the difference as Manchester City overcame Chelsea in a thrilling encounter.
The Algerian struck the winner after Kevin De Bruyne had cancelled out a Blues opener from N’Golo Kante.
City, who overtook Chelsea in third spot, are now nine points behind leaders Liverpool.
Both sides missed good chances in a rip-roaring opening, with De Bruyne and Willian sliding efforts inches wide before Fikayo Tomori was also off target from close range.
When the first goal did come in the 21st minute, it was from the unlikely source of Kante.
The Frenchman raced onto a fine pass from Mateo Kovacic and, despite the close attention of Benjamin Mendy, he managed to squeeze a finish past the advancing Ederson.
Back came City and De Bruyne levelled eight minutes later when his low shot struck Kurt Zouma to leave Kepa stranded.
Buoyed by that, the hosts then took the lead in the 37th minute through Mahrez’s stunning individual effort.
Sergio Aguero almost struck a third just before the break when Kepa’s pass came to the Argentine, but his shot hit the bar.
The second-half could not live up the intensity of the first, but it was still nerve-tingling and Kepa denied Mahrez with his fingertips while Mason Mount curled a free kick inches wide. Raheem Sterling had an injury-time goal ruled out by VAR for offside, but City did not need it as they claimed a fifth successive home win.
MAHREZ THE MAGICIAN
It is unlikely Riyad Mahrez would have started this game had Bernardo Silva not been suspended.
He did not figure at Liverpool and has often been considered a risk in the games against the ‘big clubs’ such as the Reds where work-rate, control and discipline are qualities more often required.
But, when afforded the opportunity like here, Mahrez has to make the most of it.
This is the stage to show the quality that made him English football’s best player in Leicester’s title triumph and Algeria’s talisman when they won the Africa Cup of Nations in the summer.
When Mahrez gave the ball away carelessly and Chelsea broke quickly to fashion the early chance that Willian missed, it was a moment that might have affected him in the past.
But Mahrez knows he can no longer hide, or disappear, and responded in the perfect fashion with a goal that was mesmerising and magical.
Skipping, slaloming in between Emerson and Mateo Kovacic, his left-foot finish went through the legs of Fiyako Tomori and into the corner. In 11 starts this season he has scored four goals and assisted six.
This was prime-time Mahrez, the one worth a gamble and who Pep Guardiola can trust even when Bernardo is back.
LAMPS LIGHTS UP THE BLUES
Pre-game, there was much talk of the managerial similarities between Pep Guardiola and Frank Lampard as the Chelsea boss makes a big impression in charge of the club where he became a playing legend.
Guardiola did likewise at Barcelona.
Should he carry on in this manner, and despite the first league loss since September, Lampard will no doubt be tasting success as a manager too.
This game against the champions was a test of his credentials – the master v apprentice line will come when Chelsea face Jose Mourinho’s Spurs – and Lampard’s Blues did not let him down.
In a game of breathtaking quality from both sides, it was a joy to watch.
The defences may come under scrutiny, but that was because of the attacking intent instilled and encouraged by Guardiola and Lampard.
Their gifted players have been given the freedom to express themselves, take risks and entertain. When Jorginho’s mistake led to Kevin De Bruyne’s leveller, it did not stop the Brazilian from changing his style. Give top players belief and they will give you brilliance.
In this corresponding fixture last season, Chelsea meekly surrendered in a 6-0 defeat. They have come a long way under Lampard – and have the potential to grow even more.
EVERYONE LOVES KANTE
When fans often discuss opposition players they want in their team, N’Golo Kante’s name crops up more than most.
Not only is the Frenchman’s humble demeanour a welcome trait, his displays rank him among the very best in his position throughout world football.
With Jorginho and Kovacic providing a solid base at the heart of the Chelsea midfield, Kante has again been given the licence to push forward as he did under Maurizio Sarri.
He is no water carrier a la Didier Deschamps, though, but a workaholic who is a benefit to defence and attack.
Kante is Mr Consistency, a bundle of energy and efficiency.
Up against Benjamin Mendy and the imposing frame of Ederson coming into view, his poked finish for the opening goal was testament to his will. Kante has the fight, the fire, even when the cause seems lost. It is why everyone loves him.
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