Chelsea sustain their first loss of the season against a resilient Manchester City side. Chelsea conceded a typical counterattacking goal on the hour mark and failed to create enough chances to grab an equaliser, dropping all three points at the City of Manchester Stadium for the second year on the trot and failing to find the net in Premier League play for the first time since December 2009. It was Joe Hart that foiled them then in his loan stint with Birmingham City; it was Hart who proved unbeatable again in his rather more fiendish incarnation as Manchester City's number one goalkeeper.
Mancini was clearly playing for a draw, ceding Chelsea the vast majority of possession and inviting them to attack. They did so in a rather futile manner, Didier Drogba in particular having a very poor match. Chelsea were finding City's midfield a rather tougher proposition than the likes of West Brom or Wigan, and were often reduced to running up blind alleys or taking low-risk shots from deep. Frank Lampard was keenly missed here. The midfielder scores so many goals that it's easy to forget how instrumental he is in Chelsea's flowing moves forward, but with him out passes tended to be less ambitious - and far less accurate.
Still, Chelsea had the better of the first half in what essentially amounted to trench warfare - they were bossing the ball and managed to rattle the crossbar when Ivanovic rose to power a header past the City defence, which was more than the hosts could say. The second half also started brightly for the Blues, Hart denying Nicolas Anelka's long-range effort with a fabulous save that led to a corner. Michael Essien also attempted a few long-range efforts, but they were (for the most part) well off-target. With Chelsea pressing forward with real intent it felt as though a goal was coming, and soon.
It was. Chelsea won a corner and City could only half-clear to Ramires, just ahead of the half-way line. The lithe Brazilian was in good position to take the ball down, but was muscled off by James Milner, who immediately fed Carlos Tevez right down the middle. Ashley Cole against Tevez is not a match you favour the Chelsea man winning, and Tevez cut one way, wrong footing Petr Cech, before powering a shot through Cole's legs and in off the far post. It was 1-0 City and suddenly Ancelotti's side were in serious danger of losing rather than failing to win.
Jon Obi Mikel, a rather pointless luxury while one's team is behind, was replaced by Yuri Zhirkov, but although the Russian immediately added some life to the Chelsea attack they were still being undone by errant passes from Ramires and poor play from Drogba. With Ashley Cole penned in at the back, Chelsea couldn't rely on Malouda's dangerous inside runs, and with most of their attacking weapons blunted never really looked like scoring. Daniel Sturridge was committed to the fray, replacing Drogba, but the ex-City player was definitely not a marked improvement, running into defenders and coughing the ball up left and right.
A ridiculously poor pass by Sturridge nearly let City in with a second goal, but Alex managed to get away with a blatant foul on Carlos Tevez as the Argentine threatened to burst free once more - it was an appalling piece of refereeing, and even though it went in Chelsea's favour I'm not too comfortable with it. Alex kicking Tevez's legs out from under him at the edge of the box should be at least a free kick and a booking, not a vague wave at the striker to get up. While these sorts of decisions tend to even out, that doesn't make them right.
Josh McEachran was introduced late on for the spectacularly poor Ramires, and the young midfield immediately started making things happen for Chelsea, showing a deft touch and a great ability to distribute the ball, albeit one that was wasted by his teammates far too often. The clock ticked down, and while City had a scare or two in the closing minutes the defending champions never looked like scoring, and after four minutes of injury time the game ended 1-0 to City.
While Ancelotti may be keen to pin the blame on the whole team rather than individual players, it's pretty clear that Ramires was responsible for the defeat, even if not for the failure to win. City were playing for the draw, scored a very good goal, but presented pretty much no threat outside of Tevez's goal. Chelsea didn't deserve to win here, but they also didn't deserve to lose.
The Blues are still top of the table, but some of that cushion has been eaten away. They'll have to just bounce back against Marseilles and prepare to entertain Arsenal next week. These things happen, but that can't happen too often. Let's get our four-point lead back!