Chelsea versus Manchester City at Stamford Bridge isn't a must-win for the Blues. It's a very-much-like-to-win, granted, but being held to a draw by a title contender isn't a result that will have me throwing (very many) things against the wall. I was resigning myself to writing reminding us all that 1-1 wasn't the worst result and that we shouldn't be too cut up about it when Joe Hart and Matija Nastasic combined to hand Fernando Torres a bizarre late winner. So, instead of a 1-1 draw we were given a 2-1 win against a title rival, and suddenly the picture looks a lot rosier.
I guess we should probably start from the beginning.
Before the late dramatics -- before Andre Schurrle and Sergio Aguero exchanged goals -- we had a tense, exciting opening to the match. Chelsea were dominant in the opening exchanges, thanks partly to City's personnel selection. Martin Demichelis is the kind of centre back who can be gotten at, and in Vincent Kompany's absence the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar delighted in driving at the visitor's defence, causing all sort of issues.
Gary Cahill had an early chance, volleying over the bar when he had plenty of space, but the big miss of the game fell to Torres, who was picked out by Ramires, took the ball down with aplomb, and then blazed well over despite the fact that Hart had started falling down well before he struck his shot. We'd later find out that Torres simply assumed that he was offside and so wasn't trying particularly hard, but it felt at the time like a punch to the gut. And, to be fair, despite the excuse it was a pretty inexcusable miss, especially because City had started coming into the match.
In years past, Torres botching a chance would have resulted in the striker going missing for the rest of the match, but instead New Torres(TM) kept his head up and set up the game's opening goal mere minutes after botching its best chance. On the ball and faced with Gael Clichy, Torres duly demolished the left back, getting to the byline and squaring for Schurrle, who had eluded the comically inept Demichelis and was presented with an easy finish from four yards. He made no mistake, and Chelsea were up 1-0.
The Torres Show continued. Minutes after the Schurrle goal, the striker came within inches of doubling the lead, turning a nothing move into a nearly-goal by spinning away from Demichelis, creating a yard of space, and firing off the angle of post and bar with Hart well beaten.
Eventually the Torres-related-fun had to come to an end, and Aguero gave us a nasty reminder that City aren't just Javi Garcias and Martin Demichelises shortly after halftime, when he seized upon a Samir Nasri pass and fired in first time past a surprised Petr Cech, who will probably tell himself that he could have done better than waving vigourously at the shot.
From then on, Chelsea looked mostly toothless, with the best opportunities to break the deadlock coming from set pieces, which always looed very much like coming off without actually doing so. City, meanwhile, were the more threatening side. Cech redeemed himself for his complicity in the equaliser by saving well from David Silva, but there was a spell in which Jose Mourinho's unbeaten home record looked under serious threat.
City's industry died down towards the end of the match, and it looked as though both sides were happy enough with a 1-1 draw -- or at least were worried enough about losing that they weren't going to risk what they had by throwing bodies forward. But there was still time for some late drama.
The winner came from basically nothing. In the ninetieth minute, Willian hoofed a long ball forward for Torres to chase after, and Nastasic managed to intercept quite comfortably, nodding back to his keeper to diffuse the danger. Or rather, nodding back to where his keeper should have been -- rather than staying in his six-yard box, Hart had charged out in an attempt to cut out the pass himself.
The result of the misunderstanding was that the back header ended up floated over the goalkeeper, leaving Torres to outrun Demichelis and slot into an empty goal. 2-1 Chelsea, and despite some late scares, that's how it would end. The Blues remain within touching distance of Arsenal in first place, and are now four points clear of City. This was our first really big test of the year, and although we didn't really pass it with flying colours, three points are three points.