MANCHESTER: Football’s compelling magic was illustrated five minutes from the end of the match-of-the-season-so-far when Frank Lampard struck the goal which rescued a 1-1 draw for champions Manchester City at home to Premier leaders Chelsea.
Lampard had left Chelsea in the summer after 13 years and 211 goals. He was supposed to join New York City. But Major League Soccer does not start until the spring so he stayed in England on loan to New York’s parent club.
City were down to 10 men after the expulsion of Pablo Zabaleta and trailing 1-0 to Andre Schurrle’s second goal of the season when Lampard arrived as substitute to score a fairytale equaliser. Lampard, mobbed by his new team-mates, kept a stoney face and refused to celebrate himself.
His old club had travelled north with everything in their favour. They had won all their previous four games with 15 goals including six at Everton and another four against Swansea. Their two most expensive summer signings, Diego Costa and Cesc Fàbregas, had scored seven and supplied six respectively.
City handed a surprise debut to the giant Eliaquim Mangala in central defence in place of Martin DeMichelis but he had a comfortable start. Skipper Vincent Kompany made it his own responsibility to keep on top of Diego Costa and, in any case, City were on the attack for most of the first half.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had been criticised, in the past, for “parking the bus” in Chelsea’s own penalty box in away matches. John Terry and Co spent most of the time deep in their own half but that was largely because they were forced back.
However, for all the promptings of David Silva, the hard work of Edin Dzeko and the improved form of Yaya Toure – heavily criticised in Munich – City made little impression. Neither goalkeeper, Joe Hart or Thibaut Courtois, came under serious threat in a goalless first half.
The longer the second half continued increased the prospect that City manager Pellegrini might feel it necessary to introduce Lampard to try to manage – against his old club – one of his characteristic and valuable goals from midfield.
City did raise the tempo but Chelsea remained as disciplined as ever. When they had possession they evolved into 4-3-3. Otherwise they massed in 4-5-1. This frustrated City so, even when Fernandinho saw a shooting chance early in the second half, his hasty effort thundered wide of Courtois’s right-hand post.
Courtois, finally, was forced to the first ‘real’ save when he dived left to parry a shot on the turn from Sergio Aguero.
The sight of City starting to find space sparked Mourinho into sending out his substitutes to warm up. Andre Schurrle came on for Willian, wide on the right, with Mikel taking over Ramires in the engine room. That shook up the game, Pablo Zabaleta hacked at Costa, earned a second yellow card and thus a red.
Chelsea took immediate advantage. City, reorganising with the introduction of Bacary Sagna at right back with Dzeko going off, were caught by a superb Chelsea counter-attack. Brane Ivanovic found Costa in space, Eden Hazard crossed perfectly from the right and Schurrle stabbed the ball home at the far post.
Costa might have scored a second goal. But first he planted a ‘free’ header straight into the arms of Hart and then stabbed a shot against the goalkeeper’s left-hand post.
Finally Pellegrini brought Lampard into the game, decisively. With five minutes left the veteran who had scored 211 goals for Chelsea volleyed his first for Manchester City. At the final whistle he was cheered from the pitch by fans of both sides.