It is official. Liverpool have been crowned the Premier League champions of the 2019-20 season, courtesy of Chelsea's 2-1 win over Manchester City on Thursday evening.
Heading into the top-of-the-table clash at Stamford Bridge, Manchester City needed a win to delay Liverpool's title celebrations for a couple of more days. However, Chelsea were determined to win the game in a bid to secure a Champions League spot for themselves and ultimately came out on top in the exciting fixture.
Christian Pulisic gave the hosts the lead in the 36th minute after he capitalised on an awkward moment of miscommunication between Benjamin Mendy and Ilkay Gundogan.
The hotly-contested game kept everyone on the edge of their seats until the end and had some eye-catching moments like Kevin De Bryune's inch-perfect free-kick and Kyle Walker's brave goal-line clearance.
In the climax, a red card was shown to Fernandinho for a handball and a penalty was subsequently awarded to Chelsea. Willian dispatched the spot-kick into the top left-corner with ease after sending Ederson the wrong way.
So, as Chelsea finally avenged their 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the reverse fixture earlier this season, here are five key observations from the game.
#5 Manchester City's elegant passing was reminiscent of Guardiola's tiki-taka style
Pep Guardiola is often credited as the brain behind tiki-taka: an elegant playing style in which footballers utilise possession and short passing to overwhelm their opponents.
The manner in which Manchester City started the game against Chelsea was reminiscent of the famous tactic from the last decade, though the fluidity and finesse were nowhere near what Barcelona and Spain had achieved with the strategy.
The quartet of Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, Rodri and Benjamin Mendy exchanged a lot of passes in the middle of the pitch, often in a quick one-two fashion.
The brilliant one-touch football was also displayed in the second half when Ederson initiated a quick-counter attack following a corner. The ball passed through De Bryune, Riyad Mahrez and finally to Raheem Sterling in a flash. The English forward was, however, unlucky to be denied by the post.
#4 In a match with so much attacking talent, it took defensive errors for goals to be scored
Goals were expected to be scored in this exciting matchup between the second-placed and fourth-placed sides of the Premier League, with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic on the pitch. However, it was kind of disappointing to see that the first two goals were scored as a result of defending errors.
Firstly, it was the miscommunication between Gundogan and Mendy following a Manchester City corner which allowed Pulisic to make a run into the space in front of the keeper. The American then easily guided his right-footed shot around Ederson and into the bottom right corner to give Chelsea the lead.
In the second-half, N'Golo Kante made a very uncharacteristic challenge on Mahrez in a very dangerous position. De Bryune stepped up to take the free-kick and scored an absolute stunner, which no goalkeeper in the world would've been able to save.
The Blues, however, deserve all the credit for their second goal, which came as a result of their relentless onslaught in the second half.
#3 Chelsea showed everyone how to beat Manchester City: Less possession, more precision
Manchester City dominated possession throughout the game and Chelsea players knew they couldn't press their opponents too much as it would leave them open to the Cityzens' lightning-quick counter-attack.
So, Frank Lampard's men held their lines, did not allow the opponents much space in their half and worked wonders in the final third whenever they got hold of the ball. Even before Pulisic opened the scoring, the Blues had fared better in terms of shots on target.
In the second half, Chelsea continued their disciplined defensive display while also ramping up their presence in the final third. They were also more successful in winning aerial battles and tackles, which helped them retain their slender one-goal lead till the final whistle.
#2 Too much creativity in the City squad wasted in the absence of Sergio Aguero
Pep Guardiola fielded a squad without a proper No.9 against Chelsea. With their top-scorer Sergio Aguero out with an injury, the Spaniard tried to be a little bit creative with his playing XI.
The decision to start Bernardo Silva in a false-nine role did not turn out well for the Sky Blues as the hefty possession they enjoyed throughout the game failed to translate into goalscoring opportunities. One of the key reasons for that was the lack of a target player inside the box for their midfielders.
In this creativity-heavy squad, the absence of a finisher like Aguero was felt as the players looked a bit indecisive when in possession in the final third.
#1 Pulisic proves he can be Chelsea's main man in the coming seasons
Christian Pulisic was the best Chelsea player on Thursday evening and was a constant threat to Manchester City's defence. His pace, confidence and ability to run at the defenders with the ball at his feet made him very dangerous going forward.
If not for Walker's brilliant goal-line clearance in the second half, he would've walked away from the game with a brace to his name. His display against the Manchester giants was one of his finest performances in the Blues jersey and if he keeps it up, he could even rise to the same level as Eden Hazard, the man whose shoes he is expected to fill.
With all the hype surrounding the American, it is sometimes easy to forget that he is just 21 years old and has a lot learn. He did not have the perfect start to life in the Premier League, but 7 goals and two assists in 18 appearances are not bad numbers, considering it is his maiden season in the English top flight.Published 26 Jun 2020, 08:58 IST