MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Chelsea delivered a potent mix of defensive resilience and effective counter-attacking in a 1-0 victory over Manchester City on Monday, neutralizing the Premier League's most rampant attack to provide a new twist in the title race.
Branislav Ivanovic lashed home a fierce 25-yard shot in the 31st minute to end City's 100 percent winning record at home in the league and earn Chelsea the double over most pundits' favorites for the title. The visitors could have won by more, hitting the goal frame three times and threatening almost every occasion they broke forward.
It meant Arsenal returned to the top of the standings, with a two-point lead over City and Chelsea, in what is proving to be a thrilling title race. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho continues to rule his evolving team out of contention, but few will take him seriously after this performance.
"Two horses and a little horse," was Mourinho's description of the title race, which has 14 more matches to run. "A little horse that still needs milk and to learn how to jump. A horse that next season can race."
City has been the league's thoroughbreds this season, winning all 15 of its domestic home games and scoring 115 goals in all competitions. Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham — among others — have all been crushed at Etihad Stadium this season.
A win here would have put six points between City and Chelsea — to many, the second favorites for the title, despite Mourinho's protestations to the contrary — but it's all to play for now.
"I think that for Chelsea it was a decisive game, but not for us," City manager Manuel Pellegrini said.
Mourinho is renowned around the football world as the master defensive strategist. Few will forget how his Inter Milan side nullified Barcelona in the 2010 Champions League semifinal at the Camp Nou, while Chelsea has already ground out 0-0 draws at Manchester United and Arsenal this season.
It was different here, though. Chelsea counter-attacked with such pace and purpose, and hounded City's much-lauded ball-players into sloppy mistakes, that the visitors could easily have won by three goals. Samuel Eto'o hit the bar and the excellent Nemanja Matic and Gary Cahill struck the post.
Bayern Munich is the only team to have beaten City at Etihad Stadium this season and Chelsea's supreme display had echoes of that dismantling in the Champions League back in September.