Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has played down his side’s title hopes despite a rare win against a team tagged the best attacking side in Europe by many.
The ‘Blues’ inflicted a first home Premier League defeat of the season on Manchester City as the title race looks to have panned into a bona-fide three-horse race.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men are a side that have won 11 out of their eleven games at the Etihad Stadium this season and have scored five more goals than any other team has managed after 24 games of a league season, but their failure to increase on that impressive tally handed Chelsea and opportunity to close up the gap at the top of the standings.
Branislav Ivanovic’s first-half goal handed the visitors a deserved win. The right-back thundered in a left-foot strike from the edge of the area after Vincent Kompany made a desperate block on Ramires.
The third-placed London club, now level on 53 points with City but with an inferior goal difference, trails city rivals Arsenal by two points.
“We can (win the title) if they (Manchester City) lose it. Arsenal are working for many, many years for the evolution of their team.
“What we are doing this season is what Arsenal have been building for years,” a humble Mourinho said after Monday night’s 0-1 win at the Etihad.
It came as a result of team work as the Portuguese manager opted for a tactical approach, rather than ‘park the bus’ and wait to pounce on their opponents’ defence. Instead Chelsea came up with a counter-attacking plot designed to undermine City’s well revered attacking instinct so far this season and it paid off.
The hosts came into the match after a series of imperious victories on the same ground. The last time they failed to score at home was on November 13, 2010, in a goalless draw against Birmingham.
“It means nothing for us to come here and park the bus and win 1-0 in a lucky situation. The evolution is more important,” continued Mourinho, on the essence of enticing the fans with better style of play.
The fact Chelsea hit the woodwork on three occasions through Samuel Eto’O, Nemanja Matic and Gary Cahill, means they didn’t run off with the victory. They dominated the midfield while Martin Demichelis (in particular) struggled to raise his game as Pellegrini went for a 4-4-2 formation without the injured Sergio Aguero upfront.
Kolo Toure, however, stood out for the Citizens but it was Silva that came closest to scoring, forcing a superb save off Petr Cech from a deadball situation.
All said, the win was pivotal to Chelsea’s title challenge but Mourinho’s slow-and-steady tactic looked all about shoving off pressure away from his ‘Blues Family’ while earning their own against the big guns.
He added: “The next pre-season, me and my players will s ay openly that we are mature, solid from day one and are candidates for the league. This season is about evolution.
More From the Special One
‘A victory is a victory but a victory against a very good team is better than against an ordinary team. This is also good for the Champions League because we have big opponents so this is a good feeling and a good experience. Today was special.
‘We love the big games. When you love it maybe you feel extra-motivated. The best thing for our evolution is to play matches under pressure, to be close to the leaders, and today we came here and played against the leaders and we deserved it.
‘We defended very well and we very compact. The victory was only possible because Petr made a couple of fantastic saves, it was only possible because the defensive players played so well, it was only possible because the midfield players worked so hard, and it was only possible because the attacking players were giving a great contribution.