Premier League heavyweights Chelsea and Manchester City fought out a 1-1 draw on Saturday that kept the title race narrowly tipped in Jose Mourinho’s favour, without the satisfaction of delivering a potentially knockout blow.
It was perhaps entirely predictable that a stalemate would be the ultimate outcome in a game that City, trailing the leaders by five points, could ill afford to lose and Chelsea showed little ambition to win.
All the action was crammed into a four-minute spell before halftime when Chelsea snatched a lead through Loic Remy’s close range effort and a prod from David Silva levelled the match, leaving little to come except the usual sound and fury when these sides meet.
Chelsea manager Manuel Pellegrini could not be cajoled into saying Chelsea played for a draw, although he came close.
“Both teams have a clear style of playing, I was very proud in how we played away against leaders of the Premier League,” he told reporters.
Chelsea coach Mourinho maintained his vow of silence, preferring not to talk again having also skipped Friday’s pre-match media duties.
Fans were spared a decisive impact from late substitute Frank Lampard on his old stomping ground where the locals still seem confused about how to treat their former hero.
While many gave him a rousing reception, there were more than a spattering of boos and the odd unfriendly banner that greeted his arrival off the bench in the 77th minute.
Chelsea fans probably wished he could have joined the suspended Diego Costa, missing after a stamp on Liverpool’s Emre Can in midweek and whose absence had threatened to define the clash.
The irony of the first half was that both goals came when the furious pace of the opening 20 minutes had given way to the predictable chess game that has been a feature of so many of the battles between these two sides.
Predictably Eden Hazard, the hosts’ best player of the first half, was at the heart of the action when Chelsea did open the scoring, receiving a long diagonal ball into the box from Branislav Ivanovic and squaring for Remy to wallop home from close range.
The celebrations of the home fans lasted four minutes before being silenced by a scrappy City leveller. The usually dependable Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois scuffed a punch which landed at the feet of Sergio Aguero, whose left-footed effort was met by Silva who prodded in.
Chelsea’s ambition to find a winner seemed to be dampened further by the halftime break and as the game wore on it became increasingly clear that this was a match that neither manager wanted to lose.