The second half saw city again start quickly and Yaya Toure went down under challenge from Ivanovic. Even through these light blue tinted specs it looked a non penalty at the time, but replays later suggested there was contact from Ivanovic. Sergio Aguero had City’s best chance of the afternoon in the 57th minute when after good work from Yaya, Milner and Zabaleta he took James Milner’s cut back, swivelled and shot only for Courtois to make a very good save, low to his left. Dzeko was about to pull the trigger from the rebound but Ramirez managed to sky the ball away.
We were looking the better side, and as you’d expect, a Pellegrini side goes for the win whereas a Mourinho team will defend in depth, niggle away, trying every little cynical trick in the hope of nicking a winner. With Kompany and Mangala giving Costa no quarter, the niggly beefcake of striker moved onto Pablo Zabaleta. Mourinho’s blueprint seemed to be working when after winning a challenge with Costa, Zabaleta then fouled the Chelsea striker from behind when the ball came back. Zaba tried a conciliatory put on the head which Costa was hostile to, getting up and briefly putting his arms round Zaba’s neck. It was an unnecessary overreaction by Costa, unless of course, it was a calculated tactical reaction, because it probably made up Dean’s mind for him to show the second yellow and red card to Zaba. Costa also picked up a booking, but surely hands round the neck is violent conduct, punishable by a red card. Zaba maybe could have been more careful than to make two successive tackles from behind, as they are often a gamble, but no one from City will ever be harsh on this thoroughly admirable man, and he was applauded with gusto from the field.
James Milner dropped back to right back while Bacary Sagna was readied. We had been looking like the more likely side to score, but with more than a quarter of the game to go, the natural pessimist made us feel that even a draw looked a tall order for our ten men. So it proved in the 71st minute when in a sweeping move, Costa fed Hazard who crossed low from the right and Schurrle swept in at the far post. Whilst the Chelsea fans celebrated with glee our “1-0 to the referee” was sung with real anger.
It was understandable to think “Here we go again, done again by Mourinho’s men”, but no one should underestimate Pellegrini and his men as they never gave up and went for the equaliser with big hearts and no little skill. Pellegrini rolled the dice again, and to great effect. Frank Lampard, who had been serenaded with “Super, super Frank, super Frankie Lampard” by the Chelsea fans to a man and understandably to a lesser extent by the North Stand/Colin Bell corner as he warmed up, entered the field to great applause, and another chorus from the visitors. It must have been strange for him, not to mention emotional. He began by getting on the ball and quickly laying it off backwards a couple of times before being a little more adventurous.
With James Milner now at left back, a little partnership was developing with Lampard, and the Yorkshireman more than willing to get down the flank to attack.
Then came the decisive moment. Lampard played a pass out to Milner who checked and cut the back to Silva 35 yards out. Spotting Milner’s run towards the box, Silva lofted a delightful pass which the Yorkshireman cleverly cushioned into the centre and Lampard to scored a trademark bouncing volley.
Understandably he stopped and didn’t celebrate. There has been a backlash against players not celebrating against their former clubs. What is wrong with it? He showed great respect to fans and a club where he is loved and a true legend.
Meanwhile the rest of the City players did celebrate and congratulated him, though in an understandably understated way. We did celebrate without inhibition and let out a “Super Frankie Lampard. It silenced the normally noisy Chelsea hordes for a few minutes. How must that have felt for them? It must have been a sickener, but to there credit there was no discernible rancour.
Lampard almost scored a winner to make it worse for them but for a lunging block by his mate Terry.
After the final whistle, the mutual applause and appreciation between the Chelsea fans and Lampard as he went up to them was class. It must have been an emotional moment for all concerned and Lampard also had the class and presence of mind to acknowledge the home fans too, but he could have been forgiven if he had forgotten.
It was a well earned draw even if It could have been more for the visitors once they’d taken the lead: Costa headed straight into Hart’s arms when well placed to score and then hit a post under pressure from the admirable Milner. Just a thought but maybe if Costa worked at his finishing more than his winding up, he might have done better in front of goal.
A point was not too bad in the circumstances though Costa should not have been on the pitch to help set up their goal. It goes without saying that it is better to be only 5 points behind the leaders than 8 so get the unlikely draw was a relief. City played well in a tight physical contest and Milner was our stand out performer for his good all round qualities and, of course, his part in setting up our goal.
Chelsea are clearly a very talented side who are even better than they were last year with some very good additions, though with Mourinho they will invariably play with the hand brake on. They are a Costa injury away or suspension from being severely weakened up front, even if they have signed the talented Remy as back up.
We have greater depth all over the pitch. Now we have to start winning, and a very competitive Sheffield Wednesday (in the League Cup) and Hull City away in the League are must win games. We need a good, long, strong run.