Kevin De Bruyne hit a scorching winner as Manchester City extended their Premier League lead to 13 points with a 1-0 victory against second-placed Chelsea.
A tightly contested game at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday came to life 20 minutes from time as De Bruyne intervened decisively.
Chelsea did not see much of the ball but had their chances to get on the scoresheet too, with Romelu Lukaku and Hakim Ziyech particularly wasteful on the counter-attack.
Pep Guardiola’s City have now won 12 league games on the bounce, and it is difficult to see how they can be denied making it back-to-back titles in May.
21 – Kevin De Bruyne has scored 21 Premier League goals from outside the box; the most of any player since his first season with Manchester City (2015-16), and the joint-most of any Man City player in the competition’s history (level with Sergio Agüero). Artist. pic.twitter.com/0ntvnRApXG
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 15, 2022
City dominated much of the first half but were grateful for poor decision-making and execution from Lukaku and Ziyech on two occasions as Chelsea looked to counter early on.
The best chance for the hosts in the opening 45 minutes came when an effective high press set Jack Grealish through on goal, but Kepa Arrizabalaga deflected the £100million man’s shot behind with his left leg.
The visitors should have taken the lead two minutes into the second half when Lukaku was sent clear by Mateo Kovacic, but Ederson palmed his shot away before Ziyech lifted the rebound over the bar.
The league leaders finally broke the deadlock in the 70th minute when former Chelsea man De Bruyne cut in from the left side before expertly firing past the despairing dive of Arrizabalaga from 22 yards.
The Blues tried to find an equaliser, but City showed their solid side to clinch the three points, moving a significant step closer to lifting the Premier League trophy once more.
What does it mean? A tale of two Blues as City race away
City have not dropped a point since their surprise 2-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace in October, and such form has seen them create a monstrous lead over title rivals Chelsea and Liverpool.
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea have won just four of their last 12 in the league (D6 L2), so it’s not too hard to see why the title has got away from them and why second place is probably now the best they can hope for.
While the London side gave a better account of themselves here than they did in the reverse defeat at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, they were not clinical enough in key moments, hitting the target just once.
Who needs a striker?
There was a baffling amount said about Guardiola not being able to sign a striker ahead of this season, considering City had just won a league title easily without using one for the majority of the campaign.
They tried to sign Harry Kane and are being linked with a move for Erling Haaland, but with the league’s best attack (54 goals scored) and best defence (13 goals conceded), it is difficult to see where the great need to add a number nine is supposed to be.
The gap widens as Blues come up short
The 13-point gap is not the only chasm that exists among teams at the top of the Premier League.
Chelsea’s 3-0 aggregate win against Tottenham in the EFL Cup semi-final showed the significant gap that exists between Spurs and Tuchel’s side, but City showed here that the distance between Chelsea and themselves is probably just as big.
The European champions rarely looked like winning the game, managing just four shots and one on target, all of which came in the second half, and only saw possession of the ball late on when City were happy to keep them at arm’s length to see out the win.
Key Opta facts
– Manchester City have won each of their last 12 Premier League games. It is the ninth run of 12 or more successive victories in the competition’s history, with City now responsible for four of those, all under Guardiola.
– This was the 50th Premier League meeting between Manchester City and Chelsea – having won just three of the first 25, City have won 13 of the last 25 between the sides.
– Chelsea failed to register a single shot in the first half of this match, the first time they have failed to record one in a single half of Premier League football since May 2018 (first half vs Newcastle).
– Chelsea had just seven touches in Manchester City’s penalty area, their fewest in a Premier League match since January 2015 – also seven against Manchester City on that occasion.
– Against no side has De Bruyne scored more Premier League goals than he has against Chelsea (5), while his haul against them is the highest against the Blues by any player who has previously played for them in the competition.
– De Bruyne has scored 21 Premier League goals from outside the box, the most of any player since his first season with Manchester City (2015-16), and the joint-most of any Manchester City player in the competition’s history (level with Sergio Aguero).
– City keeper Ederson has kept a clean sheet in exactly 50 per cent of his Premier League games (83/166) – he is the only goalkeeper with at least 100 appearances in the competition’s history to record a shutout in as many as half of them.
Manchester City travel to Southampton next Saturday, while Chelsea have a trip to Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday.