Chelsea blew the title race wide open as the inflicted a first defeat of the season on ten man Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.
Despite the big names presences of striker’s Didier Drogba, Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli on the field it was the man that failed to make the mark at City, Daniel Sturridge who stole the limelight.
While the England international may not have scored he still managed to haunt his old club in spectacular fashion creating both goals for Raul Meireles and Frank Lampard after Mario Balotelli had given City an early lead.
City came flying out of the blocks, opening the scoring inside the first two minutes when Aguero did brilliantly with three Chelsea players around him to play in Balotelli who showed excellent composure to hold off the challenge of Branislav Ivanovic, round Peter Cech and slot the ball home.
It was wonderful finish, City’s 25th goal on the road this season, and the fiery Italian who broke a curfew at the weekend to once again find himself in trouble with his boss went some way to reconciling the latest rift.
The visitors were looking like the home as they passed and move their way around Chelsea and when they didn’t have the ball they hounded and harassed forcing the Londoners into mistake after mistake.
Chelsea were thankful to referee Mark Clatterburg on 14 minutes when he waved away appeals for a penalty after David Silva went down under the challenge of Jose Boswinga.
The game was being played at a very fast tempo although it had its moments too, Yaya Toure clashing with Juan Mata, an incident that was missed by the ref.
Chelsea were really struggling to impose themselves on the game and it was 25 minutes before they had their first real chance of the game, Drogba forcing Joe Hart to make the save with a low and 9 minutes later they were level.
Meireles was the Chelsea hero as he finished off a cross from Sturridge to level matters, suddenly Andres Villas-boas side were back in the game.
The Portuguese international was lucky to stay on the field minutes later after a reckless lunge on Pablo Zabaleta, the former Liverpool man instead becoming the first of 7 yellow cards in the game.
City were suddenly rattled and finished out the half trying to regain their composure as Chelsea sat back and failed to go for the jugular, the second half opened with Sturridge, who was growing in confidence, shooting over after a free from Juan Mata.
The game turned the home side’s way on 60 minutes when former Arsenal defender Gael Clichy, who had earlier been booked for a foul on Sturridge, was sent off after blocking Ramires and the mindset of both managers becoming clear in a matter of minutes as Chelsea sensing victory threw on Lampard with Roberto Mancini going for safety with the introduction of Nigel de Jong and Kolo Toure for the more attack minded Aguero and Silva.
In the end the Villas-Boas gamble worked best as with eight minutes to go Chelsea’s season suddenly sparked into life, Joleon Lescott handling that man Sturridge’s shot to give away a penalty, the stage set for Frank Lampard to show his now customary coolness to put Chelsea ahead.
Chelsea managed to hold on and move into third in the table just seven points behind City who now face Arsenal next up as their title challenge is put to the severest of tests.