Potter may have reached defining moment in Chelsea tenure during Man City loss

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Potter may have reached defining moment in Chelsea tenure during Man City loss
Potter may have reached defining moment in Chelsea tenure during Man City loss

Pep Guardiola had challenged his players to fight until the end to catch Arsenal.

This was not quite the desperate last knockings just yet but it certainly felt like a big and significant win for Manchester City in the context of the title race. Eventually, it took two City substitutes to carve out the victory as Riyad Mahrez scored the 63rd minute winner from Jack Grealish’s cross to send the away end wild.

City hauled themselves back to within five points of leaders Arsenal, they were pushed hard by a Chelsea side who, despite a defiant performance, now find themselves in a deepening crisis. It is now just one win in eight Premier League games for Graham Potter’s men who are stuck in tenth place and that sort of form normally gets Chelsea managers the sack.

Luckily for Potter, the Chelsea fans stuck with them, did not boo at the final whistle and yet the under-pressure boss may have created another unwanted problem for himself with Pierre-Emerick Aubemyang.

Aubameyang came on as a fifth minute substitute but was then hooked himself after 68 minutes and for a substitute to be substituted is the worst insult for any pro, let alone a big name with an ego to match. Chelsea striker Aubameyang trudged off, shook his head in despair and did shake Potter’s hand but did not make eye contact as the manager threw on kids rather than trust an ageing star.

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It is not going to plan for Chelsea and at times it also felt as if Guardiola had got it wrong with his tactics and formations which even seemed to leave his players looking somewhat bamboozled.

John Stones stood out like a beacon in City’s defence as he was easily the best player on the pitch, making brilliant tackles and setting a calm tone whenever he stepped forward. Stones was arguably England’s best player at the World Cup and seems to have come back from Qatar looking six inches taller.

The City fans were loud at the final whistle and you could hear the away dressing room singing his name after the game to the beat of loud dance music. They found their rhythm once Guardiola rang the changes and sent for the cavalry but they needed every last drop to beat Chelsea.

Potter may have reached defining moment in Chelsea tenure during Man City lossRiyad Mahrez scored the winner for Man City in the second half at Stamford Bridge (Matt McNulty/Manchester City)

Chelsea do have a crippling injury list as Mason Mount was ruled out after a knock in training while Raheem Sterling limped off after just five minutes and then Christian Pulisic also went off after 22 minutes.

Pulisic’s withdrawal came immediately after Stones’ sensational tackle on Pulisic to stop the Chelsea forward from scoring. His replacement Carney Chukwuemeka did hit the post as Chelsea went toe-to-toe with City in the first half.

Guardiola made a double change at half time, bringing on Rico Lewis and Manuel Lewis for Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo respectively. They quickly began to turn the screw as Nathan Ake headed against the bar while Kevin De Bruyne had a fierce shot saved.

Potter may have reached defining moment in Chelsea tenure during Man City lossIt was another difficult night for Chelsea boss Graham Potter

Finally the breakthrough came. De Bruyne started the move, Grealish tricked his way down the left edge of the penalty box, sent over a low cross and inexplicably Kepa Arrizabalaga pulled his hand away from the ball to allow Mahrez to slide in and score.

Potter threw on the youngsters as Lewis Hall, Omari Hutchinson and Conor Gallagher came on and Cucurella, Hakim Ziyech and Aubameyang went off.

But Chelsea rarely looked like salvaging anything as Hall blazed one chance over and City celebrated as if they knew it was a big moment in the season.

John Cross

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