Manchester City 2 Chelsea 1: You'd better watch out, Carlo Ancelotti, Sir Alex Ferguson's behind you!

By Ian Ladyman for the Daily Mail

The sight of one of England's key players fluffing a penalty 24 hours after the draw for next summer's World Cup will have alarmed those who believe Fabio Capello's team can make significant progress in South Africa.

But Frank Lampard's failure to beat Shay Given from 12 yards at Eastlands on Saturday will have caused greater concern among Chelsea fans who had hoped to enter the New Year with a significant lead over rivals Manchester United at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

With Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Salomon Kalou and John Mikel Obi due to play in the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, January looks set to be a potentially decisive month for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

Carlos Tevez scores the winner against Chelsea

On to a winner: Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez curls his free kick around the Chelsea wall and past goalkeeper Petr Cech for the decisive goal at Eastlands

As Sir Alex Ferguson's United finally begin to show something of their true selves, Chelsea have been clinging on to their five-point advantage in a bid to gain some breathing space ahead of the tough tests that lie ahead.

Now, thanks to Lampard's miss and a performance of promise and purpose from Manchester City, Chelsea's lead is two points. If this was a significant afternoon for Mark Hughes and City, then it may well transpire to be similarly important to Chelsea.

WORLD CUP WATCH

Shaun Wright-Phillips is looking somewhere near his impish best after struggling to enhance his England credentials in recent months.

The City winger was an influential figure against his old club. Playing with confidence, Wright-Phillips was a constant threat on the right and the way he worried England left back Ashley Cole will have given Fabio Capello something to think about.

Ancelotti said: 'This championship will be a race until the end of the season. But I have to admit that psychologically it is important for us to remain at the top of the league. If there is a gap then that helps us keep in control.'

Certainly there was not enough control about Chelsea's football as they succumbed to rejuvenated City. Lampard should have scored, of course. The England midfielder looked a little nervous as he prepared to face Given and the City goalkeper saved with some comfort low to his right.

Asked if Lampard appeared apprehensive before his penalty, City manager Hughes said: 'I think so. Frank was aware of the significance of that moment in the game and that if he converted the penalty it would be a key moment. Maybe that contributed to him being a bit over-cautious with his strike.'

Shay Given saves a penalty from Chelsea's Frank Lampard

LAMPARD LOSES MIDAS TOUCH: Frank Lampard's reputation as the penalty king was tarnished when his effort was saved by Shay Given. The Chelsea midfielder had been successful with 11 successive spot kicks in the League — including one at Manchester City three seasons ago. His last miss before Saturday was a late penalty in a 2-1 win over Charlton at Stamford Bridge in September 2006.

When Chelsea scored early thanks to a goal that came off the back of City centre forward Emmanuel Adebayor, it appeared as though they might roll the home team over.

But Hughes' side can play exceptional football when things come together and their Carling Cup win against Arsenal last Wednesday had clearly given them the self-belief to recover.

With holding midfield player Nigel de Jong enjoying his best game for the club he joined last January, Gareth Barry finding some better form and Shaun Wright-Phillips and Carlos Tevez continuing where they left off against Arsenal, City had Chelsea on the back foot for long periods.

Their equaliser, scored by Adebayor, carried a touch of fortune as City defender Micah Richards seemed to handle in the build-up. The winning goal, a Tevez free-kick early in the second half, came following an infringement Chelsea continued to dispute after the game.

Mark Hughes and Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti

SPARKS FLY BUT THERE'S NO AGGRO: Don't worry Mark Hughes hasn't become embroiled in another managerial spat. He was just barking out instructions in front of Carlo Ancelotti. It was all smiles and a handshake at the end of a tense encounter. How different from when City beat Arsene Wenger's Arsenal.

Mark Hughes and Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti


Nevertheless, Chelsea should not have been awarded a corner in the build-up to their goal and there were other decisions that perhaps did not go the right way. It was that type of game.

What is more important is that City just about deserved to win.Chelsea pushed hard and Drogba should have equalised at the death but City had their chances, too, particularly during a first half in which they played with great courage.

Ashley Cole is booked
Chelsea's Ashley Cole turns his back to referee Mike Riley

SHOW SOME RESPECT ASHLEY: Chelsea's Ashley Cole does not appear to have learned his lesson. The England defender came in for a barrage of abuse when he turned his back on Mike Riley at Tottenham last year, refusing to go to the referee to get booked (right) despite pleas to 'show some respect'. Cole was just as disrespectful at Eastlands on Saturday — turning his back on Howard Webb.

Ancelotti appeared phlegmatic afterwards but he will be concerned that long periods of possession in the second period did not bring his side more chances.

Six bookings also pointed to a little indiscipline from the League leaders and Ancelotti, not to mention England coach Fabio Capello, may wish to ask Ashley Cole why he turned his back and strode away when referee Howard Webb was trying to caution him in the second half.

If Cole, who has form for this, behaves in that way in South Africa, he could be sent off and he really must learn to drop this petulant side from his game.

MATCH FACTS

MANCHESTER CITY (4-1-3-2): Given 8; Richards 7 (Onuoha 69min, 5), Toure 7, Lescott 8, Bridge 7 (Kompany 76); De Jong 8; Wright-Phillips 8, Barry 8, Robinho 6; Tevez 8, Adebayor 7.

Booked: Barry.

CHELSEA (4-1-2-1-2): Cech 5; Ivanovic 7, Terry 6 (Malouda 88), Carvalho 6 (Belletti 63, 6), A Cole 7; Essien 7; Ballack 7 (Mikel 64, 6), Lampard 7; Deco 7; DroGba 7, Anelka 7.

Booked: Terry, Carvalho, Ivanovic, A Cole, Belletti, Deco.

Man of the match: Nigel de Jong.

Referee: Howard Webb.

For City, there was no need for such recrimination. Hughes' players have found two fine performances for their manager in the space of a week and they will look keenly at the Champions League places which remain well within reach.

Midfielder De Jong spoke graciously about goalkeeper Given, who has not let his World Cup disappointment with the Republic of Ireland affect him.

De Jong said: 'We looked after Shay really well after he came back from the France-Ireland game, so he never lost his confidence. You can see why he is the No 1 goalkeeper for Ireland and also one of the best in Europe.

'Best in the league? Of course. He is really good for us.'


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