LONDON: Chelsea inflicted champions Manchester City’s first Premier League defeat of the season as goals from N’Golo Kante and David Luiz handed the hosts a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge and sent Liverpool top of the table.
Kante’s goal just before half-time came against the run of play as the visitors dominated the first 45 minutes, but without the injured Sergio Aguero, City lacked a cutting edge up front and Luiz’s header 12 minutes from time sealed a huge win for Chelsea.
Liverpool are now a point clear of City after Mohamed Salah scored a hat-trick in a 4-0 victory at Bournemouth earlier on Saturday.
Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri had lost all of his previous three meetings against City boss Pep Guardiola and was growingly increasingly frustrated at his side’s inability to hold possession as the visitors dominated the first half.
Raheem Sterling should have scored when his weak left-footed finish was placed too close to Kepa Arrizabalaga before the world´s most expensive goalkeeper also denied Leroy Sane from a narrow-angle.
Only a brave block by captain Cesar Azpilicueta rescued Chelsea when City next threatened as Sterling eased past Marcos Alonso and Sane´s fierce effort was deflected over by the Spanish defender.
Yet, for all City’s possession, the visitors were stung by a sucker punch just before half-time as Sarri’s decision to field Eden Hazard as the focal point of the Chelsea attack and maintain Kante in an advanced midfield role paid off.
Sarri has resisted calls to return Kante to the deep-lying midfield role where he shone in winning the World Cup with France and Premier League titles for Leicester and Chelsea at the expense of Jorginho.
Hazard was finally fed the ball to feet inside the City box and his pass picked out Kante, who side-footed the ball high past Ederson.
The Brazilian goalkeeper had been a spectator before picking the ball out his net, but was called into action again to keep his side in the game just after the break when he palmed away Willian’s free-kick.
Willian wasted another good chance on the counter-attack as having been behind only once before in the Premier League this season, City were rattled and rarely threatened to get back in the game in the second period.
Guardiola’s men may also have to cope without David Silva for some of the festive season after the Spaniard hobbled off holding his hamstring.
Defending set-pieces has often been a rare Achilles heel for City and it was exposed when Luiz made the game safe by rising highest to Hazard´s corner and looping a header in off the underside of the bar.