Cole Stretches Chelsea's Lead  (Sky Sports)

Manchester City 0 Chelsea 1

Joe ColeJoe Cole struck 11 minutes from time to give Premiership leaders Chelsea a 1-0 victory over Manchester City at Eastlands.

Cole, always Chelsea's most dangerous attacking threat, tucked the ball in from close range after David James had parried a deflected Eidur Gudjohnsen shot.

It was a goal the England midfielder thoroughly deserved for a bright performance as the champions toiled in the rare absence of Frank Lampard.

Lampard had been named in the starting line-up but was taken ill before the game, ending a run of 164 Premiership appearances.

City manager Stuart Pearce made the bold decision to play three strikers, preferring Antoine Sibierski to Claudio Reyna as he reacted to Monday's 4-3 defeat at Wigan.

With Trevor Sinclair also pushed high up the field in support of Andy Cole and Darius Vassell, Chelsea pulled bodies back and frequently left Didier Drogba isolated in attack.

Prompted by the irrepressible Joey Barton, the home side made a positive start.

Barton tested Petr Cech with a 30-yard volley, before the City midfielder shot at Cech's legs after a clever cut-back from Sinclair.

Chelsea weathered the early storm, though, and began to get the better of things, with Cole to the fore.

Drogba felt he should have had a penalty after he collided with James, before the Ivory Coast international volleyed wide after latching onto a poor back header from Richard Dunne.

Cole then brought a fine low save out of James with an angled drive in first half stoppage time.

Jose Mourinho's men continued to pose the greater threat after the break and they could have taken the lead in the first minute of the second half.

Damien Duff, otherwise ineffective on the left, sent in a free-kick and skipper John Terry got ahead of his marker Sylvain Distin to send a volley just wide.

Drogba then headed wide from a teasing cross from the Cole, the game's outstanding player.

Mourinho threw on Hernan Crespo and Arjen Robben to replace Drogba and Duff and the visitors suddenly had a sharper attacking edge.

Robben drifted from wing to wing causing problems, playing in Gudjohnsen for a low shot which was pushed aside by James.

The Dutch winger then played his part in the goal, feeding the ball in for Gudjohnsen, whose shot flicked off Richard Dunne. All James could do was help the ball on to Cole, who tapped in at the far post.

Pearce sacrificed Ben Thatcher and Sinclair and sent on the fresh legs of Lee Croft and Stephen Ireland in search of an equaliser, but with Terry winning everything in the air, Chelsea held firm.


Manchester City  James, Distin, Dunne, Jihai, Onuoha, Thatcher (Ireland 89), Barton, Sibierski (B. Wright-Phillips 71), Sinclair (Croft 82), Cole, Vassell
Subs Not Used  De Vlieger, Sommeil
Booked  Thatcher

Chelsea  Cech, Del Horno, Gallas, Terry, J. Cole, Duff (Robben 58), Essien, Geremi, Makelele, Drogba (Crespo 58), Gudjohnsen (Ferreira 83)
Subs Not Used  Cudicini, Huth
Booked  Del Horno
Goals  J. Cole 79

Attendance  46,587

Referee  U. Rennie

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