Ben Sullivan reports
Manchester City's fragile defence wilted in front of Chelsea's robust
attacking for the second time this season as the Londoners boosted
their Champions League bid with a 5-0 stroll in the sunshine.
Claudio Ranieri's side won 3-0 at Maine Road in
October and were in the mood to continue in similar vein. City were in
no mood to deny them.
Peter Schmeichel's rage had long since burnt
itself out when Mario Stanic volleyed home Chelsea's third, the
veteran keeper limiting himself to a rueful shake of the head.
By the time Carlton Cole set up Frank Lampard
for the simplest of goals moments later, the Dane failed to even
muster a dive. Why bother? the men in front of him had failed to
muster a challenge.
Chelsea started the game slowly, almost languidly. They expected to
win at a canter so why leave the stalls at anything more than a trot?
That more than anything explained why City were in the contest for so
long, although Schmeichel was still forced into a couple of decent
saves to deny Eidur Gudjohnsen and Gianfranco Zola.
To be fair to City's defenders, their attackers were no better.
Nicolas Anelka was having one of his disinterested days and Robbie
Fowler was simply desperate. The fact that Kevin Keegan finally
swallowed his pride after so many poor performances from the 6million
man to drag him off at half time said it all.
Chelsea were slow to shake off their torpor and it was no surprise
that Gianfranco Zola was the man to provide the wake-up call. His
sumptuous dinked cross set up Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to volley past
Schmeichel from close range at the far post. Cue red-faced fury.
Schmeichel should have saved his anger. Worse - far, far worse - was
The City keeper pulled off a typically sharp save to push Zola's shot
wide just before the break and was entitled to expect some protection
at the corner. Some chance. John Terry rose unmarked six yards out to
bury a header through Schmeichel's legs.
City had a golden opportunity to get back into the game moments after
the restart. Anelka's clever cushioned header from Sylvain Distin's
cross set up Jensen for the best chance of the match six yards out. He
sliced his shot well wide.
Goater then failed to create a shooting chance from Ali Benarbia's
pass, getting the ball tangled up beneath his feet before he was
smothered by the Chelsea defence.
City were threatening a fightback without any real conviction and
Stanic's goal just before the hour mark put an end to their bluster.
Again it came from a set-piece, Hasselbaink's corner flicked on by
Terry for the Croatian to volley in at the far post.
Now it was simply a question of how many? To City's considerable
relief, it was just two more.
Lampard was in acres of space when Carlton Cole slipped the ball
through to him and he slid the ball past the by-now bemused City
keeper and William Gallas flicked the ball over Schmeichel when the
Dane came charging out of his goal - clearly by now he'd given up on
his defence making a contribution.
The final insult came when Sun Jihai was sent off in injury time for a
second bookable offence - two late tackles, the second on Lampard.
'Bring on the Arsenal' the Chelsea fans roared. I bet they'd rather
play the City every week.
Chelsea: Cudicini, Stanic, Melchiot, Terry, Gallas,
Le Saux (Zenden 55), Lampard, Morris, Zola (De Lucas 65), Hasselbaink
(Cole 62), Gudjohnsen.
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Desailly.
Man City: Schmeichel, Wright-Phillips (Jihai 63),
Wiekens, Distin, Sommeil, Jensen, Horlock (Belmadi 57), Foe, Benarbia,
Fowler (Goater 45), Anelka.
Subs Not Used: Nash, Dunne.
Sent Off: Jihai (90).
Booked: Benarbia, Jihai.
Ref: P Dowd (Staffordshire).