City Face Harsh Reality After Zola Double (Sky Sports)
Manchester City 0 Chelsea 3
Alex Sharratt reports
Manchester City made all the running but it was
Chelsea who took the points as Gianfranco Zola's goal scoring
renaissance continued at Maine Road.
And though the margin of defeat was harsh on Kevin Keegan's men, City fans must surely now realise that instead of chasing a European spot, the Blues are more likely to be involved in another tough relegation battle.
The home side can point to the fact that they had most of the possession and that midfielders Ali Benarbia and Eyal Berkovic carved out some excellent chances.
But until they start converting those chances and - despite all Keegan's assertions to the contrary - they learn how to defend as a team and stop leaking goals, they will continue to struggle in the Premiership.
Meanwhile Chelsea, led by Zola's eight goals in ten games, are quietly continuing to develop in to a promising unit, despite their high-profile exit from the UEFA Cup a fortnight ago.
City had the best of the first hour and might have been playing against ten men had referee Demot Gallagher held a different view of Marcel Desailly's clumsy challenge when Shaun Goater was through on goal in just the fifth minute.
Berkovic hit the post after a clever dummy from Benarbia just five minutes later and Shaun Wright-Phillips also had two decent efforts in a good first half display from the home side.
The opening to the second period was played out in much the same fashion, with City committing men forward in search of the opening goal, and Carlo Cudicini pulling off some good saves to keep Chelsea level.
The Italian stopper - reportedly a target for big Serie A clubs come the transfer window's re-opening in a couple of month's time - denied both Nicolas Anelka and Marc-Vivien Foe with full-length stops.
But the London club were looking more dangerous on the counter attack, with Zola's intelligent runs and passes consistently exposing the City back three.
And it didn't come as a huge surprise when Chelsea took the lead in the 69th minute, Zola heading in from close range after Emmanuel Petit had flicked on Graham Le Saux's corner.
As City changed their shape and pushed forward for the equaliser, Chelsea profited to the tune of two more goals - both excellent finishes from breakaways.
First, Zola race clear from Le Saux's chipped ball over the top to clip the ball past Schmeichel before Hasselbaink crashed home from Mario Melchiot's pass just a minute later.
City now have two away trips to the West Midlands with clashes against Birmingham and West Bromwich Albion to restore their confidence before the match the whole of Manchester has waited two years for - the derby at Maine Road on November 9th.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Gianfranco Zola (Chelsea): The Italian veteran continued his superb recent form with two goals and another clever display.
Man City: Schmeichel,
Jihai, Howey, Distin, Wright-Phillips, Berkovic, Foe, Benarbia,
Jensen, Anelka, Goater (Huckerby 71).
Chelsea: Cudicini, Le
Saux, Gallas, Desailly, Melchiot, Morris, Petit, Lampard, De Lucas,
Zola (Oliveira 89), Hasselbaink.