Gabriel Jesus’s deflected strike seals Manchester City win over Chelsea

Manchester City sealed an impressive 1-0 win at Chelsea thanks to a goal from Gabriel Jesus

This was a reminder there are few more uplifting sights than a Pep Guardiola team playing at the point of maximum expression in a big game. There was never any chance of Manchester City letting go of their ideals. The champions were bold and inventive from start to finish, breaking Chelsea’s sheen of defensive invulnerability with a beautiful exhibition of passing and movement, and even Thomas Tuchel looked short of inspiration as he tried to find a way of countering Guardiola’s swaggering football.

It had the feel of City showing the chasing pack they remain the team to beat. Much has been made of their failure to strengthen their attack by signing Harry Kane, but their lack of an elite striker made no difference against the European champions. Phil Foden caught the eye as a false nine, Bernardo Silva sparkled in midfield and though City were wasteful at times Guardiola was delighted to see Gabriel Jesus continue his reinvention as a right-winger by settling an absorbing game with a deflected winner early in the second half.

Hardly the most prolific scorer when he plays through the middle, Jesus looks far more effective after switching to a wide role. The Brazilian gave Marcos Alonso a torrid time and his hustle set the tone for City, whose ferocious pressing forced Chelsea to make far too many errors with the ball.

As Tuchel acknowledged, Chelsea did not play with enough belief or confidence. It was too easy for City to gain revenge over the side that beat them in last season’s Champions League final. Chelsea’s forwards, Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, were poor and it was telling Tuchel ditched his conservative 3-5-2 system after Jesus’s goal.

It felt like an important moment for Guardiola, who had lost his previous three matches against Tuchel. City seized control from the start, their defence daringly high, and Chelsea were soon pinned back.

Gabriel Jesus fires Manchester City into the lead against Chelsea.
Gabriel Jesus fires Manchester City into the lead against Chelsea. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Observer

There was no way out of the press. City were relentless without the ball and Chelsea, who lacked someone to link the play with Mason Mount unavailable, struggled to build anything of note as a consequence of Tuchel’s decision to squeeze the space in midfield by starting N’Golo Kanté alongside Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic.

Chelsea, previously unbeaten, never clicked as a counterattacking force. Aymeric Laporte and Rúben Dias dealt with the speedy Werner, who was not on the same wavelength as Lukaku. It helped that Guardiola had corrected the mistake he made in Porto, where he selected Ilkay Gündogan as his deepest midfielder. This time he had the outstanding Rodri cutting the supply line to Chelsea’s forwards and that extra layer of security gave City more balance, allowing their creative talents to shine.

Silva was a clever, controlling presence in midfield, Kevin De Bruyne threatened between the lines and Foden marked his first league start of the season with a mature display. He made City’s clearest chance of the opening period, pulling left to find Jesus, who swiped wide when he should have at least tested Édouard Mendy.

Marcos Alonso points to the say no to racism badge on his shirt, having decided to stop taking the knee
Marcos Alonso points to the say no to racism badge on his shirt, having decided to stop taking the knee. Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC/Getty Images

City, who visit Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool in the next week, needed to be more precise. After 27 minutes Guardiola used a break in play to hold an impromptu tactical discussion with Jesus, Silva and Kyle Walker. The manager had been on Jesus’s case from the start, urging him to stretch the play, and there were times when the forward was too tentative in possession, although perhaps he needed time to recover after being winded by an early challenge from Antonio Rüdiger.

Guardiola’s message eventually landed. After 53 minutes João Cancelo dropped a shoulder and fired a low shot into the area from 25 yards. Jesus collected the ball, produced some nimble footwork to make space and earned a slice of luck when his low shot clipped Jorginho, leaving Mendy stranded.

City, who are now level with Chelsea, had the breakthrough they deserved and they threatened to run riot after taking the lead. Jack Grealish came alive on the left, angling a shot inches wide, and Chelsea escaped when Jesus’s effort was cleared off the line.

Tuchel had to find a way to change the flow. Chelsea, who lost an attacking outlet when César Azpilicueta was forced to move right wing-back after Thiago Silva replaced the injured Reece James, needed a different approach.

They improved when Kai Havertz came on; the German was unfortunate to be denied by an offside flag when he teed up Lukaku for an easy finish.

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There were more flashes from Chelsea, Kovacic firing inches over and Ederson denying Havertz near the end. But it was not enough.

Grealish and Laporte went close and it summed up City’s dominance that Chelsea finished without a shot on target.

Contributor

Jacob Steinberg at Stamford Bridge

The GuardianTramp

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