Rafael Benítez got a reception frostier than Mr Frost's breakfast bowl of Frosties, but Chelsea claimed a point against the champions
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Petr Cech: "Today was about starting from zero again and getting a positive result."
Vincent Kompany: "There's not many teams that come here and win."
Peep! Peep! Peeeeeeep!!! A far-from-vintage clash comes to an end. Neither side will be too disappointed with that, but it was hardly A Great Advert For The Premier League.
90+2 min: After an almighty scramble on halfway, City come away with the ball. Balotelli goes down on the edge of the box after banging into Luiz. Foy blows his whistle … and books the Italian for simulation.
90+1 min: … a free header for Nastacic! But plonked straight at Cech.
90 min: Two minutes of added time to play. Silva and Tevez combine down the right. Corner …
88 min: A few lusty tackles go in and the crowd attempt to rouse Chelsea for a big finish.
87 min: Balotelli enters the fray, but more importantly here's Mario Rustan's Phonetic XI: "Oscar, Charlie Adam, Claudio Bravo (goalkeeper, Real Sociedad), Diego di Lima (CD Nacional, Portugal), Papa Bouba Diop, Bernardo Romeo (San Lorenzo), Justine Zulu (Golden Arrows, South Africa), Victor Sanchez, Mike Jones (Crawley Town - how come not many footballers are called 'Mike'?), Yakubu Alfa (AEK Larnaca, Greece), and...Adidas Tango?"
85 min: Moses breaks impressively once more and his square pass trundles out to Cole who attempts to Carlos Alberto the thing past Hart. He just gets underneath it though and Hart tips over. And City are inexplicably awarded a goal-kick.
84 min: … the ball drops out to Torres but City smuggle the ball away through sheer weight of numbers.
83 min: Chelsea look the more likely now. They've forced back-to-back corners …
82 min: Mata's inswinging free-kick meets only a City forehead, but Silva can't get the better of his Spain international team-mate on the break.
80 min: … but Moses's cross is deeper than Tom Waits.
79 min: Milner picks up Toure's clever reverse pass into the channel. The midfielder's cross takes a deflection and forces Cech to save. And Chelsea break …
78 min: Here comes the rain again. Falling on my head like a memory. Falling on my head like a new emotion. What on earth is Annie on about there, eh? Anyway on comes Romeu for Mikel.
77 min: Kolarov goes into the book after tripping the breaking Moses on halfway. Some would call that a clever foul. I always find them a little depressing.
76 min: … hacked away by Torres, hammered away by Ivanovic. Collected by Hart.
75 min: Luiz nods away a City corner but Chelsea can't fully clear and City win another …
73 min: City give Oscar – anyone care to offer a quick NATO phonetic alphabet XI? – too much space on the edge of the box, but he can't thread his pass through the City defences.
72 min: Moses goes long … too long. Straight through to Hart. The home side have been noticeably direct at times today.
69 min: Rafa Benitez sends on Victor Moses to replace Eden Hazard. "Four years ago Benítez's Liverpool won at the Bridge without having a shot on target," notes Chris Taylor. "Is this the new masterplan?"
67 min: Milner is flagged offside, which gives City the chance to make a change. Dzeko, whose final act was to send in a low and dangerous cross-shot that Cole cleared from inside the six-yard box, trudges off to be replaced by Carlos Tevez.
65 min: If you're of a mind to enjoy well-drilled, organised, competent defending there's been much to admire here. Similarly, those who pulled out 0-0 in the office sweepstake will have reason for
becoming increasingly distracted over the chance of winning £20 good cheer.
64 min: Zabaleta goes into Chris Foy's book of Very Bad Men for a trip on Ivanovic as Chelsea break. This time it is the away side's turn to stand firm.
63 min: City go from one side of the pitch to the other in search of a chink in the Chelsea defensive armour. They can't find one.
60 min: A chance! A proper chance! And it falls to Torres! Mata and Hazard combined down the right, the ball sat up for the Spaniard just inside the box, but his left foot half-volley screams narrowly over the bar.
58 min: Torres surges clear into the City half, but the linesman flags for a handball as he charged down the clearance. Then Toure stings Cech's palms. Then Chelsea win a corner. Suddenly this is breathless stuff.
56 min: Luiz heads over from a Chelsea corner. This has already been comfortably better than the first half from both sides.
55 min: Silva and City surge away on the break. The Spaniard finds Touré in the centre of the pitch, Aguero darts inside from the right, but the Ivorian expected a run on the outside and his pass bobbles hopelessly into space.
54 min: Torres receives the ball in the right channel. Torres loses the ball. Then it happens again, but this time he's got a free-kick. Which comes to nothing.
52 min: Ramires, given the space to park a couple of Volkswagens 30 yards from goal, thunks in a shot from distance. It's always creeping over the bar, though.
51 min: At the other end, Dzeko wins a corner. Which comes to nothing. Neither side has looked anywhere near their incisive best today.
49 min: … swung in to the near post, hammered away by Milner.
48 min: Chelsea break forward and Cole thumps a cross against Kompany. Corner …
47 min: Pass, pass, pass from City who look rather autumnal in their deepo cherry red and mustard away togs. The Bridge is still eerily quiet.
46 min: Aguero gets muscled out of it on the edge of the Chelsea box by David Luiz. The Argentine responds by hacking his opponent down.
Peep! Off we go again then.
"My boyfriend won't let me watch Chelsea play today," writes Bronwyn Jones. "Should I dump him? Or thank him?" Dump him, obviously, safe in the knowledge that his anger will be directed towards whoever your new beau turns out to be rather than you. As far as I can tell from today, that's how it works.
"Not a Chelsea fan (in fact the opposite) but I would be hating the arrival
of Benitez if I was," writes John Willoug. "Is it just me, or do his tactics seem to be totally random? When things worked for him at Liverpool, it seemed as though by chance half the time, and the tactical switches he made were a mystery. When things went wrong the decisions looked comical. Maybe he's a genius and I don't understand his thinking, but I'm not convinced. His valuation of players seems suspect too. Gareth Barry over Xabi Alonso?"
"Chelsea fans are completely deluded on this one: love Roman's tyranny when it is buying trophies, hate it when he sacks yet another manager," reckons Neil Goldenberg. "Chelsea supporters invited this day upon themselves, and now must accept that they are merely ticket sales in the eyes of their chairman."
No goals before the break. No instant alchemy from Benítez. And not much to write home about from either side.
45 min: Kompany gets a superb header on the end of Mata's vicious inswinging free-kick. That was quite superb defending.
43 min: City take a short corner (to which someone in the away end, as is traditional, turns to his mate and says "Bah! We never score from short ones…" in the hope of tempting the law of the sod into action. As usual, the law of the sod pretends not to have heard, looks the other way and the defending side clear).
41 min: Aguero plants a free header straight at Cech from 10 yards.
40 min: Here comes the rain again. It's suddenly hammering down at Stamford Bridge.
38 min: … Luiz clunks an optimistic effort at goal, but it bobbles pretty miserably into the palms of Hart.
37 min: Zabaleta, struck by the curse of the MBMer, chops down Ramires 40 yards from goal …
36 min: Zabaleta, more often than not the best player on the pitch whenever I watch City, exchanges passes with Dzeko and bursts through but fires his shot straight at Cech.
34 min: Tum-tee-tum-tee-tum … bit of a lull here.
32 min: Stats fans will be interested to know there's been one shot on target thus far. Trying not to think about the o££ice $weep$take …
30 min: … Hart flaps at it like a spheksophobic flapping at a wasp, but Chelsea, like a typewriter without a shift key, can't capitalise.
29 min: Breaking news: Chelsea have a corner …
26 min: Hazard attempts a backheel on the edge of his own area and botches it somewhat, but sheer number of bodies in and around the box mean City can't get through. It's like trying to pass the ball down the carriage of a rush hour Victoria line tube train.
24 min: Kolarov goes on the overlap, but Milner's pass goes out of play via Azpilicueta. The City man's annoyance is compounded by the (incorrect) award of a goal kick.
23 min: Mata and Oscar combine 40 yards from goal, but the former can't quite squeeze through a bevvie of players on the edge of the City area.
22 min: Luiz punts the ball long, City nod back to Joe Hart.
20 min: Zabaleta's whipped cross finds the middle of Silva's forehead, but the Spaniard can't guide his effort on goal, erm, on goal. it's a yard or two over. In a game of few chances, that's the best yet.
18 min: Milner half-lashes a shot wide. "Abramovich has sacked yet another popular trophy winning manager and appointed as boss somebody Chelsea fans hate," writes Cathal Chu. "He quite clearly doesn’t care what the fans think. And yet still there is not one iota of protest against Abramovich or calls for him to go. I wonder why?"
16 min: A roar and a round of applause goes round Stamford Bridge for their former No16 and former manager. This all feels very weird.
14 min: … it drops to Touré on the edge of the box but the Ivorian can't control it.
13 min: This has all the flow of a small garden pond at the moment. It's very stop-start. Still, City force a corner …
11 min: Toure trips Hazard on halfway. "Why ludicrous John?" asks Steve Redshaw. "A Chelsea legend who won the Champions League, had us playing attractive football and third in the league and was doing his best with the latest owner's pet misfiring stiker is sacked and replaced with someone who has previously insulted us as ex manager of a hated rival team, took Inter to eight position a year after they won the Champions League and hasn't been able to find a job for two years. Not exactly a suprise that we're pissed off!"
10 min: Oscar scampers down the right, but his cross is cut out by Kompany. Torres's only contribution thus far has been to get caught offside.
8 min: Aguero pings a low cross into the meaty midriff of Petr Cech.
"F*** off Benitez, you're not wanted here," the chant from the Matthew Harding Stand a minute ago . .— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) November 25, 2012
6 min: Ramires cuts out a pass inside from the Kolarov on the left, but almost allows it to trickle from his boot into the path of Aguero. A quick recovery gathers the ball back in. City have started much the stronger here.
5 min: Kolarov whips it in. Chelsea nod clear. "I know what you mean by a 'chunky portion' of Chelsea's support not wanting Rafa," begins Ian Copestake, "but I like the idea that fat people are for some reason against him. Makes the absurdity more tangible."
4 min: Silva almost puts Zabaleta through on goal, but Cole is quickest to react and clears the danger. Corner …
3 min: Ramires gets gingerly to his feet after a bit of the old magic sponge.
2min: MIkel's loose pass puts Ramires in trouble. He gets the ball away but at the expense of being clattered by Garry Barry.
Peep! With "Only one Di Matteo" still ringing out, off we go.
The booing is followed by a minute's applause for former Chelsea manager Dave Sexton, who died today aged 82.
So sing the Chelsea fans as the teams line up for the pre-match handshakes. Boos as Benitez emerges.
Extraordinary reception for Benitez at Stamford Bridge: boos upon boos.— Jonathan Wilson (@jonawils) November 25, 2012
Out come the players. And in other news I've drawn 0-0 in the office last goalscorer sweepstake.
Chelsea's PA man has apparently been skirting around mention of the club's new manager thus far. Can't put it off forever. On that point, does anyone else find the reaction of a chunky portion of Chelsea fans to Benítez as rather ludicrous? Fair enough to be angry at the departure of Di Matteo, but in that case surely it should be directed towards those running the club, no?
Away from Stamford Bridge A Bo writes with the tale of "easily the biggest upset in football in Europe this season". "In today's Norwegian Cup final semi-professional Championship near-relegatees Hødd won," he writes. "They beat perennial top-flight club (and former Chelsea foes) Tromsø on 4-2 on pens (1-1 at full time). It's like Barnsley beating Tottenham for the FA Cup on Wembley, except Barnsley would be a bunch of 18-year old part-timers."
"It's a different experience and a big challenge. We'll see what we can do." And your reception from the home fans? "I don't think it will be bad. They know they have to support the manager."
Chelsea: Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Mikel; Mata, Oscar, Hazard; Torres. Substitutes: Turnbull, Ferreira, Cahill, Bertrand, Romeu, Marin, Moses.
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Kolarov, Barry, Y Toure, Silva, Milner, Dzeko, Aguero. Substitutes: Pantilimon, Maicon, K Toure, Garcia, Nasri, Tévez, Balotelli.
Referee: C Foy
So, as expected, Fernando Torres returns to the Chelsea side.
Chelsea: Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Mikel; Mata, Oscar, Hazard; Torres.
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Kolarov, Barry, Y Toure, Silva, Milner, Dzeko, Aguero
In sad news, former Chelsea manager Dave Sexton has died, aged 82. He won the FA Cup with the club in 1970, then the Cup Winners' Cup in 1971.
The Football Association's director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking said: "It is a sad day for English football. Anyone who was ever coached by Dave would be able to tell you what a good man he was, but not only that, what a great coach in particular he was.
"In the last 30-40 years Dave's name was up there with any of the top coaches we have produced in England - the likes of Terry Venables, Don Howe and Ron Greenwood. His coaching was revered."
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Kolarov, Barry, Y Toure, Silva, Milner, Dzeko, Aguero
Preamble: When Rafael Benitez left English football in June 2010, grown men were trying not to weep at Toy Story 3, Britain was a couple of weeks into its rule by The Coalition (who, when given initial capitals, sound like a early 1990s mid-card WWF tag team), and the world's ears were still a fortnight away from assault by Miley Cyrus's seminal third LP, Can't Be Tamed, a four-hour concept album following the story of a free-roaming robotic lion captured by an evil circus (possibly). The Spanish One returns to these shores 29 months later with fashionable youngsters wearing their trousers rolled up and pointy footwear of the sort made by the title characters in The Elves and the Shoemaker. For some reason it feels that we haven't moved on all that much.
The football landscape hasn't really changed much either. In 2009-10 Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham finishes secon, third and fourth, Chelsea, who won the FA Cup, and Manchester City were in the top six and the two Merseyside clubs were seventh and eighth. In 2011-12 all those things were true once more. Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset. And Benítez's job at Stamford Bridge is a fairly straightforward one – get Chelsea into the Champions League, get Fernando Torres to score a goal or two, ignore the weird hysterical reaction to his temporary appointment and, most importantly, carve out a buttock groove in the Chelsea hotseat that will fit Pep Guardiola's shapely derriere next summer.
The Blues are in with a shout in the title race, too, but you get the sense that Roman Abramovich is prepared to let it slide for this season and settle for third, which is still Chelsea's most likely spot come May. That won't do for City, though. With Chelsea doing their own thing, Arsenal and Spurs well off the pace and Manchester United looking flakier than puff pastry left in the Mojave, the title really should be City's for the taking. (The question of whether, with the money at their disposal, it should be theirs for the taking whenever they want it anyway is, for now at least, besides the point). They've been unimpressive but unbeaten in the league thus far (and just unimpressive in Europe) but there were signs of something stirring against Villa last weekend.
All in all, this is one to relish.