City turned it round late on, to stay right on United's tails in the title race. And - of course - Carlos Tevez was involved in the winner
Good evening, fine people. As you'd expect from your Super Soaraway Open Guardian, there's an unnecessarily windy introduction coming up. But first, at the chiming of seven bells, there's been some DRAMATIC BREAKING NEWS... MANCHESTER CITY NAME MANCHESTER CITY PLAYER ON MANCHESTER CITY TEAMSHEET AHEAD OF FOOTBALL MATCH! Look! Hart, Zabaleta, Richards, Toure, Clichy, Silva, Toure Yaya, De Jong, Nasri, Aguero, Balotelli.
Subs: Pantilimon, Milner, Dzeko, Kolarov, Savic, Barry, CARLOS TEVEZ.
YES. He's back!
And we may as well tell you the Chelsea line-up while we're at it: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Mikel, Meireles, Ramires, Lampard, Mata, Torres.
Subs: Turnbull, Essien, Drogba, Malouda, Bosingwa, Kalou, Sturridge.
Anyway, the battle for the 2011/12 title starts tonight, really. Though how long it will last is a moot point. City have ten games left, beginning here tonight, and a four-point gap to make up on leaders Manchester United. But if they don't get their chops up, and quick, this could be effectively over by the second week in April. United are in ominous form, and their run-in is a doddle. City, on the other hand, start the business end of the season with this difficult game against fast-improving Chelsea - who have already beaten them at Stamford Bridge - followed by posers against Stoke, Sunderland and Arsenal. You'd think that anything more than two points dropped during that little run, and it's goodbye title. Given their dismal recent away form, it's not looking good.
But first things first, and City's home form is, of course, superlative. They've won 14 out of 14 so far, scoring 42 goals and letting in only six. Another good result at Eastlands tonight - especially if Tevez comes off the bench and assumes the role of anti-Rodney Marsh - and they could suddenly find themselves with the confidence and momentum to put a title-winning run together. Chelsea - there is another team playing tonight - will have to be on top of their game. No John Terry, mind. He's at home, watching the telly, perhaps, maybe with a refreshing glass of water on the go, or perchance a tinnie. Who knows? Not me, I can tell you that gratis.
Kick off: 7.45pm.
A wee lad in the stadium, no more than ten years old, is holding up a ripped-up bedsheet with the legend WELCOME BACK TEVEZ on it. A decent, well-spaced effort for one so youthful. A bright future in typography would await, were both the publishing and newspaper industries not totally jiggered beyond repair. And polite, to boot! Although his mum's going to batter him senseless when he gets home when she sees the state of the linen. "Your photo suggests that Roberto Mancini is becoming the man who lost his focus, like the character in the Woody Allen film," begins Justin Kavanagh. "And right behind him is football's very own Zelig, the man who manages to take centrestage on every big occasion, without ever really belonging there; the human chameleon whose can change his colours as quickly as you can say 'my heart belongs to Boca/Corinthians/West Ham/Manchester United, no sorry City…'."
Anyway, the teams are out! Manchester City in their powder-blue kit, Chelsea in a dark-blue change strip which isn't much of a change really. Or is it black? I've got to be honest, I don't care, which takes some of the sting out of the fact that I can't actually tell either. Sorry. "Here's a match that will have every self-righteous football fan crying into their homemade AFC Wimbledon scarf," notes Jason Graff. "Haven't got a dog in this fight - or have they?" There's also the possibility that they're not bothering with this game at all, of course. And anyway, isn't every football fan self-righteous?
After a minute's applause for Fabrice Muamba, we're off! Chelsea - the Battenburg-cake squares along the top of their kit vaguely reminiscent of those translucent windows in old-school public toilets - get the ball rolling. Within a minute, Balotelli has forced a corner down the right off Luiz. Nothing much comes of it.
3 min: Nasri is buzzing around down the left. His ball into the area sails into the arms of Cech. There's not much of an atmosphere in the ground at the moment. More shouting, please!
5 min: Under a high crossfield ball, Zabaleta confuses Cole down the right, bringing it down and under his control, then speeding into the Chelsea area. He's got time to pick a pass, and pulls one back to the edge of the area, where Silva leans back, looks for the top-left corner, and curls one high into the night sky. "Justin Kavanagh's comment makes the entirely unproven assumption that Carlos Tevez has a heart," blasts Peter Oh. "He also has no taste in head dress, and no sense of world geography (e.g., pines to be closer to Argentina, bats chameleon eyelids at Paris, Milan…)."
8 min: This should have been the opener for Chelsea. Torres - full of confidence again and no longer dysfunctional - shimmies down the inside-left channel, drawing three City defenders towards him. He waits before sliding a pass inside to Mata, on the edge of the D in space. He should hit the target, but looking for the top-right corner, he blazes wildly over.
9 min: Up the other end, City are the width of the crossbar from taking the lead. He's after a long ball down the centre from Kolo Toure, and hits a first-time looping shot over Cech, who is faffing around in the middle of his area and suddenly out of the game. It's a beautiful effort, looping up and down at pace. But not looping down with quite enough pace, as it twangs off the underside of the crossbar, down, and out. Silva attempts to keep the move going, but can't do anything with the loose ball. That would have been a picture-book goal. This really should be 1-1. More of this, if you will, dear players.
11 min: This game has an open feel to it. Richards goes on a Luizesque Playstation meander in the middle, and is nearly stripped of the ball by Torres, who appears to be in the mood tonight. He gets himself out of trouble, and sets City moving forward. Yaya Toure powers down the inside-left channel, drawing Chelsea defenders, and sliding one out left for Aguero. He's got men in the middle, but his low cross is hacked out by Luiz for a corner. A few oohs and aahs from the set piece, but again, nothing worth mentioning in any detail. Which makes life easy for me, and rather boring for you.
14 min: Yaya Toure looks to have his gameface on too; he pelts down the inside-left channel yet again, but miscontrols at speed, allowing the ball to break through to Cech. For a second, though, he looked like sashaying clear of the Chelsea back line and earning himself a one-on-one with the keeper.
17 min: Ivanovic is limping about. Not sure whether he'll be able to continue. "Interesting you should mention toilets," begins Matt Shelton, and how long he's been waiting to start an email to a national broadsheet newspaper like that. "This is the real deal." Indeed. From Nottingham to the Gambia. That's comprehensive coverage.
19 min: Yet another run by Yaya Toure, coming into the Chelsea area from the left. He's nudged in the back by Lampard. After a couple of steps, Toure goes to ground. That'd probably be a foul anywhere else on the pitch, but you know how these things work in the penalty area. Hey, I don't write the rules.
20 min: Bosingwa replaces the jiggered Ivanovic.
22 min: Meireles, then Torres, causes a bit of bother down the right. Torres whips a shot-cum-cross into the area, which Hart gets down to smother. City have been enjoying most of the play, so that would have been a sucker punch. It's not quite sparking, this game, but it's engaging enough.
25 min: Corner to Chelsea, who are coming back into this game. They're strangely unambitious at the set piece, though. Mata swings it into the six-yard box, where five City defenders queue up to head clear. (Only one actually does, but you get the point. No Chelsea players bombing in to cause bother, you see.) "'Welcome back Tevez' from a ten-year-old is polite?" questions Robin Hazlehurst. "No it isn't, give the cheeky whippersnapper a clip round the lughole, it should be Mr Tevez. Youngsters these days think they can address their elders (I won't say betters) in the same way they'd address someone in their own form? What is the world coming to!"
27 min: Nasri has a wallop from 35 yards. Maybe even a ludicrous 40. It's arrogantly ambitious, but he nearly delivers, sending a powerful rising shot swerving this way and that, and sailing just over the bar. Cech would have had it covered, but even so, fine effort.
29 min: Balotelli has done nothing so far, and now look. He's standing around in the centre circle, when Lampard, on the left, turns and plays a blind pass back into the middle. Balotelli takes up possession in acres, and tears clear down the centre of the pitch, as Lampard stands with his head in his hands. Balotelli reaches the edge of the area, only to drag a dismal effort wide left of goal. City should be leading this game. They're not, and soon enough doubt will be taking them over.
32 min: Ramires jiggles about down the right and scoops a pass into the centre, where Torres prepares to connect, eight yards out. He's denied at the very last, though, by the extended leg of Richards. Fine defending. Torres is going to start scoring a lot of goals again soon, isn't he.
35 min: Ramires is proving a handful down the right. He squirms about for a bit, then suddenly zips past Clichy, who slips to the floor in stunned confusion. Ramires is in the area, with time and space, but can't find Torres in the middle. Very poor, because that was a real opening. "Could you investigate what Luiz is wearing?" requests John Atherton. "Tights or leggings, or the awful abuse of English but according to my partner, fashionable, 'jeggings'." Jeggings? What on earth are jeggings? [MBM reporter spends time on Google when he should be describing the game] Jesus Christ. So, trousers, then? OK, in the name of Open Journalism, your wish is my command. I'll keep an eye out.
38 min: Eastlands is almost silent at the moment, apart from the away end singing some ditty about the number of English teams currently competing in continental tournaments. City don't look like title winners at the moment.
41 min: Unless he's got massive holes in the knees of his jeggings, Luiz appears from afar to be wearing a pair of shorts and some socks. Pulitzer, please!
42 min: On the touchline, Roberto Mancini has a Hodgsonesque temper fit. He's got both hands in his trenchcoat pockets, but he's clearly waving his fists in extreme anger. Waggle, waggle, waggle, they go, for quite some time, too. He could probably do with calming down, to be frank. The clock is his friend! More than half of this match still to go.
44 min: Mata is booked for a tug on the shirt of Richards. "I was totally sidetracked from the football you're so kindly MBMing for us, by the mention of pubtoilets.com (17 mins)," begins Paul Conyngham. "Now, while everyone will have an interest, even an overriding obsession, this is all a bit unnerving. On several counts: it seems no-one has gone to the toilet (yet) in Spain, where I live; and even more worrying, that nobody has yet managed to review the Philharmonic Pub's toilets on Hope Street in Liverpool. This is the toilet equivalent of See Naples and Die. Wikipedia says (so it must be true): Of particular interest to visitors is the high quality of the gentlemen's urinals, constructed in a particularly attractive roseate marble."
HALF TIME: Manchester City 0-0 Chelsea. And that, one last Yaya Toure skedaddle down the left apart, is that for the half. "Jeggings are the closest Luiz has come to wearing the trousers in the Chelsea defence this season," quips Justin Kavanagh, who is on tonight.
HALF-TIME VISIT TO THE TOILET in the spirit of Open Journalism and pubtoilets.com. The Guardian, Floor 2, Kings Place. A comfortable, clean and modern facility. You enter through a medium-length corridor, and turn right. There are seven cubicles. The doors nearly fill the frame, but not quite. Enough space so you don't feel claustrophobic, but not enough for you to worry about passing hoodlums posting unwanted items / liquids over the top and onto your vulnerable head. Seven urinals at the end, arranged along three walls. There might be some issues of access to the urinal in the left-hand corner if all seven are being utilised at once. A whopping 11 sinks. There's been some suggestion that the quality of hand soap has been recently downgraded, but let's give the Guardian the benefit of the doubt on that one, we're not that skint yet. The only black mark: the Dyson hand-dryers, which are all fine and fancy, but not much use if you've decided for any reason to wet / wash your face.
Gallery of pictures! Click here! Sadly, nothing of the toilets at Guardian Villas; all the snaps are from Eastlands. But you can't have everything, and it is all free, after all.
And we're off again! An eyebrow-bothering change at the break: Barry is on for Manchester City, with Balotelli off. No idea whether he's injured, but he was dreadful in the first half, so make of that what you will. "I thought jeggings was a horrendous combo of 'jogging' and 'leggings'," admits the logical Phillippa Booth. "But then when I saw the word on a sign in a shop, I burst out laughing." And still so many questions remain. How long have these things been in existence? Who invented them? Are they a unisex trouser?
48 min: Luiz does appear to be wearing jeggings. Did I miss those in the first half? Bang goes that Pulitzer! Maybe he put them on at half time. Anyway, under a high ball down the inside-left channel, he's outwitted by Aguero, who takes the ball down with his back to goal, whips it back over Luiz, and races clear into the area. Cech comes out to palm the ball away from his feet and out for a corner. The set piece isn't worth describing, so I won't bother.
50 min: A bit of space for Lampard down the right. His cross into the centre is looking for Torres, but doesn't find him. City stream upfield. Yaya Toure goes down the right, and cuts the ball back to the edge of the area, where Nasri blasts miles over. "A pub I used to frequent had the gents toilet door facing the pool table, and a small window at eye level in front of the urinals," explains Matt Dony. "Presumably so you could make sure no one was diddling you at pool while voiding your bladder." And they say men find it difficult to multi-task.
53 min: Nothing's quite coming off for City at the moment. Yaya Toure looks to slide-rule a pass down the inside-left channel for Aguero, but Luiz is over to intercept. "I've just been reliably informed that jeggings are quite simply leggings, in the style of jeans," reports Brad McMillan. "So I am quite sure Luiz is not wearing them. I am also sure that my wife's suspicion about what I am looking at on the computer has increased."
55 min: Nasri cuts inside from the left and into the area, near the byline. He looks to scoop the ball over Cech. The keeper flaps, and pushes the ball onto his own bar. Zabaleta picks up the loose ball and slips it to Silva by the right-hand post; he attempts a close-range backflick that's bundled out for a corner on the right. From which Aguero is found at the far post; his effort at a scissor kick is wild and high. City are turning up the heat a wee bit now.
57 min: Lampard is booked for a late slide on Yaya Toure. "There are many amazing sights in Vegas, from the 3/4 size Eiffel Tower to the showgirls in heels nearly as high, but nothing quite prepares you for the experience of the more upscale hotel's restrooms," writes Gary Naylor. "Not only can you er... rest in them, you could live like a king in them."
58 min: Meireles is replaced by Essien. "I very much hope David Luiz is not wearing anything like jeans on the football pitch tonight," writes Peter Wahlberg, "though it would go some way to explaining his easygoing defensive style."
59 min: Anyway, the free kick from the Lampard foul. It's just to the right of goal, 30 yards out. Yaya Toure looks for the top-left corner, but the effort is worse than useless. "The Phil's loos are indeed a delight and I always make a point of visiting them when I'm in the 'pool (sometimes takes three pints before I have a valid excuse)," begins Les Brown. "Over the years I've noticed an interesting evolution in the sign displayed to cater for the numerous ladies wishing to study the gents' marbles. Back in the nineties they were requested to solicit the aid of a member of the bar staff to ensure that no bonafide pee-ers were in action, which would have led to embarrassment all round. Come the millenium, the sign warned male users that there was a risk that ladies frequently studied the sights. Last year, nothing at all."
60 min: GOAL! Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea. Chelsea win a corner down the right. The ball's swung in to the near post, where Luiz challenges Barry. The ball breaks off Barry to Cahill, coming in from the right; he takes a whack, and the ball deflects off Yaya Toure, wrongfooting Hart and bouncing into the right-hand side of the City goal! The title seems quite a distant proposition all of a sudden.
63 min: City seem pretty shocked. They haven't forced Cech into a single save, as of yet. Barry looks to get things going down the left, but with men in the middle loops a horrendous ball over everyone's head. "My company supplied the flooring materials for many areas of the Etihad Stadium, including the toilets," writes Kevin McGowan. Now that's an eyecatching opening gambit. "A very tasteful Goosewing Grey, I recall. I was allowed in before its opening to proudly show off said toilets to several South American visitors. I also remember (before pitch levels were changed) the first sporting event to take place there was a football match between the main contractor and our flooring contractor. Can't remember the score, though possibly higher than tonight's."
66 min: So, then, here we go. De Jong is replaced by Tevez. A mixed reaction to his return from the home fans; plenty of cheers, but a sprinkling of boos too. And then a pointed chorus of "Roberto Mancini".
67 min: Say what you like about Tevez, though; when you actually get him onto the pitch, he always puts himself about. He's immediately in the thick of the action, bustling in from the right, across the face of the box, and sending a ball out left for Clichy, who hits a crisp riser towards the goal. Cech is behind it all the way, though. A quarter of the match remains. Twenty three minutes to save City's season? OK, a melodramatic take... but not overly so, the way things are panning out.
70 min: Frustration is building. A corner for City down the left. City load the box, but Kolo Toure clatters Cech, and the pressure is off. "Jeggings are useful when you want the look of jeans without the bulk," explains Alec Gregory. "Or are too lazy to deal with buttons 'n' zips."
72 min: Torres is replaced by Drogba. He's really not happy about it, either, looking across at the bench before sighing a clear "for eff's sake" and stomping off. Roberto di Matteo makes a great play of consoling the player as he reaches the dugout, patting him on the back, the side of the face, and being quite touchy-feely, metrosexual, and generally continental about it. But Torres isn't having it. He's got the hot heat on, and no mistake. "Disappointed not to have a photo gallery of the gents' in Guardian Towers," moans Robin Hazlehurst. "Not because I have the slightest interest in your facilities, but because it would have been interesting to hear your explanations for why you were hanging around in the boys lavvies with a camera while you were supposed to be working. Or maybe such things are perfectly normal at the liberal-minded Guardian."
75 min: Chelsea have been sitting back quite a lot since the goal, but suddenly they break forward through Mata, who skids down the left, cuts into the area, and hammers a low shot to the near post. Hart is forced to parry the ball round the post. That'll be a corner.
76 min: Silva is replaced by Dzeko. City deal with the Chelsea corner - Cahill is sniffing around on the edge of the area for another goal - and then stream upfield. Dzeko's first task is to take a snap snot to the left of goal, winning a corner. From which...
77 min: PENALTY TO CITY! The corner, from the left, is sent deep. Zabaleta, coming in from the edge of the area on the right, has a low blast. The ball is parried by the arms of Essien; that's a no-brainer for the ref.
78 min: GOAL! Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea. Aguero calmly skelps a low, hard spot kick into the bottom-left corner, Cech given no chance. Suddenly the title race is on again!
79 min: Eastlands is bouncing, and City's tails are up. Nasri powers down the right and warms Cech's hands with a full-blooded stinger from the edge of the box. Cech needs a couple of gos to grab the ball, with Aguero sniffing around. "Does Tevez have his name or 'Sure Sign of Desperation' on the back of shirt?" wonders Adam Hirst. Don't ask me, I can't even tell if Luiz is wearing breeks or not.
82 min: City know they need a winner here, and are pressing accordingly. These are the sort of games, after all, which their city rivals United so often turn around. And look at their title haul. Here's Jason Jawando: "Further to your comment on 67 minutes - 'Say what you like about Tevez, though; when you actually get him onto the pitch, he always puts himself about' - I remember him coming on for the second-half of the Champions' League Final in 2009. Given the opportunity to prove he was worth £26m, or whatever, he mostly 'put himself about' areas of the pitch distinctly not occupied by the ball."
84 min: Tevez looks to Macheda a curler into the top right from the left-hand edge of the box, but his effort is blocked. Clichy pushes forward but his cross from the left is plucked from the air by Cech. City are throwing everything at Chelsea.
85 min: BRILLIANT GOAL! Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea. Sheer brilliance here. Nasri picks the ball up 30 yards from goal, and dances down the inside-left channel. He slips the ball inside to Tevez, by the D, his back to goal. Tevez slips an immediate return ball to Nasri, who has kept running. Nasri draws Cech, and dinks a delicious finish into the bottom-right corner. Nasri wheels away, waving his shirt above his head, not caring about the booking he's about to get for doing so. Could that be the goal that sets off a City title charge? And Tevez heavily involved. My oh my.
88 min: Chelsea respond by pressing forward themselves. They win a corner down the right, though nothing comes of it. Drogba wins another down the right a minute or so later, but the referee waves for a goal kick. Hmm. City will be nervously peering at the clock.
90 min: City are doing a fine job of keeping possession at the moment. There will be four added minutes of this, 240 crucial seconds in this season's title race.
90 min +1: Drogba grabs himself a yard or two down the left. He drags a shot across the face of goal. Hart isn't in a good position, and Lampard isn't far from racing in to meet the ball, but the thing flies out of play on the far side. City breathe again.
90 min +2: City stroke it around awhile in the Chelsea half. A lot of whistling by the home stands, but they can dream on. There's still a couple of tense minutes to play. "To be fair to Tevez," begins Chris Cherry, the CL final in 2009 was less about him being where the ball wasn't and more about the rest of United's failure to put the ball where he was."
90 min +3: Mata probes down the right, but his cross is cleared by a Richards power header. "If City win this I'll wet my shants," writes John Forrest, writing to us in the wake of Jeggingsgate. "Shants are shorts-cum-pants, and it's what I wear around the house."
FULL TIME: Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea. Aguero dribbles in from the right and whacks a low shot at the goal. Cech snaffles. The ball's soon coming back at Chelsea; Aguero tries an overhead from a tight angle on the left. Again Cech claims. But that's that! City win their 15th game out of 15 at home in the league this season - and they are still right in this title race, only a point behind Manchester United! That could be a huge result, one that will give them both confidence and momentum. There's still a lot to do if they want to keep on United's coattails - but Tevez is back. The anti-Rodney Marsh? Well, he's started well...