Manchester City’s dominance a reminder the rich always get their way

Pep Guardiola could hardly conceal his excitement. “In 180 minutes we conceded one shot on target – against Chelsea! Ah guys, that is so good!”

It was good for Manchester City, certainly. When your control of the game is so absolute that your opponents – a petrodollar-fuelled superclub that last season won the Champions League – can muster only one shot on target in three hours of football, you can feel proud of a job well done.

As for what the rest of us are supposed to feel? That is not Guardiola’s concern. In his enthusiasm for the way City had smothered Chelsea to virtual nothingness, Pep was beginning to sound curiously like Gianni Brera, the Italian journalist and ideologue of catenaccio, who claimed that the perfect game would always end 0-0 because nobody would have made a mistake.

It wasn’t all City’s fault that the game had been dull and featureless. When Thomas Tuchel spoke last week of how disappointed he had been with Chelsea’s performance against City back in September, it sounded like he had a more aggressive approach in mind for Saturday. These hopes faded within minutes of kick-off, as it became plain that Chelsea were only interested in pouncing on City mistakes.

In the event, their defend-and-counter approach did create two good chances to take the lead, but both opportunities were wasted by Romelu Lukaku. More precision from the striker and Tuchel would have looked like a genius; afterwards the coach made no effort to hide his annoyance.

Blessed release

The match went on like that, with City being careful on the ball and Chelsea being careful off it, until the 70th minute when Timo Werner lost a header, N’Golo Kante missed a tackle and Kevin de Bruyne found space to shoot. De Bruyne was asked afterwards if it had been one of his most important goals, and his uncertain expression suggested he understood that the goal had been the difference between leading the league by 13 points, and leading by merely 11. He has scored many bigger goals than that.

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