MANCHESTER // There are moments that serve as a microcosm of an entire club, that sum up a season. As Manchester City cemented their grip on second place and left Chelsea in danger of dropping out of the top four, there were incidents to illustrate much about either club.
Take Frank Lampard's missed penalty. At a club with a pronounced ability to press the self-destruct button, even the epitome of reliability was found wanting.
Joe Hart dived to his right, pushing the spot kick away. There is no double century of Chelsea goals for Lampard; not yet anyway. The Londoners still have little to celebrate in a sorry season.
And it was further evidence that nothing comes simple for Chelsea.
Everything is controversial. Had Lampard scored, the calls for a new contract would have become deafening. Instead, he missed and defeat beckoned.
That, in part, was thanks to Yaya Toure.
"Yaya can play in every position," said Roberto Mancini, the City manager.
Here he was a roaming raider, with licence to support the attack.
Insipid and ineffective when City's title hopes ended at Southampton 15 days earlier, he, like their other main players, has produced a response.
A side without the firepower and the fluency of last season are now intent on displaying their mettle. They did so in last week's 4-0 win over Leeds United in the FA Cup and again on Sunday.
Toure has long had a deserved billing as the man for the big occasion and, after 60 minutes of stalemate, he produced.
There was the power to go past John Obi Mikel, the precision and deftness to curl a shot around Gary Cahill and into the net.
Coupled with Carlos Tevez's thunderous second, it brought both respite and a reminder that City are not in meltdown.
Their three previous league games had only yielded two points. They have never gone four matches without a win under Mancini. They still have not as his name rang around the Etihad Stadium.
Indeed, two Italian managers' names did. The 16th minute brought the Chelsea supporters' usual tribute to the sacked Roberto Di Matteo. The best the unfortunate Rafael Benitez can hope for is that he is ignored, which tends to be the case in away games.
Feted and hated by their respective fan bases, these are nevertheless managers with much in common.
By nature, though not nationality in Benitez's case, both are Italian-style managers. Football is an obsession, tactical tinkering comes as second nature. It would be harder to stand back and let events unfold organically.
It is a game of chess, looking to manoeuvre the pieces around to their own advantage. In Chelsea's case, that entailed shifting them sideways, rather than advancing.
They were too defensive, Benitez stifling his flair players. "I was still bringing on players like [Victor] Moses and Oscar, two offensive players," argued the Spaniard. But in doing so, he removed Lampard and Eden Hazard, the only men to register shots on target.
Mancini had sacrificed a striker, in starting with Tevez on the bench, yet his game plan was attacking enough. Others supported the sole striker Sergio Aguero. Matija Nastasic and Jack Rodwell posed a threat at set pieces. David Silva and Toure roamed intelligently in open play.
Chances were fashioned but none were taken until Lampard spurned the opportunity to join Bobby Tambling in Chelsea's 200 club and left Benitez wondering if Hart, who had brought down Demba Ba, should have stayed on the pitch. "At least a yellow card," he said. Instead, the goalkeeper went unpunished and got up to save Lampard's spot kick.
Then Toure, with placement, and Tevez, with power, delivered the goals. "We deserved to win because we played very well," said Mancini, whose side now have a seven-point cushion over Chelsea.
"It will be a fight until the end of the season," Benitez said. "Hopefully if they lose some points we can be closer."
Yet, as he realises himself, Chelsea are far nearer Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. Rather than challenging for second, they risk slipping out of the top four.
After playing in the Europa League on Thursday, they may be competing in it again next season.
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