x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Carlo Ancelotti: Chelsea have awoken from slumber

David Luiz and Ramirez score late to earn Chelsea a 2-0 victory against Manchester City.

Chelsea's David Luiz, centre, celebrates his goal against Manchester City with teammates (from left) Didier Drogba , John Terry and Ashley Cole. Ian Kington /AFP
Chelsea's David Luiz, centre, celebrates his goal against Manchester City with teammates (from left) Didier Drogba , John Terry and Ashley Cole. Ian Kington /AFP

LONDON // It has taken him a while to get there but Carlo Ancelotti has finally found an answer to Manchester City's massed rank defending.

Not the £50 million (Dh297m) of strangely anonymous striking talent that is Fernando Torres. Rather a £21.3m defender developing the happy habit of undoing Manchester giants.

To David Luiz's game-changing equaliser against Manchester United, add the clever header that undid City's now standard policy of stand and counter.

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Twelve minutes before time, and a few after Torres had been withdrawn from a seventh sterile outing leading Chelsea's attack, the Brazilian's intervention raised his new team to third place, easing anxieties over Champions League qualification.

"I don't know if we are coming into form at the right time," said Ancelotti. "In my opinion it is too late — we could have woken up earlier. We slept for two months and now we are fresh.

"Torres has to keep going. He doesn't have to lose his confidence. I didn't ask him to score, I asked him to move well. He had a good movement and he, and we, have to be patient. The goal will arrive."

If only Ancelotti were himself deemed worthy of similar support.

On the morning of a key fixture the club's chief executive essentially confirmed that their manager's job was on the line.

"Carlo has a contract until end of 2012," said Ron Gourlay. "Let's see where we are at the end of May then we'll judge the coach and other people at the football club."

Ancelotti's response was typically pacific. "I know very well that this team slept for two months," he said. "And at that moment I had a fantastic support for the team.

"I know that a lot of coaches that sleep two months are home to watch the game on television. I am here, fortunately."

There has already been a judgement on Didier Drogba, displaced in owner Roman Abramovich's affections by Torres and displaced by Salomon Kalou in last night's starting line-up.

A curious resolution given that Drogba remains one of the Premier League's most potent attackers, with more shots on target than anyone in the division and second only to Wayne Rooney for striker assists.

Adhering to the essentially defensively minded 4-4-2 that had coincided with Chelsea's first sustained run of results in months, Ancelotti paired Torres and Kalou in an untested partnership.

With Torres in miserable form - the Spaniard had managed just one shot on goal in two months of Premier League action - the idea appeared to be to compensate for the Spaniard's lack of movement with Kalou's dynamism.

It was only partially successful. Kalou darted across the forward line perplexing City's defenders, yet clear-cut chances did not present themselves.

Florent Malouda hit the side netting from a narrow angle, and Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard lifted long-range shots over the bar.

As is their wont in matches of this dimension, City were still more sterile.

Early interchanges between James Milner, David Silva and Yaya Toure helped the latter test Petr Cech with a solid strike, but that was it for their first-half production.

"We didn't come here to sit off them," insisted David Platt, City's first-team coach. "The first 10 minutes or so we took the game to them a little bit more. We've played that formation several times this season."

After the break, Branislav Ivanovic, the Chelsea right-back, came close to breaking the stalemate, powering Lampard's centre goalwards where the diligent Vincent Kompany intervened.

Emulating Torres's problems, Edin Dzeko, City's January recruit, hesitated on a shot until David Luiz could stymie it. Ancelotti made the obvious substitution, withdrawing Torres for Drogba on 70 minutes to a discontented frown from the owner.

Nicolas Anelka joined his friend in the attack, but the shape remained the one City had been comfortably coping with.

With Drogba's intelligent physicality and Anelka's subtle movement, that almost immediately changed. Pushing forward in search of a winner, David Luiz won a free kick on City's right flank. Drogba's delivery was enticing, the centre-back kept his body ahead of Aleksandar Kolarov and glanced it into goal.

As City belatedly threw themselves forward, Michael Essien found Ramires on the counter attack. The midfielder snaked his way between three defenders before lifting the ball past Joe Hart.

Abramovich was already smiling. Fortunate that half his extravagant January shop is worthy of one.

 

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