Chelsea’s eighth successive Premier League win cemented their place at the top of the table – but their victory at Etihad Stadium ended in chaos as Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho were sent off in injury time.
Antonio Conte’s side delivered an impressive statement of intent as they cut City apart on the break after going behind to Gary Cahill’s own goal on the stroke of half-time, when he diverted Jesus Navas’ cross beyond keeper Thibaut Courtois.
The game turned on Kevin de Bruyne’s 56th-minute miss with City in control, crashing Navas’ cross against the bar from inside the six-yard box.
Chelsea were level on the hour when Diego Costa outmuscled Nicolas Otamendi to score and they were ahead 10 minutes later when substitute Willian raced clear to beat City keeper Claudio Bravo with ease.
Eden Hazard completed a magnificent win for Chelsea with another goal on the break, showing too much pace for Aleksandar Kolarov to wrap up three vital points.
Chelsea send powerful message
Chelsea’s renaissance since a 3-0 loss at Arsenal in September left them in 10th place, eight points behind then leaders City, has been hugely impressive – but this is their most powerful statement of the season.
Eight wins from eight and only two goals conceded tells the story and this win against City was the second week in succession they have come from behind to beat a team that could be regarded as realistic title rivals after overcoming Tottenham at Stamford Bridge last weekend.
They were tested by periods of City domination, but showed a ruthlessness to match their steely resilience and tore Pep Guardiola’s side to shreds in the closing 20 minutes.
Conte’s switch to a three-man defensive system and the rejuvenation of key men such as Costa and Hazard is making this Chelsea side resemble the full title package.
Manchester City have kept one clean sheet at home in the Premier League this season – in the 4-0 win against Bournemouth – and on this evidence it is easy to see why.
For all City’s domination of possession and creation, Guardiola’s side have an Achilles heel at the back that was ruthlessly exposed here.
Yes, De Bruyne should have put the game out of Chelsea’s reach but City’s defence offered the visitors hope throughout – and how they capitalised when given the chance.
Guardiola has been linked with defensive reinforcements, particularly Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk, and the manner in which they were dismantled here now makes this a matter of urgency.
The jitters started early when John Stones was caught in possession in his own area, while defensive partner Nicolas Otamendi had a nightmare afternoon and was culpable for Chelsea’s first two goals from Costa, where he was weak in the challenge, and Willian.
Guardiola gestured in despair towards his central defenders after Willian’s goal – his displeasure will surely take the form of more decisive action in January.
An unsavoury end
It is unlikely either Manchester City or Chelsea have heard the last of a shameful conclusion to a high-class game of football as players and officials from both sides became embroiled in ugly scenes.
City’s frustration at what they believed were a series of injustices at the hands of referee Anthony Taylor boiled over in injury time as Aguero caught Luiz high and late, which happened after the Argentina striker clashed with the defender at a corner earlier.
Chelsea’s Nathaniel Chalobah joined in and was lucky not to see red, while Fernandinho was sent off for grabbing Cesc Fabregas.
Even then, Fernandinho had to be forced to leave the pitch and with the whole situation threatening to go completely out of control, it was fortunate referee Taylor was able to blow the final whistle seconds later.
It is hard to see how both clubs can escape censure for a failure to control their players.
Man of the match: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)