Chelsea 18 points from glory; Man City title hopes are over

Two first-half goals from Eden Hazard put the Blues back on track as Pep Guardiola turns his attention to top four fight

Eden Hazard, Chelsea
Chelsea's Eden Hazard holds off Man City Gael Clichy
(Image credit: Glyn Kirk / AFP / Getty)

Chelsea 2 Manchester City 1

Hopes for a thrilling three-way title race didn't last long as Chelsea finally put to bed any lingering hopes Manchester City had of winning the Premier League with a 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge.

The result maintains Chelsea's convincing seven point advantage at the top of the table over Tottenham, who staged a sensational comeback in the dying minutes at Swansea, recovering from 1-0 down to win 3-1.

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But the defeat sounds a death knell for City's title hopes and sets up an intriguing four-way scrap for the final two Champions League places.

Liverpool are third with 60 points, two points clear of fourth placed City who have a game in hand. But Arsenal, who returned to winning ways with a 3-0 victory over West Ham, and Man United are just four points further behind, but each has a game in hand.

Failing to qualify for the Champions League would have been unthinkable for City fans at the start of the season, as their team won their first ten matches in all competitions, but their form has fallen away in recent months to leave them fighting for a top four finish.

"Today the Premier League has gone," admitted Pep Guardiola after the loss. "It's between Chelsea and Tottenham now. Now we have to think about qualifying for the Champions League and finishing in the top four."

Despite the concession, the City manager believed his side were better value on the night than their opponents. "We created enough, more than Chelsea to win the game," said Guardiola. "It's encouraging for the future. I'm optimistic. It's been like this all season but in the box we are not good enough. We created enough to score goals. It's our problem. But my players play in one way and that's why I want to be here, to help Man City for years."

But given the intolerance of failure of City's owners in recent years, Guardiola might be forced to rethink his methods if the club doesn't finish in the top four.

There is no such anxiety for Chelsea manager Antonio Conte who watched as his side held off City in a tense encounter. Eden Hazard put Chelsea one up on ten minutes when his shot took a deflection off City captain Vincent Kompany to beat Willy Caballero.

If the City keeper should have done better with his attempt to save the effort, so should Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois, who was at fault for the visitors' equaliser on 26 minutes. The Belgian's clearance kick fell to David Silva, who provided the assist for Sergio Aguero to draw City level.

But Chelsea regained the lead ten minutes later after Pedro had been felled in the penalty area by Fernandinho. Cabellero saved Hazard's spot-kick but the rebound fell into his path and he made no mistake with the follow-up.

City strove hard for another leveller in the second half with Kompany and John Stones wasting good chances, and Conte was clearly relieved to come away with maximum points after a tough encounter.

"A big win for us, it wasn't easy," he said. "But when you play against City, it's normal to suffer in some parts of the game. But I think we suffered as a team in the right way. The first half was very open, chances for one side and then the other. Usually I don't like this happening. In the second half we defended very well, with good balance."

Asked if he was aware of events in Swansea, Conte replied in the negative, saying: "I think it's better to look at ourselves, not see the other. Tottenham's result is important, but the most important results is ours. We have to continue to think like this. The best way is to think that Tottenham could win eight games... to win the title, we need 18 more points. If we do this, we will win the title."

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