Bernardo Silva has scored two goals in his last two Premier League games for Manchester City, as many as he managed in his first 25 for the club
Bernardo Silva’s goal less than a minute into the second half pushed Manchester City closer to the Premier League title as they overcame a surprisingly negative Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s side were forced to bide their time before making the breakthrough and it came when Silva stole in ahead of Marcos Alonso from David Silva’s cross to beat Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and give City a mammoth 18-point lead at the top of the table.
Chelsea did not register a single shot on target, leaving Manchester City keeper Ederson a virtual bystander as he was even able to watch Alonso’s timid shot drift wide with seconds left.
It was a disappointing day for Chelsea and manager Antonio Conte – and of even greater concern is that they are now five points adrift of Tottenham in fourth place in the race for spots in next season’s Champions League.
Man City’s winning game of patience
Manchester City’s season has been characterised by regular flourishes that will make them worthy Premier League champions when the formalities are finally concluded.
Here, against a Chelsea side surprisingly devoid of ambition, Pep Guardiola’s champions-elect were forced to show patience rather than the dazzling brilliance they have demonstrated on so many occasions.
Chelsea’s massed ranks formed a blue wall of defensive defiance, organised and well-drilled, leaving City to enjoy almost total possession and search for any gaps in the barricade assembled by Antonio Conte.
City, in the manner of champions, played the waiting game, almost unlocking Chelsea when Leroy Sane’s touch and control created an opening, only for Cesar Azpilicueta to scramble his shot off the line.
It was a day for attrition as opposed to artistry and City confirmed they have both sides to their character, punishing Chelsea for a slow start to the second half, Sergio Aguero playing in David Silva, whose cross was met by his namesake Bernardo at the far post.
In driving rain, and with Chelsea mysteriously refusing to take off the handbrake, they were able to close out a victory that will, in its own way, have brought as much pleasure to Guardiola as many of the more spectacular wins this season.
It was an indication of how they had to keep their head and be patient that they played a total of 902 passes, more than any other team has managed in a Premier League game since 2003/04.
City, with a performance that showed their adaptability, edged nearer to the title.
Chelsea pay for cautious approach
Chelsea manager Conte could hardly have been expected to adopt a gung-ho approach to this visit to Manchester City – but his side’s negative style became increasingly bewildering as the game went on.
It was understandable when the mission was clearly to frustrate City and for 45 minutes it delivered a measure of success as Guardiola’s side were restricted – it was after they conceded a goal that matters became confusing.
Chelsea still refused to offer up any sign of ambition and even when they did attacks fizzled out tamely, with some ironic cheers from the visiting fans when they won a corner late on and also when Alonso’s timid shot drifted wide in stoppage time.
Olivier Giroud only appeared as a substitute with 13 minutes left while Alvaro Morata’s introduction came with seconds to go at the expense of Eden Hazard.
It was all a far cry from the Chelsea side that showed such ambition and drive to turn a half-time deficit around to win here en route to becoming Premier League champions last season.
Chelsea’s tactics could be regarded as a compliment to Manchester City – but they are also a reflection of their own decline this season and how their sights appear to have altered.
In the end it was to no avail – leaving them with an uphill task to qualify for the top four.
Man City’s other Silva starts to shine
David Silva has been one of the symbols of Manchester City’s success in the new era, playing a crucial role in two title wins and showing his enduring quality with goals in the successive 3-0 wins against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup at Wembley last Sunday and at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday.
The 32-year-old Spaniard was at it again here, keeping City ticking over in the tougher moments and playing the crucial cross in the decisive moment of the game.
And it was the man on the end of that cross, his namesake Bernardo Silva, who is now coming into his own after having to bide his time following his £42m summer move from Monaco.
He is another diminutive stylist in the mould Guardiola so admires and after waiting his chance he is showing exactly why City were so keen to acquire his services.
Bernardo Silva was also on target against Arsenal on Thursday and is poised to have an increasingly influential say on City’s conclusion to the season as Guardiola and his players chase further glory.
Man of the match – David Silva (Manchester City)
David Silva has assisted six goals against Chelsea for Man City, more than against any other opponent
- Manchester City will end the day 18 points clear at the top of the Premier League, the biggest lead ahead of second place since March 2006, when Chelsea were 18 points ahead of Manchester United.
- Chelsea have lost four consecutive away matches in all competitions for the first time since January 2003, when they lost to Man Utd (twice), Leeds and Arsenal.
- Pep Guardiola is only the second manager to complete a league double over Antonio Conte, after Delio Rossi (for Sampdoria in 2012/13).
- Only Sergio Aguero (15) has scored more goals for Manchester City in 2018 in all competitions than Bernardo Silva (5).
- Chelsea failed to register a single shot in the first half, the first time they’d not had a shot in the first half of a Premier League game since 2003/04 (when Opta began recording the data).
- The Blues had just seven shots against Man City in their two Premier League meetings this season, while facing 30 themselves.
- David Silva has assisted 12 goals for City in all competitions this season, his most in a campaign since 2011/12, when he assisted 19 goals.
- Silva has assisted 73 Premier League goals since his debut in August 2010, 20 more than any other player in that time.
Manchester City take on Basel at home in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with progress all but assured courtesy of a 4-0 first-leg win in Switzerland.
Chelsea are in Premier League action, at home against Crystal Palace next Saturday (17:30 GMT), before their own Champions League last-16 second leg away at Barcelona. That tie currently stands at 1-1.