LONDON — This is why you let the football people do the football. José Mourinho did not recommend releasing Frank Lampard.
The club made a decision. And yesterday, the club was made to pay in a 1-1 draw with Manchester City.
Chelsea were heading for another important victory at the Etihad Stadium. There was five to go and they were closing the game down, as they had done for the other 85 minutes, shutting Manchester City out, frustrating them, blocking off every avenue of attack.
The ball forward was speculative to say the least and was met by James Milner, squaring at full stretch on the volley.
From this unlikely scenario, magic occurred. Lampard arrived, late, but perfectly synchronised as ever, and struck his shot past a defeating Thibaut Courtois.
How many times had Chelsea’s faithful seen him do that? Enough times to be the club’s top goalscorer. Lampard did not celebrate, even looked slightly sheepish, but inside he will know a point had been proved.
How did they let him go? How did they ever risk he would end up playing against them? Some players are just not meant to be in opposition. Would Manchester United ever have faced Ryan Giggs of Paul Scholes? Of course not.
Mourinho had sold Lampard, but reluctantly. Earlier last season he had talked of wishing to keep Lampard and Ashley Cole. But he doesn’t run the club. They might be advised to listen to him in future, though.
Mathematics does not matter until the last ten games, according to Mourinho. Even so, when the Lampard sting is forgotten, it is still six points. Just five games gone, and Chelsea are already six points clear of the reigning champions.
They have four on Arsenal, who visit Stamford Bridge in two weeks time, seven on Liverpool, eight on Manchester United.
Last February Chelsea dominated the game and could have won by more. Yesterday, honours were even. Chelsea let Manchester City play the football. City had more of the ball, completed more passes, made more passes; yet rarely looked like scoring until an ex-Chelsea man showed them the way.
Their supporters will say the turning point of the game was the 66th minute dismissal of Pablo Zabaleta. It was goalless then, and 0-1 to Chelsea five minutes later. Yet that isn’t why Chelsea got a point.
From City’s perspective, the game had an ominous look for a good ten minutes before.
— Mail Online