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Chelsea maintains Five-Point Lead over Manchester City

Chelsea maintained their five-point advantage over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table after a disappointing stalemate at Stamford Bridge.

Loic Remy – in for suspended leading goalscorer Diego Costa – gave Chelsea the lead just before the interval but David Silva replied almost instantly for City after a rare error from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea had the opportunity to open up the sort of gap that would leave the reigning champions with a mountainous task to retain their crown.

But a late substitution that saw manager Jose Mourinho replace scorer Remy with defender Gary Cahill illustrated that they were happier with the draw.

Even the introduction of Frank Lampard, given a largely warm reception as he returned to the club where he is the record goalscorer with 211 in 649 appearances, could not provide a dramatic late twist to a largely uneventful tale.

Chelsea missed the threat posed by Costa, banned for three games after his stamp on Liverpool’s Emre Can in the Capital One Cup semi-final, as well as the midfield influence of injured Cesc Fabregas and this was a performance clearly designed to avoid defeat and maintain that crucial lead over City.

It was unambitious and lacked spark but City could not force the win. Mourinho will be satisfied with a point and while City boss Manuel Pellegrini would have wanted victory, his side at least earned a point to ensure Chelsea remained in range with an advantage that is not insurmountable.

Mourinho’s decision to replace the menace and goal threat of Costa with Remy was a decision that was eventually rewarded with that opening goal just before half-time.

In the early part of the half, however, it was City who looked more dangerous as Courtois was kept occupied by efforts from Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero, which he blocked.

Aguero appears just short of the fitness and form that made him such a threat before he picked up the knee injury against Everton in December, and he still looked a little rusty as he missed the game’s best chance so far after 32 minutes.

John Terry was caught slightly out of position by Martin Demichelis’ long clearance, allowing Aguero in behind with a clear run at Courtois but he steered his finish wide.

As half-time approached Chelsea went ahead, when Eden Hazard stole in behind Bacary Sagna on to Branislav Ivanovic’s cross and Remy sidefooted in from five yards.

Just as Chelsea and Mourinho contemplated an interval lead, City responded and equalised with a goal that was, in large part, the responsibility of the normally impeccable Courtois

 

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