In March 2012, Manchester City hosted Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium needing three points to keep the pressure on Manchester United. Despite playing a game more, our cross-town rivals had a four point lead at the summit of the table, and were looking imperious under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Chelsea game had many subplots to it, Chelsea were in excellent form under new manager Roberto Di Matteo, and had just overturned a 3-1 deficit against Napoli in the Champions League. From Manchester City’s point of view, it was the return of Carlos Tevez after his six month golfing holiday.
City started the game strongly, and were denied in the first few minutes by the crossbar. Yaya Touré’s sumptuous pass was gathered brilliantly by Samir Nasri, who lifted a delicate chip onto the bar, much to the relief of Petr Čech. Despite dominance and control in the first half, City didn’t get the breakthrough they needed.
The second half saw the game explode into life and Chelsea took the lead through a Gary Cahill goal. The England man swivelled and hit a half volley which deflected off the back of Gareth Barry, leaving Joe Hart helpless. The title that City had so craved started to look like it was going to slip away (no Gerrard pun intended).
City manager Roberto Mancini rolled the last throw of the dice, and brought on the prodigal son Carlos Tevez. Given a mixed reception by the home fans, Tevez was brought on to provide City with more energy and impetus. Just as the game seemed to be slipping away, City were given a lifeline. Michael Essien handballed Pablo Zabaleta’s attempted shot and up stepped Sergio Agüero. The little Argentine made no mistake with his penalty, sending Petr Cech the wrong way.
The goal clearly gave City the edge, the belief in the stands had risen, and the players seemed to find that extra yard of pace. That determination to win when the odds seem stacked against you. We had the winning mentality. With five minutes to go, the Etihad erupted. Carlos Tevez, with his back to goal played a delightful reverse pass to Samir Nasri, who ran clean through and nonchalantly lifted the ball over Petr Cech.
There was elation in the stands, as City closed the gap on neighbours United, and preserved their twenty game winning run at home in the Premier League.