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Chelsea 1-0 Man City

By Ian Hughes

Michael Essien also scored against Man City at Stamford Bridge last season
Essien also scored against Man City at Stamford Bridge last season

Chelsea kept in touch with title rivals Manchester United and Liverpool with a comfortable win over Manchester City.

Michael Essien struck the only goal via his shin when he diverted Frank Lampard's free-kick into the corner.

The scoreline barely reflected the Blues' dominance as their slick passing moves left City chasing shadows.

Substitute Juliano Belletti came close to doubling the lead when his low drive hit a post, while a jaded-looking City offered virtually no attacking threat.

Chelsea's victory lifts then to second in the table and level on points with Liverpool, who beat Manchester United on Saturday to reduce their lead to four points.

United have a game in hand over their rivals but will be looking nervously over their shoulders.

And the Blues are giving them good reason to worry after another strong performance that maintains manager Guus Hiddink's unbeaten record.

In midfield, Chelsea overpowered and out-thought their visitors, with Essien, Michael Ballack and Lampard in excellent form.

Mouth of the South

And up front Didier Drogba - in a lone striker role with Nicolas Anelka starting on the right - was a constant threat until he was forced off on 71 minutes, holding his knee.

Quick thinking brought the goal when Lampard fired in a low free-kick to an unmarked Essien, who sent the ball into the corner, courtesy of his shin.

More goals should have come as slick passing moves opened up City time and again.

We should have scored more - Hiddink

Anelka was also denied what looked to be a penalty when he was pulled down by Nedum Onuoha.

A stunning backheel by Drogba played in Ballack but the German shot wide under pressure.

City had made little impression going forward, and looked to be suffering from having played in the Uefa Cup on Thursday.

Fortunately for the visitors, Onuoha was alert enough to make a magnificent saving tackle to prevent Drogba scoring.

The Ivorian striker was denied again soon after when he burst into the box and Shay Given did well to beat away the shot.

Chelsea were lining up to take aim at goal - the impressive Essien going close with a low drive.

Tired players lacked edge - Hughes

Only Anelka, who was switched to the right when Deco was forced off just before half-time, seemed subdued.

It was Deco's replacement, Belletti, who almost added to Chelsea's advantage, his fizzing low shot cannoning back off the foot of the upright.

City, camped in their own half, appeared satisfied to simply avoid a repeat of last season's 6-0 humiliation at Stamford Bridge.

And Chelsea seemed to content to wrap up a win without over-exerting themselves.

Drogba's replacement, Florent Malouda, had a chance to add gloss to the victory but hit the side netting.

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Ballack, Essien, Lampard, Deco (Belletti 41), Anelka, Drogba (Malouda 71). Subs Not Used: Hilario, Mikel, Quaresma, Kalou, Alex.

Goals: Essien 18.

Man City: Given, Richards, Onuoha, Dunne, Bridge, Wright-Phillips, Ireland, Zabaleta, Elano (Etuhu 66), Robinho (Bojinov 81), Caicedo (Evans 54). Subs Not Used: Hart, Garrido, Fernandes, Berti.

Booked: Elano, Evans.

Att: 41,810

Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire)

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Chelsea's Michael Essien 7.93 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Premier League as it happened
15 Mar 09 |  Premier League
Sunday's football photos
15 Mar 09 |  Football

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