Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City: Super sub Mahrez fires City closer to Arsenal

Riyad Mahrez made the difference as Manchester City cut Arsenal's lead in the Premier League to five points with a 1-0 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The Gunners' goalless draw with Newcastle United on Tuesday opened the door for Pep Guardiola's side to take advantage, though the defending champions were far from their best in the opening period.

Carney Chukwuemeka and Nathan Ake struck the frame of the goal either side of the break, with clear-cut opportunities limited for both sides throughout.

Coming off the bench, Mahrez changed the picture with a 63rd-minute close-range finish that will leave Arsenal looking over their shoulders ahead of what is set to be a significant month.

Chelsea's injury issues were compounded in the opening 20 minutes, losing Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic. The latter's issue came after the Blues' first real sight of goal, with the American forward halted by an inch-perfect tackle by John Stones.

Substitute Chukwuemeka had the best effort of what was a subdued first half, cutting onto his right foot outside the box and beating Ederson with a low drive that bounced back off the left post.

City boss Guardiola shuffled his deck at the break, introducing Manuel Akanji and Rico Lewis in place of Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker, which sparked life into the defending champions with Ake heading against the post and Kevin De Bruyne forcing a low save from Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Bernardo Silva's fine footwork crafted another opening, teeing up De Bruyne to fire wide, before further changes followed on the hour mark with the introduction of Jack Grealish and Mahrez.

That pair combined three minutes later, Grealish drilling a pass across the face of goal from the left for Mahrez to tap home with ease.

City held on to secure what could be a valuable win in the title race, while Chelsea were left 10 points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester United in the hunt for Champions League football.

Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City
Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City

What does it mean? City put the pressure on

Ahead of the game, Guardiola spoke about the difficulty in closing an eight-point deficit to Arsenal, but the win reduces the figure to five in what could be a crunch month in the Premier League title fight.

The Gunners face tough tests against Tottenham and Manchester United in the coming weeks; they then travel to Everton and host Brentford before their clash against City on February 15 – which was postponed earlier this season.

In the four weeks before that fixture, City play two of the same opponents – Spurs (who they play twice) and United – with their other games coming against Aston Villa and Wolves, meaning the title picture could be vastly different in mid-February.

Stones is City's rock

A crunching tackle on Pulisic in the early exchanges prevented a golden opportunity for the Chelsea man, whose contribution was his last of the game, and Stones popped up with decisive interventions throughout the clash in west London.

No player won more duels (seven) than Stones during the game, with the England international also winning 100 per cent (4/4) of his aerial duels and boasting 98 per cent pass accuracy and 102 touches – both the highest of any City starting player.

Awkward Aubameyang

Chelsea are yet to consistently see the version of Aubameyang that haunted Premier League defences during his goal-laden spell at Arsenal and this was another missed opportunity to make an impact for the Blues against City.

Introduced as an early replacement for injury-stricken Sterling, Aubameyang had just 14 touches of the ball, only one of which came in the City box, before being hauled off midway through the second half.

Key Opta facts

– City have now won their last four meetings with Chelsea in all competitions without conceding a goal in the process. This is only the second time ever Chelsea have lost and failed to score in four straight meetings with a particular side, after doing so against Bolton from 1958 to 1960.
– Chelsea have won just one of their last eight Premier League matches (D3 L4) – since the first game in this run on October 19, no team has won fewer games in the competition.
– Chelsea's Graham Potter has lost six of his seven games as a head coach against City in the Premier League (W1), his most league defeats against any opponent in his managerial career.
– City's first shot in this game came in the 33rd minute via Ilkay Gundogan, their longest wait for a first shot in a Premier League match since October 2018 vs Liverpool (38th minute).
– Mahrez and Grealish combined for a goal just three minutes and 43 seconds after the pair had been substituted on.
– Grealish has assisted three goals across his last three Premier League appearances, doubling his tally from his first 34 games in the competition for City.
– Mahrez has scored nine goals as substitute for City in the Premier League, with only Edin Dzeko (13) and Sergio Aguero (12) managing more off the bench for the club in the competition.
– Mahrez's goal was his 40th in the Premier League for City, taking him clear of his tally in the competition with his previous club, Leicester City (39).

What's next?

The two sides meet again in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday, with City hosting Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium.