STAMFORD BRIDGE, LONDON — Cole Palmer held his nerve to dispatch a stoppage-time penalty for Chelsea, joining Raheem Sterling in scoring against his former employers Manchester City in an astonishing 4-4 draw.
Chelsea had lost the past six editions of this fixture without scoring a goal but came from behind three times to earn a point against Pep Guardiola’s side, who edged back in front of Arsenal and Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table.
Erling Haaland opened the scoring from the penalty spot and scrambled home his 17th of the season early in the second half, but goals from Thiago Silva and Nicolas Jackson levelled the score at 1-1 and 3-3 respectively.
Sterling applied the finish to a low 37th-minute cross from the excellent Reece James, giving Chelsea the lead for the only time in an undulating affair, with Manuel Akanji left unmarked to head home Bernardo Silva’s cross and send City in 2-2 at the break.
Thiago Silva looked like suffering a bitterly unfair ending to his afternoon when he diverted Rodri’s speculative left-footed effort beyond Robert Sanchez four minutes from time.
But there was a further twist as Ruben Dias blundered into substitute Armando Broja to concede the late spot-kick. The 21-year-old Palmer, who left City to join Chelsea in a £42.5 million deal in August, held his nerve as Ederson guessed correctly to make it four out of four from 12 yards for his new club.
Chelsea (4-3-3, right to left): 1. Robert Sanchez — 24. Reece James (27. Malo Gusto), 2. Axel Disasi, 6. Thiago Silva, 3. Marc Cucurella— 23. Conor Gallagher, 8. Enzo Fernandez (10. Mykhailo Mudryk), 25. Moises Caicedo (19. Armando Broja) — 20. Cole Palmer, 15. Nicolas Jackson (16. Chimuanya Ugochukwu), 7. Raheem Sterling.
Man City (4-2-3-1, right to left): 31. Ederson (GK) — 2. Kyle Walker, 25. Manuel Akanji, 3. Ruben Dias, 24. Josko Gvardiol — 16. Rodri, 20. Bernardo Silva — 47. Phil Foden, 19. Julian Alvarez (8. Mateo Kovacic), 11. Jeremy Doku (10. Jack Grealish) — 9. Erling Haaland.
Palmer dominated much of the pre-match conversation and his ice-cool late contribution will justifiably take the headlines. But across 100 enthralling minutes, Stamford Bridge arguably witnessed the re-emergence of one of England’s best players of the past decade.
Times have been tough for Sterling since his summer 2021 heroics at the Euros. He fell out of favour at City as Guardiola decided he wanted more playmaking qualities from his wingers. Chelsea became a rolling catastrophe not long after he joined and the 28-year-old has not featured in an England squad since the Qatar World Cup. That’s even more problematic when you consider the embarrassment of riches Gareth Southgate has at his disposal in the wide attacking positions.
But the former City favourite has quietly returned to better form under Pochettino and this was his best performance since England’s Euro 2020 semifinal win over Denmark. The relentless, menacing dribbling, and intelligent, incessant movement was all back and in good order. Kyle Walker knows all about those qualities but the great right-back has had few tougher outings over recent years. Sterling still faces a race against time to make Euro 2024 but he has just given himself a thrilling jump start.
As Rodri tore off to celebrate what he thought might be the winner, Stamford Bridge rose to applaud their team, to rouse their heroes. Over the past couple of years, this place has not often been at one with the players in dark blue shirts before them. But this rollercoaster game served as an exorcism and became a celebration.
City don’t often find themselves in the sort of back-and-forth game that marooned them on a sodden west London evening. After Sterling made it 2-1 and Jackson scored his fourth goal this week — converting the rebound to make it 3-3 when Ederson saved from the superb Conor Gallagher — they felt overwhelmed.
It had become the sort of game Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp used to force Guardiola to endure during his early years in England. To do that to this all-conquering City side is no mean feat. The league table shows Chelsea 10th at the November international break with four wins from 12 attempts. Now it is time to harness what they found today and make it count.
Guardiola told Sky Sports that he woke up this morning and decided to start Jeremy Doku ahead of Jack Grealish. Hard as that is to believe for a man who famously agonises over all things tactical, if we take the Catalan at his word it might be time to switch up his morning routine.
Without the injured John Stones, City were robbed of one of the players who adds Guardiola’s cherished control to proceedings. He already lost Ilkay Gundogan to Barcelona in the summer. Grealish proved to be a master of helping to dictate the tempo and hold possession and width on the left-hand side during City’s treble run but, perhaps slightly uncharacteristically, Guardiola was swayed by Doku’s box-office start to life in England.
The ebullient Belgium international had his toughest outing in a City shirt as he was expertly shackled by James. He was booked for diving and missed a good chance to make it 4-2 before making way for Grealish, who came on and did all those solid Grealish things very well. But the game had a life of its own by that point. Guardiola’s selection invited Pochettino to meet fire with fire and his old foe was never likely to back down.
Fulltime: Bernardo Silva plays an awful pass across the field. One more run for Sterling. It’s halted by a huge tackle by Kovacic. Pochettino is furious about that and walks on the pitch to carry on the chat. Kyle Walker stops his old Spurs boss for a big hug. He returns it, probably grateful for that rubbish free-kick. City return to the top of the Premier League by a point but will be disappointed to have drawn a game they led three times. Stamford Bridge has been a miserable place over the past year or so, but the ground is still packed and they’re applauding their heroes. We might look back on this as the day when Pochettino’s Chelsea had lift-off.
90th minute+9: Kyle Walker is the surprise taker. He won’t get another in a hurry. We’re over the allocated period of stoppage time but there was about three minutes between the award of the penalty and Palmer scoring. We’re having a 100-minute game.
90th minute+7: An end to the counter-attacks? Nah, don’t be daft. Sterling flies in to bring down Foden. He’s booked and City have a free-kick in prime position about 25 yards out.
95th minute+5: GOOOOOAAAALLLLLLL!!!! Cole Palmer (pen)!!!!!!
No mistake from Palmer. Ederson guesses right but he strikes it true, rising into the left corner. What an incredible game.
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94th minute: There’s a load of nonsense going on. Palmer has taken himself away from it.
92nd minute: PENALTY TO CHELSEA!!!!!! Dias flies in on substitute Broja. No doubt about that. Stone-waller. Now, is this going to be Cole Palmer? He’s got the ball.
90th minute: Eight minutes of stoppage time. Hard to bet against another goal…
86th minute: GOOOOOAAAALLLLLLL!!!! Rodri!!!!!
City’s man for the big moments strikes again, albeit with a huuuuuge slice of luck. Kovacic had a pop from outside the box and it was blocked. The ball eventually fell to Rodri, who swung his left foot through it and the speculative shot takes a massive and decisive deflection off Thiago Silva to leave Sanchez with no chance.
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