Chelsea made it eight wins from eight for the first time since 2007 after coming from behind to win decisively against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
The hosts took the lead through a Gary Cahill own goal just before half-time, but Chelsea re-grouped and clinical finishes by Costa, Willian and Hazard completed the turn-around.
It is a score-line which Chelsea fully deserve but City contributed to an excellent game, who will rue a flurry of chances which should have put the game beyond doubt before Chelsea’s second-half revival.
In the end their chances were not taken and frustrations spilled over at the end as Aguero and Fernandinho were both sent off in injury time, but Chelsea do not care one bit after continuing their fine run of form.
Eden Hazard, the ever-present star-man, was understandably well-marked from the off, too close in fact as he was hacked down painfully by Fernandinho in the opening seconds.
When he was up on his feet, the Belgian cut in and fed Costa, whose quick shot was blocked, but what a great chance it was to set the tone.
Despite Chelsea being on top, the defence still had to stay alert, with Cahill sliding in too finely for the home faithful’s liking, but Anthony Taylor was unmoved by the handball claims.
Stones vs. Costa was turning into an intriguing battle and the ball-playing defender was one touch too optimistic when he dispossessed the Spaniard and tried to play himself out. Costa showed his strength to win it back, but the ensuing ball was closed down.
Hazard then fizzed a shot agonisingly wide after a Sane mistake, whilst Aguero was afforded too much space at the other end by Luiz and Cahill and nearly fired in Eriksen-style from last week, but Courtois tipped over this time.
The ball did hit the net at the next opportunity from a delicious Kevin De Bruyne free-kick, but Fernandinho was naive to mis-time his run.
Another moment of mis-judgement by a player fell Chelsea’s way next, and surprisingly Hazard, who had a stunning chance to break the deadlock. Luiz’s through-ball evaded Navas and Hazard lobbed over Bravo but then opted to square to Pedro rather than shoot at an open goal, albeit from a wide angle. The pass never found Pedro and the chance went.
Aguero then got in behind at the other end after a loose back-pass by Azpilicueta, and Luiz’s tackle obstruction looked like it may have been the marching orders for the Brazilian, but Taylor waved play on.
The end-to-end nature of the game kept continuing: De Bruyne fizzed an excellent ball and any slight touch would have deceived Courtois and gone in. The Blues were nearly pierced yet again, Moses was caught ball-watching and Sane tapped the ball to Aguero, but heroic defending by Azpilicueta stopped a certain goal.
As it looked like both sides would enter the break evens, Cahill’s attempts to help his defence out turned into an own goal. Navas’ cross looked harmless but the Chelsea captain could only watch in horror as he swung an awkward right leg at the innocent-looking ball.
Would Chelsea become frustrated or regroup second half?
Regroup, but not without its scares.
De Bruyne was one-on-one with Courtois but dallied against his Belgian team-mate, whilst Aguero nearly capitalised on some horrendous communication between Cahill and Courtois who both left the ball to each other and Aguero pounced between them. Thankfully Cahill atoned.
Despite all these warnings, Chelsea could not heed them, and Manchester City could not take them, none more epitomised than through Kevin De Bruyne, who surely would have found it harder to miss an open goal from two yards out than hit the crossbar he did.
And how they were made to pay.
Fabregas-to-Costa was a well-documented partnership that worked wonders in the all-conquering 2014/15 season but there has been less opportunities this season to hone it, but the Spaniard seized initiative to lay an astonishing ball over to Costa, who held his man off perfectly and slotted home.
Moses had to be alert when denying a certain City goal, sliding in on Aguero who looked set to tap in after City got in on Chelsea’s left-wing again; Alonso was struggling.
In fact Chelsea’s shape was not as structured as it has been of late as Gundogan ran through the heart of Chelsea but, after a heart-in-mouth moment, the ball was cleared. Cleared all the way up to Chelsea’s next goal.
Three passes later from a Luiz clearance to Hazard to Costa, Willian was racing in one-on-one with Bravo and slotted in composed fashion to give Chelsea the lead.
What a turn-around and no surprise the panic by Guardiola, who took Stones off for Iheanacho. Conte equally retaliated: Chalobah came on for Costa but it could have actually gotten better when Fabregas’ free-kick was a whisker away from reaching Cahill.
It did get better through Hazard — another classic counter-attack goal as Hazard raced in from Alonso’s through-ball to settle matters.
Things turned ugly at the end as Aguero was sent off for a wild lunge on Luiz before Fernandinho was sent off for the afters, but Chelsea made the football do the talking and sit pretty at the top of the table.
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Man of the Match
DIEGO COSTA: The man, love him or hate him, has stopped the winding up of opponents and just got on with his game, and when he does that his game is on-point. Super centre-forward play today, especially in the second half, scoring a goal and assisting another, but his general positional play wreaked havoc in the City back-line. The man is leading the line beautifully — long may it continue! 8/10
Conte was composed: “I think today was very tough and the game was open until the end. There were lots of chances for both teams to score.I saw lots of character from my team and that’s very important to grow. But we must continue to work and improve.”
Guardiola was pragmatic: “Congratulations to Chelsea – they won. We played really good, had a lot of control and created chances. But the ball in the box was not strong enough.”