The Blues midfielder slammed the ball home from the spot with just nine minutes left on the clock in West London as a game between two of England’s biggest spending football clubs seemed destined to end all square. Mario Balotelli’s had given City shock lead in the second minute with Raul Meireles equalising for the home side 10 minutes before half time before Lampard won the game with a dramatic late penalty. That goal ended the league leaders’ 14-match unbeaten start to the season as they failed to restore their five-point lead over rivals United who are now breathing down their necks at the summit. City will cite the red card handed to Gael Clichy 12 minutes after half time with the man advantage giving the hosts the upper hand. Chelsea weren’t complaining though as they won for their third successive game to leapfrog neighbours Tottenham and move to within just five points behind second place United with the victory releasing more pressure off the shoulders of the under fire Andre Villas-Boas. The Portuguese coach has come in for some criticism in recent weeks and he must have been fearing the worst as the away side started the contest at a blistering pace.
Roberto Mancini’s men have been unstoppable all season long and it was no surprise when they took an early lead through Balotelli with the young Italian collecting Sergio Aguero’s pass and rounding Petr Cech before nonchalantly nudging the ball into the net. It was a start that typified the way City have played all season and how they didn’t double their lead before Meireles’s equaliser remains a mystery. The sensational Aguero was the main culprit shooting wide from close range after beating Ashley Cole in the penalty area. Chelsea couldn’t get close to the visitors as they passed the ball sharply and with purpose around Stamford Bridge as they continued to probe the hosts defence. However the Blues did manage to fashion an opportunity 24 minutes into the game with Didier Drogba smashing the ball into the side net as the home side started to grow in confidence. An equaliser was imminent and it duly came with just 10 minutes of the first period remaining with Meireles turning home Daniel Sturridge’s cross after John Terry released him down the right.
Both teams continued in the same vein after the restart with City looking the more likely to score without creating any viable opportunities or testing Cech in the Chelsea goal. That would all change in the 57th minute as they were reduced to 10-men following Clichy’s second yellow card for a foul on Ramires giving the home side a distinct advantage. It proved to be a hammer blow to the visitors chances of travelling back to Manchester with all three points as Villas-Boas’ side took made their numerical supremacy count. Following a period of extended pressure from Chelsea they finally got their reward as Joleon Lescott handled Sturridge’s shot inside the area allowing Lampard to step up and win the game for Chelsea to blow the title race wide open.