Stylish Blues spoil City's big day
Robinho marked his Manchester City debut with a goal, but it was Luiz Felipe Scolari's Chelsea who ran out 3-1 winners in the so-called 'clash of the cash' on Saturday.
The Brazilian playmaker could not have scripted a better start to life in the Premier League when he fired City ahead after just 13 minutes against the side he had been expected to join from Real Madrid. But Scolari's men quickly dampened the euphoric mood at Eastlands, levelling through Ricardo Carvalho before goals from Frank Lampard and Nicolas Anelka underlined how far City must go if they are to break into the top four.
The late sending off of John Terry for a foul on Jo blemished Chelsea's performance and ruled him out of next Sunday's showdown against Manchester United, but Scolari headed back to London knowing his side had restated their claims in title race. For City manager Mark Hughes, this match gave a powerful reminder that notwithstanding Robinho's goal and his outstanding all round display, he has plenty of work to do before he can fulfil the ambition of City's new owners to win the UEFA Champions League within four years.
This was City's first game since the dramatic events on transfer deadline day, when the announcement of a planned takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group was immediately followed by big money bids for a clutch of star players, including Robinho and Dimitar Berbatov. A £32-million bid was enough to hijack the former's planned move to Stamford Bridge, although City's new-found millions failed to prevent the Bulgarian striker joining neighbours Manchester United.
And in the intervening 12 days there has been a rash of announcements and declarations about how the club's new owners will spend whatever it takes to amass a squad of top-quality players to rival the best in the world. Hughes has been unable to disguise his enthusiasm for the project that has been entrusted to him, but has also been wise enough to preach caution.
And there was plenty of evidence in this 90-minute master class by Chelsea for the City manager to use as he attempts to inject a dose of reality into the heightened sense of optimism enveloping the club and its supporters.
Some of those fans turned up for the game in Arab head-dresses and Brazil shirts and the party spirit was fuelled by City's high-tempo start, which culminated with Robinho's opening goal.
Carvalho fouled Jo on the edge of the area, and Robinho stepped up to loop the ball over the defensive wall and beyond a flat-footed Peter Cech. The Portugal defender made up for his error just three minutes later when Terry's goal-bound header was blocked by team-mate Joe Cole, and Carvalho reacted well to volley home the equaliser.
That was enough to dampen down the home side, and Chelsea began to take control with Florent Malouda twice going close with headers. The Blues did go ahead eight minutes after the break, when Lampard rounded off a sweeping move with a clinical finish, and Anelka hit the third in the 70th minute against his former club.
Terry's 77th-minute dismissal fired City hopes, but Hughes was left with the undeniable feeling his work in progress has some way to go.