Chelsea were bordering on the verge of collapse approaching half time at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Blues had conceded to Raheem Sterling’s strike just a minute before half time, only the tenth goal Thomas Tuchel has conceded in charge of the club since late January.
A minute into first half injury time, it looked like it was about to get even worse. Billy Gilmour clumsily bundled over Gabriel Jesus in the box while Tuchel was livid on the touchline having been unable to bring on Kurt Zouma for Andreas Christensen, injured in the build-up to City’s goal.
“What is this?” yelled Tuchel referee Anthony Taylor as it looked for all the world the Blues would go into the break 2-0 down and City completing their march to the Premier League title with three games to spare.
However, Sergio Aguero fluffed his attempted Panenka penalty, Edouard Mendy read it and simply patted the ball down with one hand in the middle of the goal and the half time whistle went not long after with the visitors only one goal behind.
The second half saw Chelsea complete an excellent turnaround thanks to Hakim Ziyech’s fine strike and Marcos Alonso’s injury-time winner which stretched Tuchel’s run of form as manager to just two defeats in 25 games since taking the helm from Frank Lampard.
Chelsea didn’t lose their heads, something that Tuchel has stressed his side must never do on a number of occasions since taking the job.
Centre back Antonio Rudiger, who is enjoying a real renaissance since Tuchel came to the club having been frozen out by Lampard until his final three games of the season, has outlined what the Chelsea head coach said at half time that sparked the turnaround to lift Chelsea up to third in the table.
“At half-time, we were still in the game and the coach highlighted that to us,” Rudiger said.
“He wanted us to go out and show spirit, which we did, and we all totally believed that we could turn things around.”
Turn things around they did as the Blues took a grip on the race for the top four and Tuchel secured a second victory over Guardiola in three weeks, laying down a marker ahead of the Champions League final between the two sides later this month.
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Tuchel himself also revealed what he told Rudiger and his teammates at the break as the Blues recovered from conceding that late goal to Sterling and being let off the hook by Aguero’s dreadful spot kick.
“At half time we said to ourselves “let’s continue like it is 0-0, don’t lose our heads now because of the last three minutes, take it as a 0-0 and from there we go,’ he said.
“They stepped up and tried to play with courage, to have more possession in their half and this is what they did.
“The momentum changed completely with the goal. I could feel it, the momentum was growing, the confidence was growing and we were adding more and more quality and pressure.”