Chelsea 4-4 Manchester City: Old boys Palmer and Sterling key, City don’t like chaos, more VAR delays

A late penalty from Cole Palmer earned Chelsea a 4-4 draw with Manchester City in a thrilling match at Stamford Bridge.

Erling Haaland put the visitors ahead after winning a penalty before Thiago Silva equalised with a header from a corner less than five minutes later. Raheem Sterling tapped in against his former club, only for Manuel Akanji to level things again on the stroke of half-time with a free header.

Both Chelsea and City continued to push for the win in a chaotic game but it was the visitors that went ahead again just 90 seconds after the break when Haaland bundled the ball home. But the game was far from over. Nicolas Jackson scored with a close-range finish, Rodri scored via a deflection in the 86th minute, but 20-year-old Palmer showed nerves of steel against the club he left over the summer to seal a point for Mauricio Pochettino’s men.

The draw puts City a point ahead of Liverpool at the top of the table, with Chelsea in 10th.

Here our writers analyse the key points from the match.

Palmer and Sterling key

It could not have been more fitting that Cole Palmer and Raheem Sterling, the two Manchester City old boys, had key roles in the final act of this manic match. 

Neither needed any motivation to face the club who ultimately decided they were expendable, and both were immense from the first minute to the last. 

Sterling gave the jet-heeled Kyle Walker more trouble in one-on-one situations than any left winger in recent memory, while Palmer quickly gathered himself after passing the ball straight to Haaland in the opening minutes to produce a display of sublime composure and intelligence more in keeping with the stellar start to his Chelsea career. 

Out of possession both hassled and harried City players into more mistakes than anyone had a right to expect, creating turnovers that yielded frequent Chelsea attacking danger and helped turn this game into an instant Premier League classic.

Deep into injury time it was Sterling who drifted into a pocket of space, got his head up and clipped a brilliant ball into the unmarked Armando Broja in the box, panicking Ruben Dias into the foul that gave Palmer the chance to help Chelsea snatch a draw.

Each of Palmer’s four penalties in a Chelsea shirt have been more high-pressure than the last, but there was never any doubt he would convert this one, whipping a high shot to Ederson’s right even as the Brazilian guessed the right way.

Both have been key to Chelsea’s recent revival and will continue to be so if they maintain this standard.

Liam Twomey

Crazy game not perfect for Pep

This is why Pep Guardiola’s comments about Kalvin Phillips being perfect for when the game is chaotic was quite amusing: he hates chaos. This was one of the most exciting games in recent Premier League history, and it is fair to say that most of those do not involve City. That obviously does not mean that City do not play well, it means that when they win (and usually even when they lose) they have control of the game.

11 12 Man City pass network

If there is a thrilling City game to rival this one then it will be the 3-3 draw at Newcastle at the start of last season when Guardiola noted that Jack Grealish, who was injured, would have helped them have more control in the game, because he takes more touches and allows City to be close together, so they do not get counter-attacked on so easily. It was not quite as simple as that today, because Chelsea played fantastically to force mistakes and those counter-attacks, but the thrilling nature of the game would not have pleased Guardiola one bit — even had they held on for the victory.

Sam Lee

Jackson shows promise in face-off with Haaland

Nicolas Jackson is not short on confidence, and throughout pre-season it was notable how much he embraced any comparisons with Chelsea legend Didier Drogba.

The Ivorian’s record of impacting the biggest matches was the defining part of his legacy at Stamford Bridge, and in this frenetic game Jackson built upon his positive progress in this area — even if it was the man wearing the No 9 shirt for City who provided a reminder of the striker’s gold standard. 

Jackson’s anticipation to react first to Ederson parrying Conor Gallagher’s fierce long-range shot back into danger was almost as impressive as his quick, clinical finish. Up to that point this had not been the Senegal international’s best performance: erratic with his touch, frequently outmuscled by City’s burly defenders and often poor with his movement.

11 12 Chelsea pass network

In all of those respects Haaland produced a masterclass at the other end in what is required to be the best No 9 in the world, terrifying Chelsea’s defenders with the speed and intensity of his runs and supercharged City’s transition threat with sharp lay-offs and progressive passes to the team-mates fanning out around him.

Jackson was particularly good at some of those things in the early weeks of the season. He needs to get back to that to truly establish himself as the solution to Chelsea’s long-running No 9 problem, but finding ways to score in games like this one and the crazy battle against Tottenham last time out is a promising foundation.

Liam Twomey

Walker free-kick showed City rattled

I suppose after a game like that you can try to embrace the chaos and in that sense a Kyle Walker winner, from a free-kick around 25 yards out, would have fit perfectly with the rest of the game. And there was probably some training ground logic behind it, he might have been banging them in all week, maybe all season. But really? Chelsea’s set-piece frailty has been in evidence this week and although it was central, it is not beyond City by any means to work the ball into a crossing position to the back post.


It was by no means the biggest thing to focus on in the game but it was in line with City’s response to Palmer’s late penalty — they made some strange decisions in possession and had clearly been rocked by Chelsea. That had been the case too often, with some mistakes at costly moments giving the home side momentum that they had already been doing a very good job of creating for themselves. Ruben Dias had a rare poor performance and Josko Gvardiol undermined a solid overall battle with Chelsea’s wingers with a lapse for Chelsea’s second goal. They did very well to keep coming back themselves, but a superhero winner was never likely to come from a Walker free kick.

Sam Lee

Extended VAR delays

Chelsea-City was off to a cracking start until some light tussling in the box between Marc Cucurella and Erling Haaland in the box sent Anthony Taylor over to the sideline for an extended holiday in front of the VAR screen.


For three minutes and 37 seconds — it felt like an eternity — the ball didn’t move. A lively game ground to a halt. Players stood around bored and fans grumbled in the stands.

This kind of delay has become a virtual certainty in the Premier League lately, as gaps of two minutes or more have risen from just one every two games in the era before VAR to well over one per game in recent years.

Is it worth it? After the long wait, Taylor awarded Haaland a penalty that could just as easily have been waved off — he and Cucurella both did some shirt-pulling, and none of it looked all that serious. The nearly four-minute delay ended in a decision that will be just as controversial as a live call would have been.

Late in stoppage time, Ruben Dias brought down Armando Broja in City’s box. This time there was little doubt — Taylor immediately pointed to the spot — but the VAR check still caused a pointless two-minute delay that sucked the energy out of the stadium before Cole Palmer’s dramatic match-tying penalty.

As Ange Postecoglou complained last week after Spurs’ game against Chelsea saw eight different stoppages of two minutes or more, the most in at least five seasons: “When you look at how much standing around we had to do today — I don’t know, maybe people enjoy that kind of thing. I don’t.”

John Muller

(Top photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images))

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