Ivanovic goal leads Chelsea over Manchester City 1-0 in Premier League title showdown

The Associated Press

Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic scores the first goal of the game for his side during their English Premier League soccer match against Manchester City at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Monday Feb. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Clint Hughes)

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By STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Despite a pair of victories over Manchester City, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho thinks the northern rival is the class of the Premier League.

Branislav Ivanovic scored in the 31st minute, and Chelsea neutralized the England's most potent attack with a 1-0 win at City on Monday night in a key Premier League showdown.

Chelsea had defeated City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in October.

"We beat them twice but they are the best team," said Mourinho, the Chelsea manager. "It's two horses and a little horse — a little horse that still needs milk."

Arsenal (17-3-4) regained the Premier League lead on Sunday and is two points in front of City (17-5-2), which is ahead of Chelsea (16-3-5) on goal difference.

Mourinho said he left his club's masseur, Billy McCulloch, to make the pre-match team talk.

Ivanovic then scored on a 25-yard, left-footed shot when the ball rebounded to him after City captain Vincent Kompany slid to block Ramires' shot, and the Blues ended Manchester City's streak of 61 home league matches since November 2010 in which it had scored. Samuel Eto'o, Nemanja Matic and Gary Cahill all struck the goal frame for Chelsea.

City has 115 goals in all competitions and had been 15-0 at Etihad Stadium this season in domestic matches, including 11-0 in the league.

Mourinho is renowned as a master defensive strategist, but the Blues counterattacked with pace and purpose, and hounded City into sloppy mistakes.

City badly missed a pair of injured players, forward Sergio Aguero and holding midfielder Fernandinho, who was ruled out just before kickoff with a muscle problem. Martin Demichelis — a center back — filled in in central midfield and couldn't stop Chelsea's midfielders.

"We had five or six players (missing) so maybe this defeat doesn't have a bad psychological effect," City Manager Manuel Pellegrini said. "I think that for Chelsea it was a decisive game, but not for us."

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