Pep Guardiola lavished praise on his Manchester City side after the style he has imposed since arriving at the club last season came to fruition in a superb 1-0 win at Chelsea.
Kevin De Bruyne’s sublime 67th-minute strike sealed the points and returned City to the top of the Premier League on goal difference ahead of rivals Manchester United.
But the scoreline only told part of the story as Guardiola’s men relentlessly pressed and passed the defending champions to distraction for long periods at Stamford Bridge.
De Bruyne scooped the man of the match award but his manager was quick to share the praise around, from central defensive duo John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi to the tireless running of Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane in attack.
“We’re so happy for the victory, because we’re here for the result, but especially for the way we played,” said Guardiola, whose only win away from home against a top-six opponent last season came more than 12 months ago at Old Trafford.
“It’s not necessary to say how good [Chelsea] are, how strong, how fast, how quick. They are able to do absolutely everything .
“We played with courage, to keep the ball, to make high pressing. To provoke what happened in the last minutes and to provoke them to play long balls through Marcos Alonso.
“We play so high. John and Nico were amazing making the line high. You know how difficult it is to do that against Alvaro Morata, Willian, [Eden] Hazard. When they receive the ball in those positions you are dead.
“Leroy, Gabriel and Raz [Sterling] made an outstanding performance. They didn’t let Chelsea have time to think or put the ball in behind.
“In the second half the impression was good. They didn’t have the ball. We could retain the ball and attack and attack.”
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 30, 2017
After the first trophy-less campaign of his career last time around and a busy close season reshaping his City squad at considerable expense, Guardiola was clearly delighted to have claimed a major scalp after sticking to his stylistic guns.
“You realise after 1-0 we didn’t defend. We continued to play. We created enough chances to score more goals,” he said, having dedicated an eighth consecutive victory in all competitions to absent injured duo Sergio Aguero and Benjamin Mendy.
“We try with Manchester City to convince the club we’re able to go wherever and play our game. I’m so satisfied because we won in the way we tried from the beginning.”
The Manchester clubs sit five points above Tottenham and the free-scoring Harry Kane at the summit, while Chelsea are another point further back.
Remembering the phenomenal winning run Antonio Conte’s men embarked upon to take control of the title race this term, Guardiola suggested a gruelling challenge for all the main contenders lies ahead.
“We’re in September. Chelsea won 13 games in a row last season. They were unbeatable, they won the league. It’s not easy,” he added.
“Of course this season they play in Europe. It’s a little more complicated for all the teams.
“We have United [and] the Harry Kane team who scores every game two or three goals.
“Jose with United will always be tough. That is a Jose Mourinho team, aggressive winning duels and so quick on the counter attack. They are already convinced they can do it in this way. It will be tough.”
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