Man City come out of the darkness
Manchester City's latest ploy to turn up the sense of anticipation at Eastlands - apart from spending hundreds of millions of pounds of course - is to plunge the stadium into darkness seconds before kick-off.
As the house lights are dimmed, creating an atmosphere akin to the start of a rock concert, a giant "Blue Moon" is beamed from the Colin Bell Stand and City's old anthem is belted out on cue.
Mighty effective it is too - and symbolic, because when City follow up this drama with a victory as significant as this one against Chelsea, there is a genuine sense of a club coming out of darkness into light.
Mark Hughes singled this out as a day when City could lay down "another marker about our intentions". And so it proved after a game the purist may have sniffed at, but your average man and woman in the stands would have loved.
Some called it "The Clash Of The Cash" - a collision between chequebooks from as far afield as Abu Dhabi and Russia. In the end it came down to good old-fashioned guts and Manchester City deservedly won the day.
In some respects Chelsea produced the template City and Hughes are trying to copy as they play catch-up on the Premier League's elite, helped by unlimited cash resources and naked ambition.
Roman Abramovich attempted to bridge the gap between Chelsea and those in front by wielding his mighty financial firepower, then appointed Jose Mourinho to apply the finishing touches with his guile and coaching expertise to bring home the title.
Hughes is using even bigger resources to fast-track City and two wins in the last four days, against Arsenal in the Carling Cup quarter-final and against Premier League pace-setters Chelsea, will have cemented his status as the man to lead the Eastlands "project", as it has become known.
And if City's aim is to ruffle the feathers of those they intend to challenge, then this objective has been achieved spectacularly in their last two games in front of a passionate Eastlands gallery that is starting to believe.
Hughes' technical area etiquette, or lack of it, sufficiently upset Arsene Wenger for the Arsenal boss to decline the traditional handshake at the final whistle. And on Saturday Chelsea felt the gusts of a wind of change inside Eastlands when they were bundled out of their smooth stride on a wonderfully tumultuous and madcap evening.
Hughes (r) was able to grab the limelight from Ancelotti at Eastlands
Carlo Ancelotti graciously accepted Hughes' hand at the final whistle. Having observed closely, it is fair to say City's technical area is not for the faint-hearted - but both managers kept their distance and met with dignity at the end.
Of course, for all the talk about handshakes, the place where all accounts are settled is on the pitch and this is where City delivered.
I was highly critical of City's tame approach in their recent draw at Liverpool - and rightly so because they reacted to the sight of a wounded and below-strength opponent by cowering behind the door for an hour until they were forced to show attacking intent. It was dismal and dour stuff.
I left Anfield convinced how City fared this season would depend on how willing Hughes was to take the shackles off his team.
Here, their hand forced by Chelsea taking an early lead courtesy of Emmanuel Adebayor's own goal, City showed the courage and conviction they lacked at Liverpool and fortune favoured the brave. It was a lesson they must learn when they have such striking talent at their disposal.
If City can take the self-belief they showed here (flying in the face of conventional wisdom that says once Chelsea take the lead the credits can start rolling) and produce it away from Eastlands then they can seriously consider a place in the top four.
If Hughes takes the cautious approach on his travels when City have proved what rewards real attacking intent can deliver, then a huge opportunity will be squandered. There is a top four place there for someone - and City can be in that mix if they are brave enough away from home.
And if City cannot take increased self-belief away from a wonderful Saturday night at Eastlands, then they never will.
Hughes' men showed great resilience to gather themselves after an opening ten minutes in which Didier Drogba should have scored, Adebayor did score in his own net and Chelsea gave every impression of being ready to take City to the cleaners.
Tevez's goal proved the difference between the sides
And yet City found reserves of character to not only fight their way back into the game and equalise through Adebayor, but win the game with Carlos Tevez's free-kick early in the second half.
This being City, it was never going to be easy and Eastlands was knee deep in chewed fingernails at the end of five minutes of stoppage time, coming after Shay Given had saved Frank Lampard's late penalty.
It was the sort of win City's Abu Dhabi paymasters will have wanted from Hughes when they backed him with their fortunes - a victory they could parade as a sign of a growing Premier League power.
And they were helped by a Chelsea side that lost its way after an imperious opening, hustled and hassled in midfield and wasteful in attack, with even Drogba missing an easy late chance.
Ancelotti was calm itself in the aftermath, a sharp contrast to the agitation of Wenger, despite some criticism of referee Howard Webb. He pointed to facts: "We are top. We have two points more than anyone else. We don't have reason to be worried."
But it is a sign of the extra layer of unpredictabilty in the Premier League this season that Chelsea can find themselves hailed as impregnables one week after swatting Arsenal aside, and then be only two points ahead of Manchester United the next after defeat at their neighbours City.
And isn't the Premier League all the better for that? There is an added dimension to the title race this season - the leading contenders may just suffer more defeats, and for the uncommitted this adds new twists to what has become a familiar storyline.
If Ancelotti has a worry, it may be that Chelsea could have become complacent after their early supremacy - and there is no escaping the brutal truth that Petr Cech is not the goalkeeper he was.
Cech is usually brilliantly protected by John Terry and company, but here he was on the receiving end of an aerial barrage from set pieces and was unconvincing and exposed. Even Tevez's decisive free-kick flew ominously close to the once peerless keeper without Cech getting a decisive touch.
But even below their best, Chelsea showed they could still turn the screw as the tension mounted, and Ancelotti has good reason to raise that left eyebrow in his usual sanguine manner and shrug off this unexpected reverse. He still has an outstanding team at his disposal and Chelsea have demonstrated they have the knack of recovering from defeats.
For City's fans this was a landmark day. They have now taken a second scalp of the big four at Eastlands (we will count the beating of Arsenal in the league as evidence as opposed to that acrimonious Carling Cup win) and only lost to Manchester United in late, and highly-contentious circumstances.
This was impressive stuff from Hughes' side and he believes it will establish the foundations for a serious push this season: "We have frustrated our fans and ourselves, but I sense after the two performances we have had and the two back-to-back wins, this will be huge for us.
"We know what it takes to win against the bigger teams. Once we get the hang of how to beat the lesser teams we will be OK. We are really on a journey. We are not where we need to be yet but we are getting there quickly."
City have shown they possess courage and character at Eastlands. They have yet to prove it away from those home comforts - if they can do that then there really will be a shining light after the darkness they have had to endure.
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