LONDON — Shorn of the dynamism of injured midfielder Cesc Fabregas and the attacking potency provided by Diego Costa, Chelsea seemed content with drawing Manchester City 1-1 on Saturday.
Although the perfect home record in the English Premier League ended, the leaders kept City five points adrift and ensured the champions went a third consecutive league game without a win.
After the opener from Chelsea striker Loic Remy was canceled out before halftime by David Silva, the hosts produced an unadventurous, ultra-defensive second-half performance.
"Our team tried to win the game from the first minute till the end," City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. "I'm very proud about that.
"It's not easy to come here, to Stamford Bridge against the leaders of the Premier League. We created, especially in the first half, clear chances to deserve more than the point. That's why I'm not happy about the point, but I'm happy about the performance of the team."
What did Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho make of it? Only his players know.
Even though the league boasted that a record 26 broadcast crews from across the globe were at one of its games, they all left without hearing from Mourinho as the manager's strop against the football authorities continued.
Mourinho was irate on Tuesday that Costa was singled out for stamps on Liverpool opponents during a League Cup semifinal win. The Football Association imposed a three-match ban on Mourinho's top-scorer on Friday, two days after the manager was fined for previously claiming referees are influenced by a "campaign" against the club.
If Mourinho wanted to sustain the siege mentality he has built around Stamford Bridge in recent weeks, it seemed to work. Even some fans were chanting abuse about a television pundit during the game, but the team wasn't as animated on the pitch.
It was a game littered with mistakes, and not the greatest exhibition of quality from the world's top football league.
When Branislav Ivanovic gave the ball away early on, City midfielder James Milner seized possession and fed Sergio Aguero, whose shot was batted away. And Chelsea captain John Terry was caught out when a deep ball flew over his head to Aguero, who eventually skimmed a shot past the post from a tight angle.
But the hosts went in front in the 41st minute when Ivanovic picked out Eden Hazard, who volleyed low across the face of goal. The ball went past City defender Vincent Kompany and was perfectly placed for Remy to stab in, in just his second start of the season.
City produced an instant response after Nemanja Matic gave the ball away inside his own half. It led to Jesus Navas whipping in a cross from the left flank, which goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois flapped at as he tried to punch it clear. The ball fell to Aguero, whose shot was turned in by Silva before the halftime whistle.
After the break, Chelsea closed up, rarely encroaching in City territory but restricting the visitors from testing Courtois often.
Not even Frank Lampard's arrival from the bench could produce a goal — just as he did in the reverse fixture to inflict further pain on the club the midfielder left in May after 13 years.
Initially booed by some Chelsea fans when he came off the bench wearing the light blue of City, the 36-year-old Lampard was eventually cheered. It was a rare moment of bonhomie during a game where the vitriol exceeded the quality on show.
But with 45 points still to play for, the title race remains alive after this stalemate.
"We expected three points, but the draw is a good result for both teams," Matic said. "City showed they are very strong, they never give up."
Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris
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