Pep Guardiola lavished praise on a couple of his Manchester City players after his side battled hard to beat Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
The Premier League were looking to return to winning ways in London on Thursday night after they dropped points in a 1-1 draw against Everton on New Year’s Eve.
Man City were far from their best against Chelsea as they made a sluggish start to the game in front of their travelling supporters.
Carney Chukwuemeka came close to scoring for the hosts before the break as he struck the post with his shot.
Guardiola made a couple of changes at the break and his side were much better from the off once the second half got going.
The decisive moment of the game came in the 63rd minute, just three minutes after Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish were subbed on.
Grealish expertly squared the ball to Mahrez and the Algeria international had the simple task of tapping the ball home into an empty net.
Chelsea were unable to equalise late on so City ran out winners to close the gap between themselves and Arsenal to five points.
John Stones was arguably City’s best player as he kept the visitors in the game in the first half. Guardiola thinks the Englishman is “playing at the best level”.
“We didn’t play good in the first half. I said thank you to Cancelo for his effort, playing in not his usual position. But we decided to go with a line-up where our players could adapt on the pitch if they decided to go five at the back,” Guardiola told Sky Sports.
“In the second half, we were miles, miles better in every department. It’s a big result for us.
“Riyad [Mahrez] I knew the space would be there for him. He’s good one-on-one in the final third. John Stones, he played extraordinarily in the World Cup and he can adapt perfectly with three or out wide. He is playing at the best level, maybe for the first time in seven years since we arrived together. When he is playing like this it’s so good.
“Grealish’s body language is exceptional if he plays or doesn’t play. These type of guys always play good. He was really good defensively too.
“We struggled a lot in the first half, it was sloppy and slow and without rhythm. In the second half, it was much, much better from minute one.
“The three points are important, definitely. The players know it, for a long time we were at the top. But we try, we have the FA Cup and Carabao Cup and then Old Trafford. But it’s important for these games, a win today, then Old Trafford then Spurs, it’s important for the top of the league.”
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