Rafael Benitez’s reign as Chelsea manager saw the Blues and Manchester City play out a goalless draw, only the second occasion this season on which we’ve failed to score.
On reflection, it was probably a fair result, and while Roberto Mancini’s side will feel they should have won it, Benitez will be pleased to have seen his men keep a clean sheet for the first time since the 4-0 win against Nordsjaelland at the beginning of last month.
Pablo Zabaleta, David Silva and Sergio Aguero all wasted good chances for the away side in the first half, and after the break Ashley Cole cleared one off the line.
Our best opportunity fell to Fernando Torres midway through the second half, but the striker fired over after a deflection had fallen kindly for him, while Joe Hart saved well to deny Cole.
Attention now turns towards a crucial London derby on Wednesday against Fulham, when Benitez will be hoping to earn his first win as Chelsea manager.
Benitez’s first game in charge of the Blues saw the Spaniard recall Torres to the starting line-up after he was left out for the midweek defeat against Juventus. Branislav Ivanovic partnered David Luiz in central defence, while Cesar Azpilicueta started his fourth league game in a row at right-back. Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard were entrusted with supplying the ammunition for Torres tucked in behind.
With much of the pre-match talk focused on the transition in management at the club, it was easy to forget that there was a football match taking place.
It was the visitors who had the first real sight of goal after a David Luiz clearance had been pounced on by Zabaleta. The defender exchanged passes with Silva and it took a last-ditch clearance from Cole to deny the Argentinian.
As an attacking unit, we were struggling to impose ourselves during the opening exchanges, with both Vincent Kompany – who had passed a late fitness test – and Matija Nastasic dealing with the threat of Torres quite comfortably.
When that defence was breached, by a delightful Mata pass, Torres was unable to bring the ball under control, allowing Joe Hart to collect easily.
As had been widely predicted, the Chelsea supporters chose the 16th minute – Roberto Di Matteo’s former squad number from his time as a player with the Blues – to pay tribute to the outgoing Italian, continually chanting his name and applauding in a nice gesture.
The best chance of the game fell to Manchester City moments later when Zabaleta crossed from the right and Silva, under no pressure, headed inches over the bar.
As a spectacle, the game was struggling to get going, but with the Blues having failed to keep a clean sheet for the past 10 games, perhaps it was to be expected that Benitez’s immediate concern was to make us harder to break down.
Silva then had a low drive blocked by Azpilicueta after we’d failed to clear our lines, while at the other end some lovely link-up play between Oscar and Mata almost released Cole.
Zabaleta, who had been a constant threat throughout the first half, forced a decent save out of Petr Cech, this time after intercepting a poor Ramires pass, feeding Edin Dzeko and taking the return in his stride.
We had to wait until six minutes before the break for our first real attempt on the City goal, David Luiz’s free-kick from distance running tamely through to Hart.
It was Mancini’s side looking the more likely as the half wore on, and Aguero wasted the best chance of the game, heading straight into the arms of Cech after he was found in acres of space by Dzeko.
Ramires had the first sight of goal seven minutes after the restart, fizzing his strike just over Hart’s bar from outside the penalty area.
City’s response was instant, surging forward at pace, and the Blues were grateful to see Yaya Toure over-hit his pass with Aguero screaming for the ball inside the box.
As the game began to heat up, Cech did well to save a bouncing Toure effort which threatened to deceive him, while Torres was beginning to make a nuisance of himself in the final third.
The Spanish striker could, and probably should, have broken the deadlock on the hour, smashing a left-footed effort over the bar after it had fallen invitingly into his path, but there was no denying that the match itself was opening up as both sides looked to seize the initiative.
Shortly after it was the away side who threatened again, Dzeko and Silva combining down the left-hand side, but it was Cole to the rescue once more, clearing the Bosnian’s teasing centre off the line as everybody else hesitated.
It was to prove Dzeko’s final contribution as he was replaced by Carlos Tevez – so often a thorn in our side – in the 68th minute.
Benitez soon followed suit and introduced Victor Moses into the action, Eden Hazard the player making way.
The arrival of Moses saw Mata switch to the left, with the substitute taking his place wide on the right and Oscar continuing through the middle behind Torres.
As the heavens opened, Benitez opted for another substitution, replacing Mikel Obi with Oriol Romeu in a straight swap, but it was the away side who were pressing forward in search of a winner, and Cech was forced into another intelligent stop, this time at his near-post from Milner.
The Blues, though, were equally intent on stealing the three points, and after David Luiz and Moses had narrowly missed out on connecting with two Mata corners in quick succession, Cole forced a smart save from Hart with a stinging strike from the edge of the penalty area.
Mancini then made a second attacking switch, replacing Aguero, who’d had a fairly quiet afternoon by his own standards, with Mario Balotelli.
City almost stole it at the death when Nastasic rose to meet a Silva corner, but Cech was equal to it.
When Balotelli was booked in the closing stages for simulation, it seemed fitting that a game which had promised so much, ultimately delivered very little.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech (c); Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Mikel Obi (Romeu 78); Mata, Oscar, Hazard (Moses 70); Torres.
Unused substitutes: Turnbull, Ferreira, Cahill, Bertrand, Marin.
Manchester City (4-3-3): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Kolarov; Milner, Yaya Toure, Barry; Silva; Dzeko (Tevez 68), Aguero (Balotelli 85).
Unused substitutes: Pantilimon, Maicon, Kolo Toure, Garcia, Nasri.
Booked Zabaleta 64, Balotelli 90+2
Referee: Christopher Foy