Manchester // Carlos Tevez halted Chelsea in their tracks, but Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, still backed Carlo Ancelotti's team to win the Premier League title. Tevez's 59th-minute strike - a wonderful solo effort - brought to an end the champions' perfect start to the season - five straight wins - and lifted City to within four points of the pace setters. "I still say that Chelsea are favourites to win the title, they are a very strong team," Mancini said.
There was though an element of mind games about Mancini's pronouncement that echoed his pre-match assertion that it would be "easy" for Chelsea to retain their title. It was far from easy for Chelsea yesterday as City's acerbic approach smothered the usually adventurous outlook of Ancelotti's men. And while Mancini is keen to play down his team's own chances of winning the title, he admitted: "If we can keep the gap between us and those at the top close until the second half of the season when some our injured players come back then we will see.
"I can't rule it out as a possibility. We will have to try." Mancini paid tribute to the attitude and application of his team. "Everyone worked very hard. It was a great team effort. If you ask me about Tevez I say he did so well for us defensively because he kept two of their defender's occupied all the time. He also took his goal very well." Ancelotti conceded City deserved to win. "They played the counter-attacking game very well," said Ancelotti.
"We just could not get our usual attacking play going. This was not a good day for us. "But I still think it is a strong possibility for us to still win the title. I think though that as I suspected City have the possibility." City set out in ultra cautious mode with a defensive 4-5-1 formation while Chelsea kept their attacking 4-3-3 style. But Mancini's men hustled and harried all over the pitch and neither Didier Drogba nor Florent Malouda could exert the sort of influence they have done so far this season.
Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea's Serbian full-back, almost gave them the lead in the 28th minute, heading against a post from a corner and then planting the rebound back into the grateful hands of Joe Hart, the City goalkeeper. City maintained their patience and in the 59th minute hit Chelsea with a classic sucker punch. After Ramires lost possession for Chelsea, Tevez was fed the ball in the centre circle.
He then went off on a driving run which had both John Terry and Ashley Cole running scared. The England pair made the basic error of backing off until Tevez had reached the 18-yard box. The Argentine accepted the invitation to shoot and sent a piercing low drive beyond the reach of Petr Cech, which went in off the post. Michael Essien had a late chance to equalise but headed a corner over from close range.
Mancini was delighted but warned: "We must not think we have achieved a lot just because of a win like this, if we are to challenge."