Hakim Ziyech in focus: Chelsea star’s a thorn in Manchester City’s side

If Manchester City are not careful, as Amarachi Orie writes, Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech might just deny them Champions League glory.

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Hakim Ziyech led Chelsea’s incredible comeback at the Etihad this weekend to deny Manchester City winning the Premier League title. Both teams qualified for the Champions League final in midweek and, in this Premier League fixture, the winger showed just how much of an impact he can have on results.

It was a lone goal by Ziyech that saw Manchester City out of the FA Cup last month, denying them the chance of winning the quadruple; this time, his goal was the turning point in a 2-1 victory that further solidified Chelsea’s place in the top four.

Chelsea were slow to get into the game and by the end of the first half, were being undone by their rivals. Ziyech, after having his free kick blocked by Nathan Ake in the 22nd minute, produced the last real chance for Chelsea in the first half when his curled ball towards goal was pushed out by Ederson. In the moments that followed, City caused havoc.

Gabriel Jesus misled Mendy away from goal and set up Sergio Aguero in the penalty box, but when Aguero failed to get control of the ball, Raheem Sterling stepped in to strike the ball into the back of the net. Chelsea quickly fell apart and in extra time, Billy Gilmour collided with Jesus to concede an untimely penalty. The dying moments of the half were alive with opportunity for the home side.

Aguero, having had his chance to score snatched by his teammate, decided to step up to the plate. However, his Panenka penalty was taken so softly that it looked to be in slow motion. The Blues keeper used just one hand to stop the ball in its path and with this, the visitors had been given another chance. The game was not over yet – they just needed a gamechanger to redirect their fate.

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Ziyech was more than happy to play this role. The Blues returned in the second half with a fire in their belly and Ziyech turned this energy into an equaliser. After dispossessing Rodri, Cesar Azpilicueta began playing silky one-twos with the winger and then produced an opportunistic cross which Ziyech capitalised on. He left-footedly powered the ball into the bottom right corner to level the score line and Chelsea were back in the game.

Chelsea, revitalised by the equaliser, played with pace and hunted for more. Ziyech was taken off for Callum Hudson-Odoi in the 76th minute, but the energy he injected into his teammates remained; So much so that in extra time, Chelsea made another successful stride down the right, where Timo Werner cut the ball back for Marcus Alonso, who then lifted it into the goal. The tables had turned completely in favour of Thomas Tuchel’s side and there was no time for City to reply. Ziyech had opened the door to a victory and Alonso took the Blues straight on through.

Chelsea have now risen to third on the Premier League table, while City must continue their wait to officially call themselves the Premier League champions. Ziyech continues to be a thorn in the flesh of Pep Guardiola’s team. He denied them the FA Cup, he denied them their Premier League title celebrations and – If City are not careful – he might just deny them their first Champions League trophy.

Follow Amarachi on Twitter @iamarachii

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