London: Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League with a 1-1 draw home to Southampton even as Chelsea made it a miserable Stamford Bridge return for Jose Mourinho with Blues fans taunting Manchester United manager on Sunday.
The stalemate was a fifth consecutive game without a victory for City, as Kelechi Iheanacho`s eighth goal in his last 11 league games cancelled out Nathan Redmond`s first-half opener for Southampton, which owed much to an extraordinary mistake by City defender John Stones.
And it certainly raised questions again over the title credentials of Pep Guardiola`s team.
City, after winning their first 10 games under Spanish coach Guardiola, have suffered a major dip in form.
"We have to analyse what is the situation," Guardiola told the BBC.
"In the period, apart from at White Hart Lane against Tottenham (losing 2-0) it`s been good. Against Everton and Barcelona -- when it was 11 v 11 -- the displays were as good as those in the first 10 games."
Guardiola, who saw his expensively assembled side held 1-1 home to Everton last weekend, had spoken passionately in the wake of the midweek 4-0 defeat at former club Barcelona about his desire to stick to his footballing philosophy.
Those beliefs, however, must have been sorely tested in a first half in which his side failed to test Fraser Forster in the Southampton goal and fell behind to the visitors.
The Saints went ahead in the 27th minute following a disastrous back pass from England centre-half Stones, who nonchalantly laid the ball back into the City penalty area despite the presence of Redmond.
The forward retained his composure, beating returning skipper Vincent Kompany to the ball and rounding Claudio Bravo before converting into the open net.
"From watching them in preparation we knew they would give us chances, they only play three at the back," Redmond told Sky Sports. "I was anticipating it and it was just about keeping a cool head and putting the chance away."
The draw was enough to put City back top of the Premier League on goal difference from Arsenal, with Liverpool third. All three are on 20 points.
But following Bravo`s costly defensive slip in the midweek Champions League defeat, it was another blow to Guardiola`s determination to play attractive, passing football at all costs and a handful of home supporters booed the team off at the interval.For all their defensive problems, however, City were equally ineffective at the other end in the first half --- their best effort coming when Stones had a 31st-minute effort ruled out for offside.
The defender appeared to have made amends for his earlier error when he headed home Kevin De Bruyne`s free-kick only for referee Mark Clattenburg to rule it out -- a decision which replays suggested was harsh.
An early David Silva cross was easily picked out by Forster, Ilkay Gundogan shot just wide from the edge of the area and Raheem Sterling drilled a shot way off target.
Indeed, the Saints looked more likely to score, particularly on the break, with Dusan Tadic testing Bravo with an early cross-shot.
Guardiola wasted no time in altering his tactics at the interval, with Iheanacho replacing De Bruyne, who was clearly still below peak form following a recent injury lay-off.
City finally started to assert some control with Sterling`s low 54th-minute cross just bouncing beyond Silva`s far-post lunge.
Moments later, Iheanacho equalised after a flowing move exposed gaps in Southampton`s defence with passes from Fernandinho and Leroy Sane allowing the young Nigerian to sweep in a confident finish from six yards.
"They did it for themselves in the second half," said Guardiola of his players. "They changed the game, I didn`t change the game. We did think we were going to win it, but Southampton didn`t make it easy. They have good defenders and are good at everything."
City`s passing, so inconsistent in the first half, also improved markedly after the break and a concerted attack ended with Sterling finding Iheanacho, who turned and centred for Silva, only for a deflection off a defender to save the Saints.
Sergio Aguero also twice came close for City, first with a stooping, off-target header and then with a determined run and low shot which flashed across the face of goal.
Later in the day, Chelsea supporters taunted Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho with chants of "You`re not special anymore!" as his Stamford Bridge return yielded a humiliating 4-0 defeat.
With seven major titles across two spells, Mourinho is Chelsea`s most successful ever manager, but his return to his old stomping ground ended in one of the most chastening results of his career.
Pedro Rodriguez opened the scoring after just 30 seconds and Chelsea did not look back, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and N`Golo Kante completing an emphatic Premier League victory.
It was a fitting tribute to former Chelsea vice-chairman Matthew Harding, whose death in a helicopter crash 20 years ago was marked prior to kick-off with banners and a giant flag.
Antonio Conte`s side have now won three consecutive league games without conceding a goal and climbed to fourth place, just a point below leaders Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Mourinho, in stark contrast, has already tasted defeat three times in the league with United, who trail City by six points ahead of Wednesday`s Manchester derby in the League Cup fourth round.
The team sheet told a tale of two captains: United`s, Wayne Rooney, was absent after reportedly injuring his thigh, while Chelsea`s, John Terry, remained on the bench following an ankle injury.
Mourinho was greeted warmly by Terry and former assistant Steve Holland prior to the game, sharing a warm embrace with the former, but Chelsea`s hospitality vanished within 30 seconds of kick-off.
Chris Smalling inexplicably allowed Marcos Alonso`s pass from Chelsea`s left to bounce past him and Pedro nipped in to round United goalkeeper David de Gea and roll the ball home.
Mourinho, sacked for the second time by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich last December, looked faintly shellshocked.He saw his side squander a chance to level when Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed over after Antonio Valencia had stood up a cross from the right.
More slack defending allowed Chelsea to double their lead in the 21st minute, Cahill slamming home after Hazard`s corner had struck Ander Herrera and bounced down inside the six-yard box.
A pocket of Chelsea fans beside the dug-outs turned Mourinho`s `Special One` nickname back on him, chanting: "You`re not special anymore!"
Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had been relatively untroubled up to that point, although he produced a smart double save to repel Herrera`s left-foot effort and Jesse Lingard`s follow-up.
It was an ideal first half for Chelsea, but David Luiz was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card after planting his studs in Marouane Fellaini`s knee five minutes before half-time.
Mourinho changed tack at half-time, sending on Juan Mata for Fellaini and moving Marcus Rashford up front alongside Ibrahimovic in a 4-4-2 formation.
He was forced into another change seven minutes into the second half when Eric Bailly sustained a knock, with Marcos Rojo coming on at left-back and Daley Blind moving to centre-back.
Lingard sought to sound the revolt for United, wriggling away from a pair of Chelsea players and unleashing a crisp drive that Courtois had to push away.
But in the 62nd minute it was game over. Nemanja Matic`s pass down the inside-left channel found Hazard, who checked inside Smalling and steered a shot into the bottom-right corner.
Kante completed the rout, darting between Smalling and the sleep-walking Paul Pogba to tuck away his first Chelsea goal since his close-season switch from Leicester City.