Scorers: Manchester City - Lampard (85); Chelsea - Schürrle (71)
The 36-year-old, on loan from City’s Major League Soccer venture in New York, rescued a point for the hosts five minutes from time after an afternoon of much frustration.
Lampard scored 211 times in 648 appearances for the Stamford Bridge side so it was no surprise when his 78th-minute appearance off the bench was cheered to the rafters by the away supporters, already jubilant after André Schürrle’s goal following Pablo Zabaleta’s red card.
However, it was City fans who raised the roof when the former England midfielder rammed home man of the match James Milner’s pass, although he predictably refused to celebrate.
His goal ended the Premier League leaders’ 100 per cent record, but as Chelsea had arrived at the Etihad Stadium with a game plan not to lose it was probably, on balance, the most they deserved.
Having conceded a vast amount of territory and possession for over an hour, the dismissal of Zabaleta was the signal for Jose Mourinho’s side to seize their chance and substitute Schürrle did exactly that with 19 minutes left. But Lampard’s intervention ensured the gap to Chelsea at the top remained at five. Had it been eight there would have been critics writing off their challenge already.
City gave a debut to Eliaquim Mangala, their £32 million signing from Porto brought in to add greater depth at centre-back, but his job was made much easier playing alongside his irrepressible captain Vincent Kompany.
Diego Costa, over whom fitness doubts still persist after he was rested for the midweek Champions League draw with Schalke, arrived at the Etihad Stadium as the Premier League’s hottest striker with seven goals in four matches.
But with the greatest respect to the likes of Everton’s Phil Jagielka, Swansea’s Ashley Williams, Leicester’s Wes Morgan and Burnley’s Michael Duff, the Spain international found himself facing a whole different class of opponent.
As City dominated possession and territory it took until midway through the first half for their first real one-to-one, but with Costa looking to drive into the left of the penalty area he was comfortably muscled off the ball by Kompany.
Aside from an optimistic handball shout against Yaya Toure from Cesc Fabregas’s free kick, it was the closest Chelsea came to threatening.
In fact Costa’s most significant first-half intervention involved a tangle with Edin Dzeko which could have resulted in a penalty but only led to a corner, which was easily repelled.
It was virtually one-way traffic in the first 45 minutes as Dzeko and Toure both failed to convert early headers, setting a dismal precedent for some mediocre set-piece play by City. With Milner enjoying a bright start down the right-hand side, City stroked the ball about confidently but found, like in their 1-0 home defeat by Chelsea last season, they were smothered as soon as they got within ten yards of the penalty area.
Fernandinho sliced wide from outside the area and Sergio Aguero, who had earlier been left in a heap when John Terry went through the back of him unnoticed by referee Mike Dean, hooked over.
Toure almost unlocked Chelsea’s watertight defence from a looping ball with outside of his right foot but it dropped agonisingly out of Aguero’s reach.
City’s pressure continued after the break as Fernandinho blazed wide and Aguero forced Thibaut Courtois to fumble a snap-shot before the advantage swung in Chelsea’s favour with Zabaleta’s dismissal.
Having already been booked for a first-half foul on Eden Hazard, the Argentinian rashly dived in at Costa and the Chelsea striker reacted aggressively and Dean showed both yellow cards – which meant a premature departure for the City defender.
Manuel Pellegrini had no option but to shore up the right-back spot by sacrificing Aguero for Bacary Sagna, but having got City where they wanted them, Chelsea applied what appeared to be the finishing blow as Hazard curled an inviting, low cross to the far post where Schürrle tapped home.
Costa had chances to put the game beyond City with a header straight at Joe Hart and then shooting against the post before Lampard, of all people, made him and his former employers pay.
He made a special effort to applaud the Chelsea fans at the final whistle but their club idol may have lost a little of his sheen in their eyes now.
Lampard admitted he was almost speechless after denying his former club victory. “It’s a really difficult one. I’d be unprofessional if I didn’t come on and do my job, so I was trying to get into the box and it was a great ball back from Milly,” he said. “I had 13 amazing years with the Chelsea fans, so I am mixed with it. I am obviously pleased the team I play for got a draw.
“I didn’t expect to come on and score like that. I came on and the Chelsea fans were singing, and that’s emotional. Then I am playing for this club, who have taken me in brilliantly as well, so I am really stuck in the middle here.”
Delighted City boss Pellegrini insisted he had no qualms about using Lampard after speaking to him before the game.
He said: “I asked him if he wanted to be involved, and of course he wanted to be involved. That shows how great a professional Lampard is. I am sure he was not happy to score against such an important team in his career, but he’s a good professional, he is a very good player.”
Opposite number Mourinho was pragmatic about the former England midfielder’s contribution. Mourinho said: “He is a Man City player. I don’t believe in these histories of passion and heart, I don’t believe in these. Maybe I am too pragmatic in football. When he decided to come to Man City, a direct competitor of Chelsea, love stories are over. He did his job as the super professional he is, and he did well.”
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Kolarov (Lampard 78), Milner, Fernandinho (Jesus Navas 73), Toure, Silva, Dzeko (Sagna 70), Aguero. Subs Not Used: Nasri, Caballero, Clichy, Demichelis.
Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Matic, Ramires (Schürrle 63), Willian (Mikel 63), Hazard, Costa (Drogba 86). Subs Not Used: Cech, Luis, Oscar, Remy.