Kevin De Bruyne felt he was never given a fair chance during an 18-month spell at Chelsea where he played nine games before asking to be sold for the sake of his career.
Nearly four years later, the Belgium midfielder returned to Stamford Bridge as a highly coveted and more rounded player with Manchester City, and showed his former club exactly what it lost.
De Bruyne helped City assert control of the biggest game of the English Premier League so far, then secured a 1-0 win with a 25-meter shot that flew into the top corner in the 67th minute.
“What happened, happened,” De Bruyne said. “I have no regrets coming here — it made me stronger in my ways.”
Playing in a deeper role as a center midfielder rather than as the winger who arrived at Chelsea in August 2012, De Bruyne is proving to be a crucial part of a City team that has won six of its seven league games — drawing the other one — and is unbeaten in 10 matches in all competitions.
Even without Sergio Aguero and Benjamin Mendy, who sustained injuries over the past week, City dominated Chelsea in what left back Fabien Delph described as a “big message” to the rest of the league.
City stayed in first place on goal difference from Manchester United, which won 4-0 against a beleaguered Crystal Palace side that is still without a point or a goal.
Romelu Lukaku scored his 11th goal in 10 games for United this season. Another player who cannot stop scoring is Harry Kane, who finished September with 13 goals from eight games by scoring twice in Tottenham’s 4-0 win at Huddersfield.
There were also wins for West Ham and Stoke.
CITY’S SIGNATURE WIN
Three days after delivering one of its best European away displays to beat Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, Chelsea was overwhelmed by City’s movement and passing ability. The hosts weren’t helped by the loss to injury of striker Alvaro Morata in the first half.
De Bruyne’s goal came when he collected a pass from defense with a first-time flick to Gabriel Jesus. The striker laid the ball off instantly to De Bruyne, who surged through to the edge of the box before unleashing a left-footed shot that flew past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
“He made absolutely everything,” City manager Pep Guardiola said. “He scores, assists, fights like a humble guy. I’m so happy for him as I know how happy he is.”
It was Chelsea’s first loss in the league since its opening-day home defeat to Burnley. Chelsea is six points beind the Manchester clubs.
ANOTHER BIG WIN