Chelsea 4-4 Manchester City: Londoners show green shoots of recovery under Mauricio Pochettino

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola
Chelsea have taken four points from their last two games against Manchester City and Tottenham

Chelsea went from the chaotic to a classic in the space of six days as they provided further evidence that the green shoots of recovery are finally sprouting under manager Mauricio Pochettino's tenure.

If Monday's 4-1 win at Tottenham will be remembered for an overworked Video Assistant Referee (VAR), red cards, disallowed goals and Spurs manager Ange Postecoglou's now infamous high line, this 4-4 draw with Manchester City was simply a frantic, fantastic, end-to-end feast of football.

VAR, inevitably, did have a say at Stamford Bridge with the award of a first-half penalty to City when Marc Cucurella was adjudged to have dragged down Erling Haaland - a decision made contentious by the Chelsea defender's insistence he had been fouled first.

This time, however, the headlines must be claimed by the sheer quality of the football on offer, the fluctuating fortunes, the twists and turns in the plot that kept everyone on the edge of their seats until Cole Palmer's penalty gave the hosts a deserved point in the 95th minute.

After a relatively quiet start the eyes could not be torn away from the action as first one team, then the other, flew forward on the attack in almost basketball style.

At the final whistle, players from both sides slumped into each other's arms, spent from a mammoth effort that ended with the points rightly shared.

Chelsea, in particular, have packed enough stress, drama, physical and emotional energy for half a season into their last two Premier League games.

Their eventual triumph at Spurs was almost overshadowed by the events and controversy surrounding it.

If the success at Spurs had that element of chaos away from the actual football, this was an occasion for the neutral to sit back and bask in the joy of what was being witnessed, while Chelsea and City supporters experienced all the emotions a game such as this could offer.

Chelsea and Pochettino have just had their most eventful week together since he took charge in July - but also their best week together.

They needed to keep their nerve to finally overcome the almost unsettling, unorthodoxy of Postecoglou and Spurs' approach when the Australian's side were reduced to nine men on Monday.

Here, Chelsea showed they are on the road to recovery under Pochettino by trading blows with City's Treble winners to earn a point that will give the manager and his players growing belief and confidence.

Central to all Chelsea's best work were two former City players with different points to prove. Namely Raheem Sterling and Cole Palmer.

First, the basic facts.

Haaland's penalty put City ahead but goals from Thiago Silva and Sterling turned things around, before Manuel Akanji levelled right on half-time.

Haaland's goal just after the interval was followed by Nicolas Jackson putting Chelsea back on terms.

Rodri thought he had won it for City with a deflected effort four minutes from time, before Ruben Dias' rash challenge on Chelsea substitute Armando Broja allowed Palmer to have the final say in dramatic fashion with his spot-kick.

What a moment for 21-year-old Palmer, the youngster City allowed to move to Chelsea in a £40m deal this summer despite the rich promise he had shown at Etihad Stadium, and the fact he was one of their own having been at the club since he was six.

Palmer will have absorbed the narrative that surrounded him as he stepped up in the Stamford Bridge downpour, but remained cool as he sent a confident penalty past Ederson.

Chelsea players celebrate Cole Palmer's late goal
Chelsea snatched a point thanks to Cole Palmer's late penalty

He is a player of undoubted talent and City would hardly have been overwilling sellers, but perhaps there was a sense the Wythenshawe-born Palmer wanted more first-team action than Guardiola would have been able to give him in the short term.

It is stretching the point to suggest Palmer is City's loss given the world-class talent Guardiola has at his disposal, but the evidence so far suggests, without question, that he is Chelsea's gain.

And given the fact England's place at Euro 2024 is assured before their final two qualifiers against Malta at Wembley and away to North Macedonia, manager Gareth Southgate might have been better served to include Palmer in his latest squad. He will surely win a full England cap in the future.

Sterling is another who was not just surrounded by the ex-City sub-plot, but also the England debate, and he was vying for the spotlight with Palmer.

Sterling has been rejuvenated this season after a poor first campaign at Chelsea following his move from City, but his latest exclusion from Southgate's squad suggests he is relying on a force of circumstances rather than form to re-ignite his England career and get a recall.

Southgate - and he has a fair point - asked who he should leave out from his squad to pick Sterling?

There is certainly fierce competition in the shape of Arsenal's Bukayo Saka, Manchester City pair Phil Foden and Jack Grealish, plus West Ham United's Jarrod Bowen and Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford.

What Sterling can only do is deliver proof of his enduring talent and his best form, which he certainly did here with a scintillating display of strong running and skill - which also produced a goal - in a performance where he was a constant threat to the City defence.

There is a sense Sterling is on the outside looking in for England, but displays such as this will mean the 28-year-old will always be in the international conversation.

Southgate insists the door to England remains open for a player who was once one of his most trusted, experienced mainstays. Sterling will knock on it with force if he keeps performing like this.

City had the lead on three occasions, the last time just four minutes from the end of normal time, and will undoubtedly feel a sense of disappointment at not closing out the victory that would have kept their lead at the top to three points instead of just one.

In the final reckoning, though, this was a quite brilliant game neither side deserved to lose.