It wasn’t quite Muhammad Ali standing over a prone Sonny Liston, but it’ll do.
As Conor Gallagher stood over a fallen Rodri in last Sunday’s Stamford Bridge classic, it was a moment to savour for Chelsea fans.
The game of the season so far, it seemed like a genuine heavyweight contest as Chelsea went toe to toe with the undisputed champions.
And the sight of one of their own academy kids ‘bossing’ City’s celebrated playmaker was one to cherish for the Stamford Bridge faithful.
So was the face of Mauricio Pochettino, contorted in rage as referee Anthony Taylor sounded the ‘bell’ just as his team were preparing to land one last haymaker.
That late penalty equaliser was not enough: he wanted a knockout.
Both player and manager showed fire in their bellies, a commodity conspicuously absent since Roman Abramovich was forced out.
Chelsea, never previously known for lacking attitude, have been listless pushovers amid a season and a half of upheaval.
It’s been hard to believe they were European champions in 2021, edging out City.
Last season they finished a lowly 12th – way below qualifying even for Europe’s also-rans’ league.
How galling it must be for fans to see Brighton, who finished 18 points above them in sixth, enjoying their adventure in Europe.
Little Brighton, a club whose manager, star players and backroom staff, Chelsea had plundered with offers they couldn’t refuse.
For the record, champions City collected 45 more points than Chelsea last season.
And in six meetings with Pep Guardiola’s men since the Lisbon triumph, Chelsea not only lost them all but failed to muster a single goal. Until Sunday.
The crash has been precipitous but one that might have been feared at the fall of Roman’s empire.
But not when the takeover was relatively smooth given the unique circumstances, and the new regime made the Russian spendthrift look like Scrooge in comparison.
Well over £1 billion was shelled out, some on stars but some on players that fans had never heard of.
The comings and goings felt more like the ‘constant revolution’ desired by that other notable Russian, Leon Trotsky.
But it was , of all people, an American equity company, Clearlake, led by chairman Todd Boehly, who became the ultimate ‘hands-on’ owner.
World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez and Ukrainian starlet Mykhailo Mudryk topped the cast list but it was too much, too soon, not helped by an epidemic of injuries.
Managers were also on a merry-go-round. Much-loved Tommy Tuchel, who’d won the Champions League, left and Graham Potter came in.
Chelsea fans never took to him and after he was put out of his misery, Frank Lampard came back as caretaker.
Chelsea craved a big name but when Pochettino was announced, many were not convinced – he was a Tottenham man after all.
Chelsea fans see nothing good in Tottenham and a slow start only exacerbated the doubts.
The Argentinian even joked on the eve of the previous game at Spurs that one day he might return to the Lilywhites.
But after a 4-1 win there and a fighting 4-4 draw with City, the 51-year-old has begun to win over the sceptics.
Helped by players returning after injury – notably skipper Reece James – they are finally punching their weight.
And they still have ace striker Christopher Nkunku and midfielder Romeo Lavia to come back. Both succumbed to injuries in August.
Neither of the two major signings have kicked a ball in anger in the EPL and Chelsea’s season would surely have been a lot different if they had.
It had left fans feeling that snatching Lavia and Moises Caicedo from Liverpool’s clutches in the transfer window was their only highlight.
But now the mood has changed: amazing what eight goals in a week can do.
Yet it’s the draw with City more than the win at Spurs that is causing the positive outlook.
Tottenham’s nine men were still in that game deep into stoppage time and until Nicolas Jackson completed his flattering hattrick.
But it was against City that the real Chelsea showed up. And they might even have shown how to get at the all-conquering champions.
What Guardiola prizes most is control and his players didn’t have it. They were knocked out of their usual stride and off their passing carousel.
Gallagher hounding Rodri was one of the main reasons.
The Blues are 10 points adrift of the top four but the season is not even a third of the way through.
No one is getting carried away – least of all Pochettino who said they were still “far away” from completing their “project.”
But if James can stay fit, Raheem Sterling can stay ‘tuned’ and the likes of Mudryk can finally show why they cost so much, Chelsea will be back in Europe next season.
In classic matches there are several moments that fans remember as pivotal. In this game, none could be more significant than the final goal.
Eyebrows were raised when City sold Cole Palmer to Chelsea for £42.5m on the last day of the window.
Palmer, 21, was one of City’s brightest emerging stars. Home-grown and talked up by Pep, he’d already made a name by scoring in the Community Shield and in the League.
So to sell him to one of your rivals seemed a bit strange.
It was good money, yes, and being an academy graduate helps with the Financial Fair Play balance sheet, but still.
Many said Pep would come to regret this bit of business and maybe he already has.
Not just for the ice in the youngster’s veins as he converted the long-delayed spot-kick, but for his overall play. You can’t help but feel he’d fit City like a glove.
He may have lit the touchpaper for Chelsea’s season, but Cool Palmer should be his name.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.