A Ramires goal incorrectly ruled out for offside with Man City a goal ahead changed the complexion of this early-season Premier League fixture.
The Brazilian latched on to a brilliant Cesc Fabregas pass early in the second period and nudged the ball home but an errant offside flag denied us a deserved leveller.
Sergio Aguero had put the hosts ahead having already been thwarted by the excellent Asmir Begovic on three occasions, while Diego Costa had a strong shout for a first-half penalty.
We dominated after the interval and after Ramires’s goal was disallowed, Hazard drew a fine stop from Joe Hart. Two late City goals, from Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho, added some gloss to a final scoreline which did not accurately reflect the bigger picture.
Jose Mourinho was forced to make two changes to the side that started against Swansea on the opening day. Asmir Begovic replaced the suspended Thibaut Courtois while Ramires came in for the injured Oscar, allowing Willian to move infield behind Diego Costa up front. The rest of the team was unchanged from last Saturday.
Within 25 seconds of his first Chelsea start Begovic was called upon to make a telling contribution, denying Aguero who had raced clear on goal courtesy of a fine David Silva pass. It set the tone for an assured performance by the Bosnian. He confidently claimed a dangerous free-kick not long after.
We had a good claim for a penalty with eight minutes played when Diego Costa was tripped by Fernandinho inside the box following good forward-thinking play from Ramires, but Martin Atkinson shook his head.
It had been an even first quarter-of-an-hour, but in the space of 60 seconds Aguero twice brought the very best of Begovic, drilling a pair of shots low to his left. Both looked destined for the net but our keeper’s agility and strength of hand were on display for all to see, keeping the scores level.
Two left-wing crosses, one at either end, produced further scoring opportunities with not 20 minutes gone. First, Hazard picked out Matic who powered a near-post header over. Then Kolarov whipped in a low centre that found Aguero. On the stretch, he scuffed his fourth presentable chance of the game wide.
But the Premier League’s top marksman last term was to make no such mistake with his next opportunity, wriggling past Cahill inside the box before slipping his shot into the net via the inside of the post. Matic, Terry and Begovic at full stretch could do nothing to divert its route.
Kompany cynically scythed Diego Costa down to earn the game’s first booking as we immediately got back on the front foot, and indeed that set the tone for a good Chelsea spell that included Fabregas worrying Hart with a 20-yarder.
Before the break, Diego Costa was on the receiving end of a brutish aerial challenged from Fernandinho who followed his skipper into the book. The striker needed treatment and a bandage, not long after Cahill required attention for a bloody nose, picked up when he collided with Begovic.
Kurt Zouma replaced Terry for the second period, which we started excellently. Ramires chested a Fabregas pass down and neatly finished past Hart but an offside flag cut the no.7’s celebrations, in front of the new South Stand at the Etihad, short. Replays showed he was onside and the goal should have stood.
Azpilicueta then looped a cross on to the top of Hart’s net. On the other side of the pitch, Mangala resorted to WWE-style tactics to stop the ever-dangerous Diego Costa getting free down the right.
Not long after the hour mark passed, Mourinho introduced Juan Cuadrado for his first Premier League appearance this season.
The Chelsea pressure was mounting and the royal-blue momentum nearly paid off with 20 minutes to go. Hazard lead a rapid break and picked out Diego Costa approaching the left-hand side of the box. He carried the ball, cut inside before squaring for last year’s Player of the Year. Hazard dropped a shoulder and fired for goal, but met his match in Hart.
City proved more clinical at the other end as Kompany headed in Silva’s near-post corner, the inside of the post again benefitting the home side. Five minutes later, Fernandinho smashed a third goal from the edge of the box after the ricocheting ball ran in his path.
Diego Costa hit the post in time added on and Hart was in the right place to block Hazard’s follow-up effort. It epitomised what had been a game of very fine margins.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c) (Zouma h/t), Azpilicueta; Fabregas, Matic; Ramires (Cuadrado 64), Willian (Falcao 79), Hazard; Diego Costa.
Unused subs Blackman, Mikel, Loftus-Cheek, Remy.
Booked Ivanovic 48, Hazard 81
Man City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Sagna, Kompany (c), Mangala, Kolarov; Toure, Fernandinho; Navas (Nasri 65), Silva, Sterling (Demichelis 79); Ageuro (Bony 83).
Unused subs Caballero, Zabaleta, Clichy, Iheancho.
Scorers Aguero 32, Kompany 79, Fernandinho 85
Booked Kompany 33, Fernandinho 45+1, Toure 51, Mangala 90+1
Referee Martin Atkinson