The pillars of the old crew were all there. John Terry still in the captain's armband. A ponytailed Didier Drogba in his famous number 11. The boss José Mourinho, looking upon his charges sternly from the sideline, no doubt fighting back an inner smile. And Frank Lampard, a goal down, hungry to do what he did for so long better than any other midfielder in England: score.
This time, though, Lamps was on the other side of the pitch, in a much lighter shade of blue than the royal hue of his long-time partners. This was most likely Lampard's first and final chance to see the field against the Chelsea club he left this summer, along this half-season stop with Manchester City en route to his final New York City destination.
To say that this "had to happen" would be an exaggeration, of course. Yes, City's manager Manuel Pellegrini was always going to find some minutes for Lampard on such an important occasion, but there was no guarantee that those minutes would mean anything. Even as he was set to come on, City were down to ten men and losing 1-0. It wasn't clear if City would even get another significant chance on goal, let alone that it would fall to Lampard, let alone that he would actually score it.
But that's exactly what happened. David Silva lofted a through ball behind the Chelsea defense, James Milner ran onto it and sent a cross into the box, where Lamps awaited. His little scissor kick of a volley looked both incredibly difficult and exactly what Frank Lampard would do.
With his head down, face expressionless, he accepted the back-pats of his new teammates in front of the solemn faces of his old ones. The old Chelsea stalwarts no doubt felt disappointment, disbelief, and, though they probably didn't want to show it, a sense fittingness. It was, after all, exactly what Frank Lampard would do.