Many thought that this would be Manchester City’s 20th win of the season, with Crystal Palace consigned to yet another defeat, but the match was anything but a walk in the park for the league leaders.
Crystal Palace gave as good as they got in the game, and they did not suffer from any kind of fear as they took the game to City. Roy Hodgson seemed to get his tactics in defence spot on, while their attacking caused City problems. The league leaders were unable to add to their 61 goals as they looked off colour, and it was the hosts that profited as City dropped two points.
Things could have been so different for Palace though, as Luka Milivojevic saw his penalty saved by Ederson in injury time, with Guardiola’s unbeaten season flashing before his eyes. There were also a number of injuries for both side, but the game came and went with very few clear-cut chances bar the penalty.
Crystal Palace do not have an inferiority complex
It has been a feature of Manchester City’s opposition that they have always looked to sit incredibly deep and stay compact against a side that keeps the ball so well. Of course, this just plays into their hands, and they have punished teams for it, easily brushing aside the outfits in front of them, with only Everton able to take points from them.
In their last game against Newcastle, Manchester City enjoyed a massive portion of possession, while they dominated the game in almost every other area. It almost seemed as though the Magpies were scared of venturing out of their own half, such was the dominance of their opposition.
Against Palace though, things were very different. Roy Hodgson’s men did not just set up to defend, instead, they played to their strengths. On a number of occasions, Wayne Hennessey launched long balls forward to Christian Benteke who, despite not scoring goals of late, is always backed to win a header, and he was able to cause havoc amongst City’s defence. The first 25 minutes saw City dominate as usual, but Palace gave as good as they got with regard to putting pressure on the opposition’s defence.
Injuries cut both sides down in the first-half
Irrespective of the player or team, nobody ever wants to see a man limp off. However, this was the fate of both Scott Dann and Gabriel Jesus. The former was stretchered off after he put in a robust challenge and was left sprawled on the floor, while the latter played on after a clash of knees with Andros Townsend, only to go down later on.
The massive resources at the disposal of City meant that it was Sergio Aguero that came on for Jesus, but Pep Guardiola will miss his Brazilian forward, with the striker proving to be a superb find for the champions-elect.
For Palace, an injury to Dann was always going to be a hugely costly one, and with Mamadou Sakho already out, options at the back are beginning to look thin for the London side.
City left frustrated in the first-half
It is not something that the fans have seen often this season, but Manchester City were visibly frustrated by their opponents. Palace were superb defensively as the visitors were unable to carve out a real chance of note, with Aguero’s deflected strike their best effort.
The usually so cool Kevin De Bruyne was seen to be massively frustrated, while he and Leroy Sane exchanged words in the first-half with the two not on the same telepathic wavelength as usual. Sane was then shown a yellow card for kicking the ball away after he was adjudged to have fouled Timothy Fosu-Mensah, and it was the first display of the fact that Manchester City are indeed human.
Townsend misses a sitter
What a moment it was for Andros Townsend. Some good work from Benteke resulted in the ball being played out to Wilfried Zaha, who drilled a pass back into the box. The cross was cleverly dummied by Benteke and it fell to Townsend six yards out but, on his stronger foot, he inexplicably ballooned the ball high and wide of the target.
Games are won and lost on moments like that, and the English-forward would have been desperate to get a chance to atone for his glaring miss.
Crystal Palace end City’s winning run as De Bruyne is stretchered off
It was the first time that City had dropped points in the league since August, but it could have been much worse for the leaders. Ederson saved a late penalty from Luka Milivojevic as the Palace midfielder struck the ball straight down the middle in what was an awful penalty.
As City looked to break, De Bruyne was cut down by Jason Puncheon, with both players then stretchered off. Guardiola will be hoping that his best player is not out for too long, although the fact he had to be stretchered off indicates that he may be out for a while.
In the end, City’s run was finished by Palace, and their best player was stretchered off. It was hardly a great way to end 2017 for Pep Guardiola.
Crystal Palace: Hennessey 7 – Fosu-Mensah 9, Tomkins 8, Dann 7 (Kelly 8), van Aanholt 8 – Cabaye 7 (Puncheon 6) (Lee 5), Milivojevic 8, Riedewald 7 – Townsend 6, Benteke 6, Zaha 5.
Unused substitutes: Speroni, Souare, Kaikai, Delaney.
Manchester City: Ederson 8 – Walker 7, Otamendi 6, Mangala 6, Danilo 6 – De Bruyne 6, Fernandinho 6, Gundogan 6 (Sterling 6) – Bernardo Silva 6 (Toure 5), Jesus 5 (Aguero 6), Sane 5.
Unused substitutes: Bravo, Stones, Adarabioyo, Zinchenko.
Referee: Jonathan Moss.
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