Highly-rated youngster Kelechi Iheanacho climbed off the bench to grab a 1-0 win for Manchester City at Crystal Palace in stoppage time and preserve the Premier League leaders’ 100 per cent record.
City, who thrust record signing Kevin De Bruyne into a first-half debut from the bench following an injury to talisman Sergio Aguero, were set to be held for the first time this term in a match where emotions ran high on and off the field.
But it was another attacking talent, 18-year-old Nigerian Iheanacho, who stole the headlines with his first goal for City as he converted from close range shortly after coming on as an 89th-minute replacement for Wilfried Bony.
Jesus Navas earlier passed up a glorious chance to break the deadlock for Manuel Pellegrini’s men but Palace could equally reflect on Jason Puncheon and Dwight Gayle going close before the late twist.
City are now five points clear of Arsenal at the Premier League summit and 11 points better off than ailing champions Chelsea.
Samir Nasir and Bony came into the City XI due to respective ankle and hamstring problems for David Silva and Raheem Sterling.
Palace made two enforced changes in defence, with Martin Kelly and Brede Hangeland replacing Joel Ward (knee) and Damien Delaney (knock), while Yannick Bolasie returned to Alan Pardew’s starting line-up and the winger fired an early shot over from the right-hand side of the penalty area.
City goalkeeper Joe Hart pushed a looping, deflected effort from Yohan Cabaye behind before Bony called opposite number Alex McCarthy into action with a powerful header from Navas’ cross.
Bolasie was the next man to test Hart as a lively opening continued and the hosts had a 17th-minute penalty claim rejected when Fernandinho appeared to trip Cabaye.
As City sought to counter from that moment of danger, Scott Dann caught Aguero heavily on the right knee with robust challenge.
The defender was booked and Aguero hobbled off in clear discomfort after 24 minutes to herald De Bruyne’s introduction.
Not for the first time in matches against one another, tempers then became frayed between Pardew and Pellegrini in the dugout before McCarthy thwarted Bony at close quarters.
De Bruyne created that chance and stung McCarthy’s palms with a drive as the first half wound down, while Palace’s Bakary Sako blazed over at the back post in stoppage time.
Navas could find his starting position under threat from De Bruyne in the coming weeks and the winger did himself no favours in the 50th minute – latching onto the Belgium international’s sumptuous through ball and rounding McCarthy, only to scuff wide of a gaping goal left-footed.
To compound City’s frustration, Samir Nasri then went down under pressure in the area under pressure from his compatriot Cabaye but referee Mike Jones was unmoved.
Palace attacks had become somewhat sparing by midway through the second half but speculative strikes off target by Fernandinho and Nasri underlined their defensive resilience.
And Hart had to remain alert to keep out Puncheon’s header from Pape Souare’s raking cross – the hosts’ clearest chance of the contest.
Palace looked the most likely winners in the closing stages – Dwight Gayle prodding wastefully wide from Zaha’s centre – but Iheanacho pounced on his second senior appearance after McCarthy kept out Nasri’s shot.
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