Man City prove Gundogan wrong by blitzing Crystal Palace to keep the heat on Liverpool | Football | Sport
Whatever happened at Anfield later in the day yesterday, Manchester City did their job at Selhurst Park. It helped of course that Guardiola picked the right team and did not, as he did in the Champions League loss at Tottenham on Wednesday, leave Kevin De Bruyne on the bench.
And it also helped that they met a Palace side content it seemed simply to stay in the game, and who only woke up and started to really press Guardiola’s side when Luka Milivojevic netted a free kick nine minutes from time.
By then Raheem Sterling had already scored twice – and City simply responded as the peerless De Bruyne set up Gabriel Jesus for the goal that sealed the game.
De Bruyne, fit again and running on all cylinders it would seem after a difficult season fitness-wise with knee and hamstring problems, simply ran the game, set up two goals and ensured that what could have been a difficult afternoon in south east London was in fact anything but.
It as five years ago when yesterday’s two fixtures also took place, Liverpool losing to Chelsea earlier in the day at Anfield, and then City winning at Palace on an afternoon that saw the 2013-14 title slip away from Brendan Rodger’s team and into Manuel Pellegrini’s hands. Had the results been reversed, Liverpool would have been nine points clear with three games to play.
Yesterday, City began the day a point behind Jurgen Klopp’s men with a game in hand. They did not stay that way for long.
That defeat at Spurs had started the whispers. But City yesterday proved it was only a blip. At Selhurst Park they were as majestic as they had been in the previous 13 wins from 14 games. The quadruple is still on.
The warning signs for Palace were there early on, as David Silva dribbled round James McArthur, got to the byeline and pulled ball back – but Sterling somehow shot wide from eight yards.
It did not however affect the England star and Footballer of the Year favourite. Five minutes later Vincent Kompany cleared, De Bruyne picked the ball up and played Sterling through with a deadly ball. This time the finish was perfect past Vicente Guaita.
Palace probed, as Christian Benteke worked hard up front, but they spent most of the match way too deep to do any damage to City.
Leroy Sane then beat three men but saw Guaita turn his shot around the post, and De Bruyne’s looping cross dropped just over the Palace crossbar.
Several times City carved Palace’s defence open, but De Bruyne saw his shot blocked in one fantastic scramble, and then Guaita saved when the Belgian’s cross deflected goalwards off Martin Kelly.
City though then effectively put the game to bed. Sergio Aguero fed Silva, and Sane’s low shot cum cross was going nowhere until Sterling deftly turned it in from eight yards. The England man now has 17 Premier League goals – and an astonishing nine assists.
That was that, everyone thought. But suddenly James McArthur was brought down on the edge of the box. And up stepped Milivojevic to curl his free kick low through a poor wall and into the corner. Guardiola on the touchline was fuming.
He needn’t have worried. De Bruyne had the situation under control. Palace threw men forward but their attack broke down again.
De Bruyne picked the ball up, raced through the middle and fed Jesus, who looked offside, but the flag stayed down and he coolly beat Guaita at his near post.
Pep punched the air in delight, and embraced his coaching staff. Down in South East London, the job had been done.
Afterwards the Spaniard insisted that his team still have to win all their remaining five league games to make sure of the title – after they attempt to put matters right in the Champions league against Spurs on Wednesday.
On this form few would back against them.