First-half goals get Manchester City back on Liverpool’s scent
Pep Guardiola’s champions close gap to five points at the top of the Premier League table
Manchester City’s David Silva scores his side’s second goal during the Premier League match against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Photograph: John Walton/PA Wire
Crystal Palace 0 Manchester City 2
Manchester City bounced back in the Premier League to win 2-0 at Crystal Palace and cut the gap at the top to five points ahead of Liverpool’s match at Manchester United on Sunday.
With a makeshift back four, it easily could have been a tricky evening for the visitors, but they were at their silky best throughout to show the title race is nowhere near over.
City lined up with midfielders Fernandinho and Rodri at the heart of defence after Nicolas Otamendi suffered a knock while on international duty with Argentina.
Kevin De Bruyne returned following a groin injury to make his first outing of the month and he helped the visitors immediately dictate play at Selhurst Park.
The champions were camped inside the Palace half early on and Wayne Hennessey – in for the injured Vicente Guaita – was called into action in the 16th minute when he pushed away Bernardo Silva’s curling effort.
Ilkay Gündogan almost caught out the Welshman five minutes later, but the Eagles stopper saved the 22-yard strike with his legs on his first league start since March.
Nevertheless, the rare foray forward and a delay after Fernandinho suffered a clash of heads allowed Roy Hodgson’s team to briefly disrupt City’s flow.
Zaha won a free-kick for Palace just past the half-hour mark, but Luka Milivojevic’s free-kick hit the wall and a decent opening had been wasted.
City remained on top in the possession stakes and finally made it count six minutes before half-time.
Bernardo Silva was afforded some time on the right and cut inside before picking out Jesus and he stooped low and headed in via the post to score his 50th goal for City.
It was perfect timing for Guardiola’s men and it took them 95 more seconds to make it 2-0.
City counterattacked at pace and De Bruyne carried the ball forward before play switched to Sterling and he provided a delightful scooped ball over the top of James Tomkins and Joel Ward for David Silva to run onto and volley expertly between Hennessey’s legs.
With 41 minutes on the clock, it looked like it could now be a long night for Palace, but they started brightly after the break and Cheikhou Kouyate fired over from a promising position four minutes into the second period.
Sterling, who had six goals in six games against Palace before this fixture, should have added to that tally, but hit a post from inside the area and then skewed wide moments later.
Hodgson had seen enough and introduced Andros Townsend in the 55th minute with the hope he could produce another wonder goal against City like he managed at the Etihad in December.
The visitors were looking more likely, however, and only a strong hand by Hennessey denied Jesus a second in the 69th minute.
Christian Benteke entered the pitch with 16 minutes left and nearly found the net with his first touch, but Ederson produced a magnificent save to tip the header onto the crossbar.
De Bruyne hit a post not long after and Sterling swept wide from eight yards before Zaha had a fierce drive saved, but City comfortably saw out the final exchanges to close the gap with Liverpool.