Kelechi Iheanacho’s late winner saves Man City

Teenage striker with little Premier League experience provides lifeline to Pellegrini

Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho celebrates scoring in the 90th minute to secure a 1-0 win  against Crystal Palace. Photograph:  EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho celebrates scoring in the 90th minute to secure a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace. Photograph: EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

 
Manchester United

– well, when Alex Ferguson was their manager and they were renowned for stealing difficult matches with late winners.

Manchester City were missing key players, once again Crystal Palace were proving why they will be no pushovers this season and the sense was that Manuel Pellegrini was settling for a goalless draw when he replaced Wilfried Bony with Kelechi Iheanacho, a teenage striker with only a handful of Premier League minutes to his name.

The newcomer wore the number 72 shirt and Palace could have been forgiven for thinking that their team was out of the woods when he trotted on.

Rebound

Maybe the Nigerian, 19 next month, who was signed last year from Taye Academy in his home country, will never contribute anything of any significance again for City. He would not be the first youngster to fade into obscurity after such a dramatic introduction.

Iheanacho does not even qualify for the B list for City’s Champions League campaign, which begins against Juventus at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow, yet here was one of those moments that the leaders will look back on fondly if they lift the title in May.

Even though the season is only five games old, Pellegrini’s side look hungrier than they were last year and they are already five points clear of Arsenal and United and 11 clear of Chelsea.

Palace beat them at Selhurst Park last season and Alan Pardew’s side have improved since then. They began the day in second place after conquering Chelsea at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago.

More consistent

“We lost many important points last season against relegated teams. Now we are in another season. The past is the past. We are just thinking about the present and the present now is to think about Juventus,” he said.

Winning at Selhurst Park required a monumental effort from City, who had to overcome the blow of losing Sergio Aguero to an early knee injury.

Pellegrini was unsure about whether he will be fit to play against Juventus, beaten finalists in the Champions League last season, while Raheem Sterling is also a doubt to face the Italian champions because of a hamstring injury. City are hopeful that David Silva will return.

Deprived of that triumvirate, City needed others to take responsibility against Palace and Kevin de Bruyne came on for a promising debut, Nasri menaced in a central role and Yaya Toure controlled midfield.

City also coped admirably with Palace’s zesty attack. They have not conceded a goal yet and Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala, so unreliable last season, have formed an impenetrable barrier in central defence. Guardian Service

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