Champions Manchester City narrowed the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool with a comfortable victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Two weeks on from a surprise defeat by Wolves, Pep Guardiola’s side made a blistering start to proceedings but had to wait until the 39th minute for the breakthrough to arrive, as Gabriel Jesus met Bernardo Silva’s cross with a clever, flicked header.
It took just 93 seconds for David Silva to double the advantage, the Spaniard allowing Raheem Sterling’s delightful chipped pass to drop over his shoulder before volleying past goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
Hennessey produced quality saves to deny both Bernardo Silva and Jesus twice apiece as City were prevented from running riot, but Christian Benteke’s powerful header struck the crossbar as the hosts failed to capitalise.
As City sought to extend their lead in the second half, the video assistant referee (VAR) upheld referee Anthony Taylor’s decision not to award a penalty after Wilfried Zaha and Kevin de Bruyne collided in the Palace penalty area.
Guardiola’s side return to second in the table following Leicester City’s earlier victory over Burnley, five points behind leaders Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp’s side set to face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday (16:30 BST).
City overcome Selhurst test
Beaten 2-0 by Wolves before the international break, Guardiola’s side arrived at Selhurst Park having lost two of their previous four league games and desperate not to concede further ground to leaders Liverpool.
Roy Hodgson’s in-form Eagles, last beaten at home in the league by City themselves back in April, promised to provide a tricky assignment. It was, ultimately, one they overcame with relative ease.
Setting up without any recognised centre-backs – midfielders Fernandinho and Rodri lining up centrally between wing-backs Joao Cancelo and Benjamin Mendy – the visitors launched wave after wave of attack but were initially frustrated by Hennessey.
Jesus was unable to direct Kevin de Bruyne’s excellent cross on target within the opening five minutes, while Bernardo Silva’s curled effort – bound for the top-corner – was met by Hennessey’s fingertips as the visitors peppered his goal with 11 first-half attempts.
Striker Jesus was given the nod ahead of Sergio Aguero, who was involved in a car crash on his way to training on Wednesday, and the Brazilian repaid his manager’s faith with a moment of quality to score the crucial opener.
Offering Guardiola much food for thought, Jesus has now scored in each of his last seven starts for City – and 21 times in his last 20 games when starting in all.
While Silva’s exquisite finish from Sterling’s equally delicate pass before half-time suggested the flood gates had opened, City were uncharacteristically unable to add more goals as Jesus and Sterling both passed up glorious second-half opportunities.
That did not matter. Despite their recent inconsistency, two quick-fire first-half goals were enough to extend their impressive away record to 11 victories from their past 12 in the top flight – and a favour from cross-city rivals United on Sunday would a big help as the champions look to get back on track.
No joy for Palace despite Hennessey’s best efforts
Indicative of the impressive, yet somewhat under-the-radar, start Palace have made to this campaign, Roy Hodgson’s side began this match with the potential to leapfrog their opponents in the table and climb into the top four after nine games.
The hosts were therefore expected to make life rather uncomfortable for Guardiola’s stuttering side, but despite Hennessey’s superb efforts they were unable to take advantage of the champions’ makeshift defence.
There were unconvincing moments at the back for City, with Wilfried Zaha offering a capable threat on the counter, but their best opportunities did not arrive until the closing stages.
Hennessey touched the ball more than any of his team-mates in the opening half an hour, his initial invincibility suggesting his side could add to their tally of three clean sheets in four home matches this term.
It was, forgivably, two moments of quality that unravelled Hodgson’s best laid plans.
The Eagles, who had won back to back league games, enjoyed a promising final period, however Ederson was equal to what they could offer – most notably keeping out Zaha’s powerful strike from close range and tipping Benteke’s effort onto the bar – but Palace remain sixth despite the defeat.
Men of the match – Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace) & Ederson (Man City)
‘We still have our hat pegged nicely’ – what they managers said
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola: “After the international break, to play here at Selhurst Park and create a lot of chances was good. We played well but didn’t score too many – but we didn’t concede. We conceded chances at the end but Ederson made two incredible saves. It’s three points and we move forward.
“We enjoyed the second goal – it was nice. But in the Premier League we have to score the third and fourth because it was difficult in the end with the pressure.
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson: “They were two very good goals, they had had a lot of possession and they had been pushing us back. I am pleased and proud of the way the players did not drop their heads. I take a lot of comfort from that.
“We are not in a bad place and we are not in a much worse place after today’s game. We could have been if we had collapsed. We have still got our hat pegged nicely in place and we have to accept sometimes we will come across a team as good as they were today.
On goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey’s performance: “He was excellent, absolutely excellent. I was pleased because he’s had to wait for his chance because Vicente Guaita has been so good. He has been working hard in the background to show us he’s still a good goalkeeper and he showed us that today.”
Jesus hits 50 – the stats
- Manchester City have won 12 of their 14 away Premier League games in 2019 – at least three more than any other club.
- In all competitions, City have won 16 of their last 19 meetings with Crystal Palace, scoring 47 goals.
- Gabriel Jesus scored his 50th goal for Manchester City in all competitions.
- Jesus has been directly involved in 58 goals in his 64 starts across all competitions for Manchester City.
- David Silva has been directly involved in eight goals in his last seven league starts against Crystal Palace.
- Raheem Sterling has 13 goals and seven assists in 16 appearances for Manchester City and England combined in 2019-20.
- Crystal Palace have lost 10 home league games since the start of last season. Of ever-present Premier League sides in that time, only Burnley and Newcastle have suffered more such defeats on home soil.
Manchester City host Atalanta in the Champions League group stages on Tuesday (20:00 BST), before welcoming Aston Villa to Etihad Stadium on Saturday (12:30 BST).
Meanwhile, Crystal Palace travel to face Arsenal on Sunday (16:30 BST).