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WITH the international break out of the way, Crystal Palace and Manchester City both would have been keen to get back down to the bread and butter of the Premier league, albeit for differing reasons.
Palace, unbeaten in the last three and with the opportunity to leapfrog their opponents with a win, would have fancied their chances against a City team who were fresh off the back of a home defeat to Wolves and starting the game without a recognised centre back.
But it was City who came away with the three points thanks to goals from Gabriel Jesus and David Silva giving them a 2-0 win.
With the two teams starting the game just two points apart, the proposition of facing a confident Palace team away provided City with a tricky test of their title credentials and Pep Guardiola would have been aware of the potential crisis that would have been mooted had his team come away from Selhurst Park with anything but a victory.
The champions got straight into their rhythm from the first minute, showing their intent to play out the majority of the game in the Crystal Palace half with controlled possession, probing both flanks for possible chinks in the hosts defensive armour.
Roy Hodgson had clearly set up his team with the understanding that they would not be seeing much of the ball and their shape in the first 15 minutes suggested that they could potentially frustrate the visitors, while always possessing the threat to cause them problems on the break with the pace of Jeffrey Schlupp and Wilfried Zaha up front.
This threat was evident only two minutes in when after a sustained period of City possession, the ball was turned over deep in the Palace half and Patrick van Aanholt’s only thought was to look in behind for the run of Zaha who was immediately on his bike, but the high back line of the makeshift Manchester City defence passed its first test, marginally catching Zaha offside.
The first serious shot on target unsurprisingly came from the visitors, the only surprise being that it took 10 mins for City to test the returning Palace keeper Wayne Hennesey.
It came after a good interchange of passes between the two Silvas on the edge of the Palace area before David Silva struck a tame shot which Hennessey dealt with comfortably, but it was a show of intent from the Premier League champions.
The following 20 minutes saw Manchester City lay siege to Hennessey’s goal with Bernardo Silva and the fit again Kevin de Bruyne, posing the biggest threats.
A Bernardo Silva curler, after retrieving an overhit corner from de Bruyne, saw the Palace keeper scrambling across goal to produce a finger tip save, which ended up ricocheting back of the lurking Jesus’s head for a goal kick.
An Ilkay Gundogan shot from 25 yards on 22 mins took a deflection off James McArthur, causing Hennessey problems, but again, the now under-siege keeper managed to get a leg to the shot, clearing the ball to safety.
The threat of a Palace breakaway still remained and a hopeful ball from McArthur out to Zaha, found its target after Rodri, filling in alongside Fernandinho for the absent Nicolas Otamendi, slipped and allowed the Ivorian winger to bear down on the City goal, but he was stopped in his tracks by Raheem Sterling who worked back selflessly and put in a timely challenge on the edge of Ederson’s penalty area.
The deadlock was finally broken on 40 mins when the impressive Bernado Silva dinked inside van Aanholt and delivered a wicked inswinging cross into the box.
Jesus, preferred to Sergio Aguero in the starting line-up, was sharpest in the box, stealing a yard on his marker James Tomkins to glance a header in off the back post, giving Hennessey no chance.
The travelling City faithful had barely finished celebrating their team’s opener when a minute later, Sterling collected the ball on the corner of the Crystal Palace area.
The England forward spotted the run of David Silva in behind Tomkins and Joel Ward and with no gap to thread the ball through, cheekily scooped the ball over both the Palace defenders with Spanish forward meeting the chip with and exquisite volley that rifled through the legs of the advancing keeper and into the net.
Despite the home crowd’s incessant vocal support of their team, Palace rarely did enough to really test Manchester City’s makeshift defence apart from a five-minute period of pressure in the second half that saw Ederson make a sublime save from substitute Christian Benteke’s header, tipping the Belgian’s effort onto the bar.
This was a much-needed win for Guardiola’s troops as they attempt to close the gap on league leaders Liverpool, who were due to travel to their city rivals the following day — a rare occasion where the blue half of Manchester will be hoping the red half can do them a favour and put a halt to the Merseysiders’ 100 per cent start to the season.
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