In their last home game of the year, Manchester City knew they would be tested. After a penalty shootout win on Tuesday night against Leicester, City came home to face Crystal Palace with a crucial three points on the line, made more crucial by the fact that Liverpool won on Friday against Wolves. This meant that City needed a win to close the gap back to one point but, in the most shocking result of the season, Crystal Palace went to Manchester and beat City for the first time in 28 years.
How Crystal Palace Shocked Manchester City
Manchester City 2-3 Crystal Palace
Manchester City knew what they were coming up against in Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace. Pep praised Hodgson’s side as an incredibly organized both in attack and defence. Hodgson doubled down on that organization by playing a five-man midfield in front of a stout four-man defence. His attempt to cut out City’s ability to play through the midfield a rousing success.
The play of James McArthur, Luka Milivojevic and Jeffrey Schlupp was what made that possible. They were winning tackles, intercepting passes and cutting out City’s midfield line, as well as scoring goals. Schlupp scored the equaliser with a lovely finish across the goal that was assisted by McArthur after City had taken the lead through Ilkay Gundogan. Luka Milivojevic scored the penalty which proved to be decisive for Palace in the end.
The goal worth talking about belonged to Andros Townsend. The former Tottenham man hit one of the cleanest strikes you will ever see; 30 yards into the top corner of the City net. There was no chance for Ederson, or any goalkeeper – it was one of the sweetest goals ever scored. It will certainly be remembered by all Crystal Palace fans.
What Manchester City fans will leave this game with is concern. The theory had been building over the last few weeks that City don’t have a great ‘chase the game’ gear. When they need a goal or two goals, they aren’t great at getting them. This game will have done nothing to alleviate those fears.
They started so well in this game, too. Their first goal was lovely and Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling had been getting at the Palace defence early. After the goals went in, though, it was almost as if the tent just folded up. As Pep continued to bring on more and more attackers, it didn’t seem to change the urgency of passing needed to comeback.
At one point City had Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and Leroy Sane on the pitch. Even with all that attacking talent, they could not create enough serious chances. The second goal was a cross from De Bruyne that floated into the corner of the net.
With all that talent on the field, and the talent difference with a side like Palace, they should be creating more. Gabriel Jesus was particularly awful, even before he missed a golden chance to equalize. Those who thought he had turned the corner might have to start to worry again but he certainly wasn’t the worst on the field.
Kyle Walker did not show well for himself at all. He got beaten by Schlupp for the first goal but it got worse. He decided to dive in two footed in the box and, had Max Meyer not jumped, Walker would have broken his leg. A clear-cut penalty giveaway augmented the worst performance in a while from one of City’s most assured players.
What This Means Going Forward
This is obviously a massive result for Liverpool. They now have a four point lead over City heading into Christmas. It will not, however, be easy for them to keep this lead. Liverpool play Newcastle and Arsenal before a big clash with the Cityzens on January 3rd. Though City have away trips to Leicester and Southampton in that time, both teams will have an eye on that game.
That fact could catch either of them out. The Premier League is still incredibly tough but these two sides have stood above that before today. Liverpool still stand on a pedestal but they could fall just as easily. Meanwhile, two straight wins for Palace push them up to 14th in the table. Not bad for Roy Hodgson’s side.