Defeat at Palace puts paid to Man City’s Premier League title defence?
A third straight defeat on the road at Crystal Palace left reigning Premier League champions Manchester City nine points off Chelsea’s pace in the bid to retain their crown (40/1 with Coral now).
Goals either side of half-time from in-form Eagles frontman Glenn Murray and Jason Puncheon, direct from a free-kick, were enough to take Alan Pardew’s team to effective survival, with only a Yaya Toure strike in reply.
In 10 of the last 11 seasons, a points tally of 39 has been enough to stay up, and that is the total amassed this term by Palace, who will be targeting a top half finish (a tasty 7/2 now) following this fabulous result.
The Eagles almost caught their exalted opposition cold in the first minute when Martin Kelly’s cross up from left back found Wilfried Zaha at the back post, but he blazed over.
Long-serving Palace stopper Julian Speroni made a superb recovery save with his shoulder, after being caught off his line from a long kick out of opposite number Joe Hart’s gloves.
Sergio Aguero rounded the Eagles number one before teeing up David Silva, but Speroni swiftly atoned for his hastiness. City’s Argentina attacker then struck the post after working an opening at the edge of the hosts’ box.
Pardew’s Palace certainly rode their luck with Speroni parrying another low Silva shot that took a nick off James McArthur on the way through. Just over 10 minutes before the break, though, the home team went ahead as City failed to deal with the second ball from a corner.
Scott Dann survived appeals for offside to receive a flicked-on crossfield ball, and drew a save from Hart’s legs, but Eagles striker Murray saw a niff of goal and poached the rebound. Again, the flag stayed down, so it’s five strikes in as many matches for the rejuvenated centre forward.
Replays in the Sky Sports studio were far from conclusive about these offside decisions, which City supporters and staff may feel aggrieved by. There was no doubt about Palace’s second goal three minutes after the interval, though.
Puncheon punished Fernandinho’s clumsy blocking off of Murray by netting the resultant free-kick, getting the ball over the City wall and home from 25 yards.
Toure almost responded in kind 10 minutes later for the visitors, but his set-piece delivery skimmed the top of Speroni’s net. A City handball appeal then fell on deaf ears, though Murray was fortunate to avoid punishment here.
McArthur then cleared Fernandinho’s shot magnificently from under his own bar and behind. City would not be denied, however, and Toure set up a grandstand finish at Selhurst Park 12 minutes from time.
Substitute Samir Nasri put in a wonderful cross, which Dann sliced straight to the Ivorian, who beat Speroni on the half-volley. French creative force Nasri then went close himself, seeing a deflected effort drop just wide.
More backs to the wall defending from Palace followed, with Speroni making a fine reaction stop to keep out Toure’s looping attempt. This defeat is not just damaging for City’s slim prospects of retaining their title, but manager Manuel Pellegrini personally in his bid to remain in the job.
After a weekend where top four rivals Arsenal and Manchester United both won, and ahead of derby day at Old Trafford this coming weekend, City’s crisis deepens, so a summer of sweeping change could be accelerated by what might be a definitive defeat at the Red Devils.
The last word has to go Pardew’s soaring Eagles, their gutsy defending, and an admittedly smash and grab performance here. Everyone connected with Palace should be like the club’s song suggests; glad all over.