Manchester City got back to winning ways on Saturday evening with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Two first half goals in a matter of minutes from Gabriel Jesus and David Silva gave City a relatively straightforward victory over this season’s surprise package to temporarily close the gap on runaways league leaders Liverpool to five points.
Withe the Reds in such imperious form heading into their match against struggling Manchester United on Sunday, City knew they needed to bounce back from defeat against Wolves last time out as they look to defend their Premier League crown.
The Eagles unexpectedly found themselves in the top six after a fine start to the season and actually had the opportunity to leapfrog City before kick off.
However, as the gulf in class became apparent, the Londoners were blown away by a ruthless display of attacking football and will perhaps be happy to have only conceded twice.
Pep Guardiola would have desperately wanted a reaction from his players but was already at a disadvantage before his side even arrived in the capital.
Already without Aymeric Laporte and John Stones not ready to start, the Manchester City manager was forced to rejig his backline further after Nicolas Otamendi reported back from International duty unfit and Kyle Walker was ruled out with illness.
The Premier League champions were forced to start with midfielders Rodri and Fernandinho at centre back, although a dominant first half performance meant that their makeshift defence was rarely troubled in the opening 45 minutes.
Early efforts from Raheem Sterling and David Silva were warning signs for a Palace side who would have fancied their chances on the night given their own impressive start to the campaign as well as their shock win over City last season.
The visitors focused much of their attacking play down the right hand side, putting in a number of teasing crosses which Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey seemed to display little confidence dealing with.
As the pressure intensified on the Palace goal, it was only a matter of time before City made the breakthrough.
In the absence of Sergio Aguero, Brazilian Jesus proved himself once again an able deputy, netting his 50th goal for the club six minutes before the break.
Again finding space on the right hand side, Bernardo Silva whipped a ball into the area for Jesus, whose glancing header left Hennessey rooted to the spot, finding its way into the back off the net by way of the far left hand post.
One instantly became two just a minute later. As Palace’s attempts to respond immediately broke down, Kevin De Bruyne picked up the ball on the edge of his own penalty area to start the counter attack.
Driving into opposition territory, the Belgian played the ball to Jesus who found a marauding Benjamin Mendy just outside the Palace box.
The Frenchman left the ball to Sterling and a delightful scoop by the England forward over the Palace defence found the run of David Silva to drill home first time through the legs of the helpless Hennessey.
Following that unexpected loss to Wolves last time out, Guardiola would have been glad to see his team convert their dominance into goals as they went in at half time two goals to the good.
Having failed to create a single chance in the first half, Palace knew they needed to do better after the break and the Eagles fashioned the first opportunity when the teams came back out. However, Cheikhou Kouyate ended a fine move with a wayward shot high into the stands from distance.
It didn’t take City too long to wrestle back control however, as Sterling missed two good chances to extend his side’s lead.
They might have had a penalty when Zaha appeared to clumsily bundle over De Bruyne in the area but the referee, and VAR, were unmoved.
Hennessey was then forced into a fine save from Jesus before good spell of Palace pressure saw City very briefly pushed onto the backfoot.
Substitute Christian Benteke almost halved the deficit from a corner but his powerful header was brilliantly pushed onto crossbar by Ederson in the City goal.
This seemed rile City as a raft of chances then followed. First, Jesus forced another save from Hennessey when a pass to give De Bruyne an open goal would have been the better option.
Sterling then snatched at an effort with his left foot, sending it wide after great work from David Silva, before De Bruyne’s close range header came back off the inside of Hennessey’s post.
Another chance soon went begging when Sterling failed to connect properly with Joao Cancelo’s low cross.
A rare Palace attack saw Zaha force Ederson into another fine save but it would certainly have been far more than the home side deserved.
The result sees City move back into second place following earlier wins for Leicester and Chelsea but still with work to do to catch Liverpool.
In a highly unlikely turn of events, their supporters may well now find themselves cheering on their crosstown rivals in Sunday’s huge clash at Old Trafford.
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