MAN CITY 1, CRYSTAL PALACE 0
Manchester City went top of the Barclay’s Premier League but it was far from a championship display against lowly Crystal Palace.
Edin Dzeko’s goal midway through the second half was all that separated the teams at the Etihad Stadium as plucky Palace so nearly dented City’s perfect home record.
City made it 10 successive home league victories following a laboured display, though Palace came close to snatching a point their performance merited.
Indeed, it was a measure of how well Palace did that City keeper Joe Hart was named man of the match as he produced a string of fine saves to keep the South London side at bay.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini spoke of the need to grind out victories when not playing at their best as they made it 22 points from a possible 24.
“It is important this team knows how to win 1-0,” he explained.
Pellegrini, who made six changes following the Boxing Day win against Liverpool, added that he didn’t underestimate Palace.
He said: “We knew it would be difficult and it was hard to play 48 hours after Liverpool when we knew we weren’t fresh.
“It is also very difficult when only one team wants to play and they had 10 players in the box.”
Pulis denied his side was negative saying: “Didn’t they make Joe Hart man of the match?
“I was delighted with the commitment and effort. We looked solid and were dangerous on the break creating some great opportunities.
“We need to turn the 1-0 defeats into draws or even victories.”
Yaya Toure, Alvara Negredo, Samir Nasri, Joleon Lescott and Aleksandar Kolarov were all on the bench while Pablo Zabaleta did not feature.
Pellegrini called up Gael Clichy, Matija Nastasic and Dedryck Boyata to their defence, Javi Garcia and James Milner to midfield and Dzeko to the front line.
After the exhilarating football and electrifying atmosphere against Liverpool, it was decidedly flat, both on and off the field.
Dzeko, Silva and Milner all fired wide in a low-key opening and it was not until midway through the opening that Palace keeper Julian Speroni was called into action making a routine diving save to keep out a long-range drive from Vincent Kompany.
Milner and Silva both had shots deflected for corners as City searched to make a breakthrough.
There was a lengthy stoppage when Hart was hurt bravely saving at the feet of Cameron Jerome who came off worst as he limped off with an injured left knee.
Hart, who received treatment to a nasty gash above his left eye, continued with Costel Pantilimon ready to come on if needed.
City had a great chance to take the lead in the 44th minute when Silva and Dzeko set up Fernandinho but the Brazilian shot over.
And in stoppage time Fernandinho went close again as his header was superbly tipped over by bar by Speroni.
Palace grew in confidence and twice in quick succession they could have snatched an unlikely lead.
Hart pulled off a fine save low to his left to turn a shot from Jason Puncheon round the post for a corner from which substitute Marouane Chamakh headed just over from six yards.
City badly needed new ideas and 10 minutes after the restart Negredo and Nasri made their entrance replacing Fernandinho and Boyata.
Puncheon twice went close again cutting in from the right before his shot curled just wide of the upright and then Hart did well to turn over a dipping shot from Mile Jedinak.
After enjoying their best spell of the match, Palace then fell behind midway through the second period when Jesus Navas cut the ball back from the right for Dezko to blaze high into the top corner from 12 yards, his 10th goal of the season.
Palace were far from dispirited and Joel Ward brought a fine save from Hart low to his left as he came within a whisker of equalising.
City were far from comfortable though in the 90th minute Dzeko went close to doubling their advantage when his header landed on the roof of the net.