CRYSTAL PALACE 2, MANCHESTER CITY 1
Manchester City will reflect on a disastrous Easter weekend with a pair of baffling refereeing decisions which ended with Manuel Pellegrini’s side dropping to fourth place in the Premier League behind Arsenal and Manchester United.
City might have opened the scoring early on after a strong start, with Sergio Aguero hitting the post with a shot from outside the box after 19 minutes but they couldn’t convert their domination into goals.
Despite enjoying 74% of possession, City saw Palace score twice from only three shots on target while they themselves were restricted to four shots on target by a determined and organised Palace side.
City will look back on two injustices during this game which might have swayed the result, with a couple of offside calls in the lead-up to Glenn Murray’s opening goal for Palace from a corner after 34 minutes after Scott Dann’s shot had been saved by Joe Hart but Joe Ledley headed the ball back into the fray.
Murray later escaped a strong penalty shout for City with what seemed an obvious handball in the Palace area with little over 20 minutes to go. City players surrounded referee Michael Oliver to taunts of “Are you Chelsea in disguise?” to no avail despite earlier claims by Pellegrini that City players would never do that.
By then Jason Puncheon had already given Palace a 2-0 lead early in the second half with a superb free kick that beat a half hearted City wall after just 48 minutes.
“You’re getting sacked in the morning!” might have been the refrain from the home fans but there will be plenty to reflect on for Pellegrini after City floundered at the very ground that Liverpool’s own title challenge was effectively ended at last season.
Pellegrini will be glad that the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and Southampton couldn’t make much ground up over the weekend but that will be of little consolation as Louis Van Gaal could have the opportunity to pile insult onto injury next weekend when City visit Old Trafford for the Manchester derby.
Defeat there would only lend encouragement to the chasing pack that the ageing City side, who started only two outfield players under the age of 29, were now the most vulnerable of the top four after a run of only five wins in 12 Premier League games this year.
Samir Nasri, a belated second half sub, laid on Yaya Toure’s consolation goal with 12 minutes to go. There was a brief flurry but there was to be no comeback for a City side whose title challenge has subsided since drawing level with title favourites Chelsea at the turn of the year.
Jose Mourinho’s side are now nine points ahead of City, and seven ahead of second placed Arsenal with a game in hand and the title race looks over.