MAN CITY 2, CRYSTAL PALACE 3
If ever there was a coupon-busting result it was this one as Manchester City were beaten at home by lowly Crystal Palace.
City’s first home league loss since the derby defeat in April leaves Liverpool with a four-point lead going into Christmas.
It was a below-par display as City suffered a second league loss of the season, and both have come in the last three games.
Palace had a game plan they executed to perfection, even after City had taken the lead through Ilkay Gundogan.
They hit City with a deadly three-goal burst either side of the break from Jeffrey Schlupp, Andros Townsend and penalty from Luka Milivojevic.
Though City pulled a late goal back from substitute Kevin De Bruyne, they were unable to stage another of their late, late comebacks.Embed from Getty Images
City manager Pep Guardiola took the defeat on the chin. He said: “Congratulations to Crystal Palace and you cannot underestimate what they did and they deserve a lot of credit.
“We must think about the next one and we have to improve our quality and create more chances.”
Guardiola added his team created enough chances in the opening period pointing out Palace scored their opener on the first time they crossed the half-way line.
He continued: “After their third goal there was 10/15 minutes when it was not clear.
“We changed to three at the back, scored a second goal a bit late and had one or two more chances to score another.”
Palace manager Roy Hodgson was elated with the result and said: “To score three goals away against a team of this quality says a lot.
“It begs the question where have they (the players) been before?”
Hodgson added he always knew it would take “discipline, quality and workrate” if they were to have a chance of getting something from the game.
Palace’s manager added it rated very highly but not quite as much as Fulham’s 3-2 win at City which launched their great escape against relegation as they would have gone down had they lost, though he pointed out this was a far superior City side.
City had central defender John Stones operating in midfield as Brazilian Fernandinho was injured.
And they had plenty of firepower on the bench that included Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez.
Palace had Wilfried Zaha and James Tomkins back after suspension, two influential players at either end of the pitch.
Palace, who had lost all six previous Premier League visits with a goal difference of 21-1, could have been three down inside 10 minutes as City made a whirlwind start.
Fabian Delph’s 25-yard drive forced a fine save from keeper Vincente Guaita, Nicolas Otamendi’s header was cleared off the line and Leroy Sane shot into the side netting after a deadly burst down the left.
In the opening quarter of an hour City had 81-per-cent possession, an indication as to their dominance.
Bernardo Silva had a shot blocked and Sane shot straight at Guaita, but City just couldn’t make the breakthrough which finally came in the 27th minute.
Delph crossed from the left and Gundogan ghosted from deep to head past Guaita from eight yards.
City were stunned when Palace equalised in the 33rd minute.
James McArthur breezed past Stones to release Schlupp who ran from deep on the left past Kyle Walker and fired across keeper Ederson low in the far corner.
And it got even better when Palace went 2-1 ahead after 35 minutes.
Patrick van Aanholt’s free kick was eventually headed out by Bernardo Silva but only as far as Townsend who found the net with a volley, a screamer from 30 yards into the top corner.
City made a change five minutes into the second half as Aguero replaced Nicolas Otamendi as Stones dropped back into defence.
But the afternoon soon got worse for City who conceded a third goal.
Townsend headed against the upright from an Aaron Wan-Bissaka cross. As the ball ran across the face of goal, Walker tripped Max Meyer as he attempted to clear.
Milivojevic stepped up to score from the spot as City were left with a mountain to climb.
City desperately needed added firepower and in the 62nd minute defender Delph was replaced by front-man De Bruyne.
Guardiola played his last card with 21 minutes left when Sterling made way for Mahrez.
City came close to a second goal when Sane’s free kick from 30 yards hit the upright with keeper Guaita rooted to the spot.
A second goal came with five minutes left, but with a huge slice of luck as De Bruyne’s cross from the right looped over Guaita into the far top corner of the net.
City fans, who had been silent, suddenly came to life as they sensed a late comeback was still on the cards.
Jesus had a chance to equalise in the second of four added minutes – more than five were played – when he headed over from De Bruyne’s cross as City ran out of time to equalise.