MAN CITY 0, CRYSTAL PALACE 2
Patrick Vieira made a triumphant return to his former club as Crystal Palace put a massive dent in Manchester City’s Premier League title defence.
Palace’s new manager masterminded a stunning victory through goals from Wilfried Zaha and Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher.
It was Palace’s second win at City in four seasons as Vieira followed on from Roy Hodgson whose side recorded a memorable 3-2 victory in December 2018.
City, despite enjoying 68 per cent possession, were out of sorts and rarely looked like scoring as they fired back-to-back blanks following the midweek goalless game at West Ham in the Carabao Cup.
This was City’s first league loss since the opening day of the season when they went down at Tottenham as they are third and five points behind leaders Chelsea.
And to add to their woes, City had central defender Aymeric Laporte sent off in first-half stoppage time.Embed from Getty Images
City manager Pep Guardiola admitted it was destined not to be and failed to blame the sending off.
He said: “It could be yellow or red. It was the decision by the boss, the referee.
“We did not lose because of that. We did the processes right, but we were unable to win.
“We conceded an early goal and played well in the first 45 minutes. The players showed character and had a number of chances, but it didn’t happen.
Vieira, whose side had drawn its four previous games, said: “I knew we were close to winning football matches, but knew that was not enough.
“It is important not to concede goals and today we worked hard and took our chances.
“Coming to City, we knew we were not going to have a lot of possession. We had to work hard and couldn’t afford to have one player who didn’t defend.
“Today I saw a side of the team I had not seen before.”
“And even when it was 10 against 11, we created more chances than them and played with three at the top.”
Guardiola praised Palace for the way they defended and for goalkeeper Vicente Guaita taking the momentum out of the game as he slowed play.
Zaha said: “It was about getting in their faces and not letting them play. We know how good they are, we wanted to show them what we could do.
“I scuffed it but a goal is a goal. I was just buzzing to see it go in, so I was happy. Conor Gallagher brings a lot of energy and I needed people to link up with and it makes a mass difference when he helps out.
“I feel like we have had a threat, but the difference now is that we keep the ball from the back and build and make our chances. We are exploiting our talent.
“He (Vieira) knows what he is talking about, and we have all seen him do it. It’s surreal because he was an amazing player. Every player is buying into it and slowly the results will come.”
Guardiola made one change from last weekend’s 4-1 win at Brighton for his 200th Premier League game in charge as Kevin de Bruyne replaces Ilkay Gundogan.
The Belgian and Kyle Walker were the only survivors from the team that lost on penalties at West Ham in the Carabao Cup in midweek, with Raheem Sterling once again having to settle for a place among the substitutes.
Palace, meanwhile, made three changes for the trip to Etihad Stadium as Patrick Vieira dropped Christian Benteke to the bench despite the Belgian’s goal in the 1-1 draw against Newcastle last Saturday.
Wilfried Zaha, who came on as a substitute in that game, was fit enough to start, while Jordan Ayew and Cheikhou Kouyate also returned as Luka Mililojevic and Michael Olise made way.
Both managers laid a wreath pitchside, there was one minute’s silence and the sounding of the Last Post before kick-off as this was the last home league game before Remembrance Sunday.
Much was hyped pre-match about City having not conceded a home Premier League goal this season and 11 home league games without letting in a first-half goal.
Those stats disappeared in the sixth minute when Palace snatched the lead.
Laporte lost possession in the middle of the pitch and Gallagher threaded a pass to release Zaha who slotted home his fourth of the season and 50th Premier League goal low to the left of Ederson.
It was Zaha’s first goal against City in 14 matches.
City, despite having 73 per cent first-half possession, created little against a well organised Palace defence.
And as the half progressed, City became increasingly frustrated as did their fans, especially with the time wasting of Guaita.
City’s task became even tougher in first half stoppage time when Laporte was sent off for hauling down Zaha when he turned him about 35 yards from goal.
VAR confirmed the decision which was for ‘denial of a goalscoring opportunity’.
Tempers became fractured in added time as Bernardo Silva was also booked for scything down Zaha. And after the half-time whistle sounded, there was a flare up between players from both sides with Ederson following him into the book and Bernardo dragged away from the officials by a member of City’s backroom staff as they had lost their discipline.
City continued to labour and just short of the hour the out-of-sorts Kevin De Bruyne was replaced by John Stones.
Moments later City were celebrating, but it was short-lived as Jesus’ equaliser was subsequently ruled out for offside following a VAR check.
Phil Foden floated a delightful cross to the far post where Jesus beat Guaita to the ball, but he had strayed offside.
Zaha had early in the half had another goal ruled out for offside and Palace remained a threat as Ayew broke away on the right, cut inside but blazed wide when he ought to have hit the target.
Gallagher had a great chance to double the lead, but Ederson made a fine save low to his lefy.
Guardiola was forced to throw caution to the wind as with 12 minutes left Joao Cancelo and Grealish made way for Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling.
Palace sealed victory in the 88th minute following a well-executed goal.
Zaha retrieved an over-hit cross on the left and fed substitute Michael Olise who squared a pass to Gallagher to fire home from 12 yards in off the upright for his second goal of the season.
City heads went down as fans began streaming from the stadium with the realisation they had suffered a rare home defeat.
Mahrez had the chance to score a consolation goal in the fifth and final minute of added time as he headed wide from Sterling’s cross, a chance that summed up a frustrating and disappointing afternoon.