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  • By Yann Tear at Selhurst Park

Gritty Eagles give frustrated leaders Man City another shutout headache

Crystal Palace (0) 0

Manchester City (0) 0

For the second time this season, Patrick Vieira’s defiant Eagles thwarted league leaders Man City to underline their ability to frustrate and challenge the very best.

They returned from the Etihad in late October with an improbable 2-0 victory and here again they found a way of making life excruciatingly difficult for Pep Guardiola’s side.

Not many teams achieve a clean sheet against City. The Eagles have managed it twice this campaign to damage their title hopes. A lead at the top that was 12 points is now down to four, with second-placed Liverpool having a game in hand.

Palace were not merely resilient and organised in defence either. They had pace on the break and an ability to force Man City into errors high up the field.

On a number of occasions, it only needed a little more composure and it would have been the perfect night for the south Londoners, who grew in belief as the night wore on – as did the Holmesdale Road end. The decibels rose as the prospect of another fine result began to come into focus.

At times, they did ride their luck. Joao Cancelo slammed a rasping drive against an upright and it needed a few fine reflex saves from Vicente Guaita to keep the visitors out.

But if one moment summed up the feeling this was going to be a good night for Palace, it came just before the hour mark when Jack Grealish fed Kevin De Bruyne in the inside left channel and the Belgian’s shot across Guaita came back off the far post.

Riyad Mahrez, steaming in, looked a certain scorer from the rebound, but the Eagles stopper threw up his arms to block the follow up.

There always seemed hope of a goal for the Eagles. Dithering by Kyle Walker almost gifted them an opener – the ball was worked to by Jean-Philippe Mateta to Michael Olise, who stabbed wide of the far post. It was the second time they had wrestled possession to spring an attack.

Late on, Wilfried Zaha spun around John Stones and rifled at Ederson and Conor Gallagher almost nipped in after a weak Stones back header – sending a final shot from an angle over the bar.

City had big chances though. When a shot from De Bruyne was spilled by Guaita, Bernardo Silva, following up, should have profited, but a heavy touch took the ball into touch.

A clever flicked volley from close range by De Bruyne was tipped over by the Eagles keeper, then City came even closer when a rasping drive from 30 yards from Cancelo rattled back off an upright – too quick for Aymeric Laporte to make anything of the rebound.

Jack Grealish worked the ball in from the left-hand byline and Riyad Mahrez pinged another effort at goal which Guaita was again well positioned to stop and there was another heart-stopping moment when a Grealish cross was stabbed wide from close range by Silva, who failed to make proper contact.

Palace have now lost only once in nine matches since the home defeat to City’s title rivals Liverpool. They are a thrilling work in progress under their astute manager.

Eagles: (4-2-3-1) Guaita – Clyne, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell – Kouyate, Schlupp – Olise (J Ayew 65), Gallagher, Zaha – Mateta (Edouard 65). Subs not used: Butland, Ward, Tompkins, Eze, Matthews, Benteke, Edouard, Riedewald

City: (4-3-3) Ederson – Walker, Stones, Laporte, Cancelo – De Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo Silva – Mahrez, Foden, Grealish. Subs not used: Ake, Sterling, Gundogan, Gabriel Jesus, Zinchenko, Steffen, Fernandinho, Carson, Mbete

Attendance: 25,309


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