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  • By Alessandro Schiavone

Zaha and Gallagher stun City to win 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium


By Alessandro Schiavone at the Etihad Stadium


MANCHESTER CITY 0 – 2 CRYSTAL PALACE

Crystal Palace cruised to a shock 2-0 victory at Premier League champions Manchester City to end a streak of four consecutive draws.

Wilfried Zaha put the rampant Eagles ahead with a fine angled finish after six minutes before Conor Gallagher sealed the dramatic win in the 88th minute when he stroked an effort in off the post.

Once they went up, the Eagles had to dig deep to neutralize the hosts’ threats, but they did just that as the pendulum of luck finally swung in their favour after hapless draws against Arsenal and Newcastle, two games they should have won on the balance of play

And what a famous win this was. The odds were firmly stacked against a Palace victory today with City only losing once in their last 50 games on a Saturday at 3pm, also against Palace on December 2018. And Palace’s only goal in the first half this season came in injury-time.

And Zaha’s early strike was the first time Pep Guardiola’s men shipped a goal at home in the league this year.

Palace surprisingly took the lead six minutes after kick-off when Gallagher caught Aymeric Laporte in possession before he superbly combined with Zaha, who slotted a diagonal effort beyond the reach of Ederson with his weaker left foot to score his third league goal of the campaign. It was only Palace’s second first half goal all season with 11 of their 13 having been scored after the break.

Remarkably, Palace did their job in exquisite style as they closed City down and were good in transition thanks to Gallagher and James McArthur’s quick thinking and Kouyate’s ability to break the play and organise his team.

Zaha’s first start since his return from injury was also morale boosting news. The Ivorian outshone Kevin De Bruyne and was very lively throughout the game. He was even on the receiving end of a cynical challenge from Gabriel Jesus at the end of the first half as City’s frustrations were growing due to an inability to break down the visitors’ resolute and astute backline. City’s lack of quality in the final ball and abject end product helped, too but Palace were a tough nut to crack defensively and got barely stretched all game.

Just before half-time Laporte was sent off for denying Zaha a clear goalscoring opportunity. City were now not only a goal down but also a many shy as Palace’s first win here in three years gathered further pace.

Not deflated by finding themselves behind, City began the second half with more energy after looking miles off the pace and sloppy before the interval.

Rodri stroked Jack Grealish’s cutback over the bar before Marc Guehi’s free header from an inswinging Gallagher cross missed the target.

Zaha had a goal disallowed before the hour-mark before VAR judged Phil Foden offside in the build-up to Gabriel Jesus’ equaliser.

Ayew’s game was impacted following a yellow card in the first half but he had the chance to put enough daylight between the two teams when he slalomed through the City defence and cut inside only for a poor finish to deny Palace a second goal.

A minute later he was replaced by Benteke, whose hold-up play was exactly what Palace needed in that moment of the game to take the pace out of City’s game and hope to nick a second goal.

Not content with their slender lead, Palace turned the screw on City but Ederson made a fine save to keep out Gallagher’s shot.

Guardiola then threw the dice when he brought on Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez in a double substitution. But Palace stood firm and increased the lead through Gallagher who stroked the ball in off the post from substitute Michael Olise’s layoff.

In stoppage-time Mahrez’s glancing header from Sterling’s cross went wide as Palace recorded their most impressive win under Patrick Vieira, who clearly outsmarted his illustrious counterpart Pep.

So, how did former Man City Vieira outwit his counterpart Guardiola?

It’s too easy to say that everyone pulled in the same direction and they worked hard for one another. There was more to it as Palace defended stoutly throughout the game, and whenever Zaha and company counter-attacked, they ensured they would not lose their defensive structure and balance, making life difficult for City to play between the lines. They also limited Guardiola’s men to long-range efforts.

Palace knew they were not going to get much of the ball but they were good in transition, zoomed forward at full throttle, sliced through their opponents - all while being hard to break down at the back. Their game plan bore a striking resemblance to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, skippered by Vieira. Only a coincidence?

Man City Line-ups

13 Guaita- 2 Ward- 6 Guehi- 16 Andersen- 3 Mitchell- 8 Kouyate- 18 McArthur- 23 Gallagher- 9 Ayew- 22 Edouard- Zaha

Crystal Palace Line-ups

31 Ederson – 2 Walker- 3 Dias- 14 Laporte- 27 Cancelo- 16 Rodrigo- 17 De Bruyne- 20 Bernardo- 10 Grealish- 9 Jesus- 47 Foden




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