Palace Conquer Naive Man City

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Updated: April 6, 2015

glenn murrayHeroic defending and a Jason Puncheon wonder strike put paid to a wasteful Manchester City and their challenge for the title.

Failing to capitalise on a steady first half an hour going forward, the Blues allowed themselves to be undone from a set piece and a goal either side of half time left them a mountain to climb.

For city, missing only Wilfried Bony from a strong attacking lineup, this was a clear make-or-break clash for their title ambitions.

For a Palace team high on confidence it became clear right from the off they would get stuck into their opponents and hit them on the break, showing the tenacious spirit that has all but guaranteed their Premier League future.

They almost undid City on two minutes as Kelly slipped a perfect ball from the left flank into the six yard box that Zaha couldn’t quite convert on the stretch.

Joe Hart then almost provided a wonder assist for Agüero on eight minutes, but from the eagle-eyed kick-out he could only find Silva, who fired into Speroni.

A staunch defensive performance from Palace continued throughout the first half with the only real danger coming from moments of individual skill by Agüero and Silva, as both shifted the ball out of their quick feet on the edge of the area to shoot down low, the former striking the upright.

Palace, as ever, were happy to let their opponents have the lion’s share of possession, pressing quickly to frustrate the City attack.

This was typified by Zaha and Kelly’s tracking back to help their wing backs, and it became quickly obvious that City needed to find a way to unlock the gate and press home their attacking advantage.

Like so many times this season City failed to capitalise. An improperly defended set piece on 34 minutes led to the Palace sucker punch, when Glenn Murray finished from point-blank range after Dann’s shot deflected into his path off Joe Hart.

The tiniest hint of offside did not deter Murray from celebrating his fifth goal in as many games.

Palace kept about their business for the remainder of the half, snuffing out danger and not allowing City to play their natural game.

A wild lash by Yaya Toure from outside the box showed signs of frustration creeping in just before the half-time whistle.

The second half could not have started worse. When most wondered if Palace could sustain another 45 minutes of high-energy pressing, they were handed an instant opportunity to ease their worries.

Fernandinho gave away a silly free kick by barging Murray over near the edge of the area, and Jason Puncheon duly stepped up to curl an absolute peach over the wall and into the bottom corner of the scrambling Hart’s net. Pellegrini cut a forlorn figure in the dugout and his expression needed no explanation.

The uphill climb for City was marred further when the goalscorer Puncheon had several items thrown at him from the away end while taking a corner, something the FA will no doubt review this week.

City threatened little, and apart from a wondrous goal-line clearance from James McArthur on 72 minutes, it was only Palace on the break who looked like scoring.

Then on 78 minutes Yaya Toure, who had until that point typified City’s petulant response to going two down, latched onto a loose ball to lash home a bullet from 19 yards.

Sparked into life, City then posed a constant threat on Palace’s goal, with Toure and Nasri both going close. It proved too little, too late though as Palace continued to defend heroically and held out for a famous win, one which will see City fighting just to finish second.

They will bemoan the offside for Palace’s first goal and complain that they should have had a penalty when Murray handled in the box in the second half, but ultimately City have no-one to blame but themselves, failing to carve out their trademark openings in opposition defenses and learning very few lessons from their six losses this campaign.

Going into next weekend, the Red side of Manchester will be licking its lips.

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