Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

Manchester City back to their sublime best to keep the pressure on Liverpool

Goals from Jesus and David Silva narrow the gap at the top to five points

Manchester City's David Silva celebrates scoring his side's second goal at Crystal Palace. PA
Manchester City's David Silva celebrates scoring his side's second goal at Crystal Palace. PA

Slick, comfortable and back to their sublime best. Manchester City may require Liverpool to ease up from their astonishing start to the season, but if and when they do so, Pep Guardiola will be ready to pounce.

The international break can do teams a favour, and City's defeat at home to Wolves certainly felt like ancient history. Time to move on and look forward. Admittedly, a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace is not going to make Jurgen Klopp shudder just yet, but nontheless the ease in which they carried out their work suggests that all is well again with the champions, despite a Palace rally at the close.

The gap at the top is down to five points before Liverpool visit Manchester United today. And, of course, they still have to play each other twice. No, this title race is far from over.

First-half goals by Gabriel Jesus and David Silva - separated by just 95 seconds - did the damage. With a makeshift back four, it easily could have been a tricky evening for the visitors, but they were far too good to be unsettled.

Guardiola was certainly happy to start a week which includes Champions League football with a comfortable win. "After the international break to play here at Selhurst Park and create a lot of chances was good," he said.

"We played well and created a lot of chances but didn't score too many but we didn't concede. It's three points and we move forward."

City lined up with midfielders Fernandinho and Rodri at the heart of defence after Nicolas Otamendi suffered a knock while on international duty with Argentina.

Kevin De Bruyne returned following a groin injury to make his first outing of the month and he helped the visitors immediately dictate play.

The champions were camped inside the Palace half early on and Wayne Hennessey - in for the injured Vicente Guaita - was called into action in the 16th minute when he pushed away Bernardo Silva's curling effort.

Ilkay Gundogan almost caught out the Welshman five minutes later, but the goalkeeper saved the 22-yard strike with his legs on his first league start since March.

A slip by Rodri allowed Wilfried Zaha the chance to stretch his legs soon after, but Raheem Sterling slide in to deny the Ivory Coast winger a clear run into the area.

Nevertheless, the rare foray forward and a delay after Fernandinho suffered a clash of heads allowed Roy Hodgson's team to briefly disrupt City's flow. But the visitors remained on top in the possession stakes and finally made it count six minutes before half-time.

Bernardo Silva was afforded some time on the right and cut inside before picking out Jesus and he stooped low and headed in via the post to score his 50th goal for City.

It was perfect timing for Guardiola's men and it took them 95 more seconds to make it 2-0 in front of the Homesdale Stand.

City counter-attacked at pace and De Bruyne carried the ball forward before play switched to Sterling and he provided a delightful scooped ball over the top of James Tomkins and Joel Ward for David Silva to run on to and volley expertly between Hennessey's legs.

With 41 minutes on the clock, it looked like it could now be a long night for Palace, but they started brightly after the break and Cheikhou Kouyate fired over from a promising position four minutes into the second period.

Sterling, who had six goals in six games against Palace before this fixture, should have added to that tally, but hit a post from inside the area and then skewed wide moments later.

Christian Benteke entered the pitch with 16 minutes left and nearly found the net with his first touch, but Ederson produced a magnificent save to tip the header on to the crossbar.

De Bruyne hit a post not long after and Sterling swept wide from eight yards before Zaha had a fierce drive saved, but City comfortably saw out the final exchanges.

Palace bos Roy Hodgson said: "I thought we worked unbelievably hard and we came across a Manchester City in top form. We can't have any complaints really. I was proud of the way we fought and kept going when it was going against us."

Updated: October 19, 2019 11:09 PM

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