x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Manchester City grind out defeat of Crystal Palace to move atop Premier League

Manchester United into top six after winning at Norwich

Edin Dzeko, No 10, celebrates with his Manchester City teammates after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday. Andrew Yates / AFP
Edin Dzeko, No 10, celebrates with his Manchester City teammates after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday. Andrew Yates / AFP

Manchester City provisionally claimed top spot in the English Premier League on Saturday, grinding out a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Edin Dzeko scored the only goal as Manchester City struggled to break down a dogged Crystal Palace defence. The Bosnian eventually got the breakthrough after 66 minutes, finding the back of the net from a Jesus Navas assist.

Crystal Palace put forth a determined display, looking much tougher to beat under new manager Tony Pulis. They ultimately succumbed, though, and would have stayed in the relegation zone had it not been for Fulham’s stunning 6-0 loss to Hull City.

Manchester City, meanwhile, moved to 41 points from 19 matches, two ahead of Arsenal but having played a game more.

Their cross-town rivals, Manchester United, needed a slice of luck to win 1-0 at relegation-threatened Norwich City. Half time substitute Danny Welbeck proved the difference for the visitors, taking advantage of a deflected ball in Norwich’s end and combining with Javier Hernandez before scooting past John Ruddy to score.

United rose into sixth place in the table on 34 points, level with fifth-place Everton but behind on goal difference and just two points off a Uefa Champions League place. Norwich stayed in 14th place on 19 points, just three above the relegation places.

Fulham hold the last relegation place, weighed down by a negative-22 goal difference. Their coach, Rene Meulensteen, came to regret making a series of changes from Thursday’s 2-1 win at Norwich. After a scoreless first half, Hull enjoyed a fruitful second 45 minutes.

Ahmed El Mohamady broke the deadlock four minutes after half time, and in the last 30 minutes, Robert Koren, George Boyd, Tom Huddlestone and Matt Fryatt all found the back of the net – Koren twice – to run out comfortable winners. Goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who was in doubt for the match, ended up having a quiet evening as Hull assumed 10th place with 23 points.

In London, while neither of the sides involved will be all that pleased with the result, the 3-3 draw between West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion was a treat for the neutrals.

Quick flurries of goals in each half breathed life the contest between teams in the lower third of the Premier League. Joe Cole gave West Ham the lead after just four minutes, but Nicolas Anelka turned the match on its head just before half time.

The Frenchman levelled in the 40th minute off an assist from Chris Brunt and gave West Brom the lead a minute into added time, scoring from close range after the hosts failed to clear a corner kick. Those goals were the first for Anelka at West Brom.

Boos rained down at the Boleyn Ground at the half time whistle, but those jeers turned to cheers after goals from Modibo Maiga and Kevin Nolan gave West Ham the lead again. Maiga equalised with a left-footed, 20-yard shot that fooled West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster, and Nolan found the net two minutes later, stabbing home after a scramble in the West Brom penalty area.

There was one last twist in the tale, though. Saido Berahino squeezed a shot from a narrow angle past Jussi Jaaskelainen, glancing it in off the far post in the 69th minute. He nearly wrapped up all three points for the visitors with an 82nd-minute free kick, only to watch it thud against the right upright and bounce clear.

The draw left West Ham in the bottom three and West Brom looking nervously over their shoulder at the drop zone.

Elsewhere, Aston Villa and Swansea City drew 1-1 at Villa Park. Gabriel Agbonlahor opened the scoring after seven minutes, only for Roland Lamah to equalise on 36 minutes.