Manchester City’s nightmare week ended with Aymeric Laporte sent off and defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace. Wilfried Zaha and Conor Gallagher gave the Eagles a deserved victory at the Etihad Stadium as City failed to keep up with league leaders Chelsea.
The blues went into the match on the back of their League Cup exit to West Ham in midweek. The four times consecutive winners lost their penalty shoot-out after failing to break down a resolute Hammers defence at the London Stadium, and in the match against Palace, they found an equally stubborn backline.
Manager Pep Guardiola, taking charge of his 200th game for City, made nine changes to the midweek team, with only Kyle Walker and Kevin de Bruyne retaining their places in the starting line-up. However, they were unable to break through the Palace defence, with the visitors happy to soak up the inevitable pressure from the home side.
Palace’s only defeats this season have been to City’s title rivals, Chelsea and Liverpool and had only won one of their matches so far. Their total number of accumulated points did not reflect the level of performance they have put into their matches, particularly at Arsenal, when they were so close to victory.
Manager Patrick Vieira, City’s former EDS coach, would have no doubt had a slight worry when Zaha gave the Eagles the lead in the sixth minute. The goal came from a rare mistake in the City defence between Laporte and Ruben Dias. The Spanish international’s pass fell well short and Zaha’s touch took the ball away from the sliding Dias to find Gallagher.
The Palace man brought the ball forward and, with City chasing shadows, played the ball back to Zaha. The former United striker’s attempt wasn’t the most cleanly hit, but it was enough to guide the ball beyond Ederson to give the visitors the lead.
It was the first Premier League goal conceded at the Etihad this season and it left the faithful stunned into silence. City rallied, but couldn’t find a way through the defence, but when they did, Palace threw people in front of the ball like their lives depended on it.
And when City did get through, visiting keeper Vincent Guaita, who conceded four on his last trip to City, was in good form to prevent Rodri from equalising. City’s inability to score was again highlighting the need for the blues to pursue a striker, possibly in the January transfer window, with Erling Haaland still being cited as a target.
Things worsened for the blues when Laporte was dismissed just before half time. Zaha’s turn saw the striker evade Laporte, and the defender dragged him down to prevent him racing away, only to receive a red card for his efforts.
Things threatened to get out of hand as first Bernardo Silva and then Ederson went into the book, and there was a real feeling that City could end the game with even less than ten men.
City picked up the pace in the second half, but still looked lethargic, and they thought they had levelled the scores on 61 minutes, Phil Foden’s magnificent cross into the area was met at the far post by Gabriel Jesus, who tucked home off the post. But City’s old enemy, VAR, raised its head and declared Foden offside in the build-up and the goal was chalked off.
City continued to press and brought on Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez to try and force the issue, but they too were unable to unlock the Palace defence. And in true typical City style, they conceded again near the end to finish the game and give the points to Palace.
City were stretched at the back and City’s tormentor Zaha was played through inside the penalty area. His ball across the box found substitute Michael Olise, and his first job was to set up an unmarked Gallagher to rifle home off the inside of the post.
A second defeat in four days for City and a first of the season at home, and the blues must now prepare for the visit of Club Bruges on Wednesday, before making the trip out of Manchester to face the Stretford Rangers at Old Trafford.
Final Score: Manchester City 0-2 Crystal Palace