Another match down 2 goals, and another match that City get points from. This time Pep Guardiola’s side take all three points after 0-2 at halftime to Crystal Palace.
On a beautiful late summer afternoon in Manchester the Sky Blues took to the Etihad pitch to face Patrick Vieira’s Palace. The Eagles had held City scoreless in two matches during the last campaign having beaten the eventual Champions the first and drawn the second. This Palace side was without top scorer Wilfried Zaha, however and there were some questions coming in from where the goals would come.
That questions was answered all to early for Pep’s liking. An early free kick from the right side, just outside the City penalty area, ricocheted through the box before finally glancing off John Stones’(4’, OG) knee and into Ederson’s net. A shock goal to be sure, and the case can be made that the effort could have been better defended.
The Sky Blues dominated the ball throughout the first half, and all credit goes to Vieira's defensive set up. The Eagles frustrated the City attack despite the hosts having better than 80% possession for much of the first stanza. There were very few counter attacking moments coming for Palace as the remained pinned in their own end. Until they weren’t.
A quick counter down the right hand side produced a corner kick for Palace. A second consecutive poorly defended set piece produced a similar result for City. The corner came swiftly to the center of the box where Joachim Andersen(21’) found himself virtually unmarked. Andersen’s header sailed past Ederson and scraped the back of the net to the stunned silence of the Etihad crowd.
Again City would have the lion’s share of the ball, and again they were unable to find any cracks in the Palace defence. The Manchester Blues mounted probing attack after attack, but were continuously frustrated by Palace. At the half time whistle City were facing an all too familiar 2-goal deficit and had yet to put a shot on target.
The second half began with Manchester City looking to write a different story. No changes to the line-up were made coming out of the dressing room, and things were looking much the same as the previous half. Ilkay Gundogan and Julian Alvarez could be spotted warming up in earnest along the touch line and looked to be coming on early. And then, what had been a slow, methodical build up became a sudden strike into the back of the Crystal palace net from Bernardo Silva(53’), his 50th in a City shirt.
The game was now on. But still trailing 1-2, Pep brought on Gundo, and La Arna for Riyadh Mahrez and Joao Cancelo in the 61st minute. With the substitution, the shape changed as well. City switched to a back three of Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, and Stones, and Bernardo moved to the right wing as Phil Foden made way on the left for Alvarez and slid into the midfield. City were now effectively playing a 3-4-3, and it made all the difference.
Within a minute of the switch in tactics, City worked the new shape into a menacing attack that culminated with a sumptuous cross into the box by Foden that Erling Haaland(62’) headed deftly past Palace keeper Vicente Guaita. City were now level, and their Norwegian striker was fully involved.
The previously worried Etihad faithful were now, once again in full voice as they urged City forward to find the go-ahead goal. They wait would not be long. The Blues once again pinned Palace in their box and began methodically breaking them down. A lovely piece of team play produced a Silva pass to Stones in the box who in turn laid the ball off to the left side of the goal where Haaland(70’) calmly deposited it into the open net.
HAALAND AGAIN 3-2 CITEHH— Bitter and Blue (@BitterandBlue1) August 27, 2022
Haaland again indeed. And with 2 in the bag already, the famously dubbed Nordic Meat Shield went hunting his first Premier League hat trick. City were now in front, but with only one goal separating them from the London visitors the attack continued to push for another. And they would find it on the counter attack, After repelling Crystal Palace’s attempt to equalize, the ball found Gundogan in the Palace end. The City captain slotted a slick through ball into Haaland’s(81’) path. Erling used his strength to hold off Joel Ward and best Guaita for his 3rd.
Pep would then bring Sergio Gomez on to replace Haaland and restore the back 4. Gomez, on his Premier League debut, contributed nicely to City’s effort to see the game out. The Blues threatened for a fifth, but it never materialized. None the less, Man City once again had come back form 2 goals down to collect points. It is the 5th time the have done so in their last 7 PL matches. Not a recipe for success going forward, but it was good enough to win the day once again.
Haaland was given the Man of the Match honors, and he clearly deserved it. The performance should give Pep reason to consider playing Alvarez and Haaland together more often as the pair were a clear problem for the Palace defense. Next up for the Blues, a Wednesday visit from newly promoted Nottingham Forest. Crystal Palace return to Selhurst Park to host Brentford on Tuesday.