Though the odds were already long before their Premier League clash between Crystal Palace on Monday, Manchester City’s title hopes appear to be completely dead following their latest slip-up, a 2-1 defeat at Selhurst Park.
Wilfried Zaha nearly put the hosts ahead with just 61 seconds on the clock, as Martin Kelly’s left-footed cross evaded Joe Hart and found Zaha all alone at the far post, but the 22-year-old’s shot was blazed over the bar, letting the Man City defense off the hook.
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Manuel Pellegrini’s side was slow to find their way going forward, but once they got going, Palace were under siege for the next 20 minutes. Joe Hart’s quick distribution past the halfway line put Sergio Aguero in on goal in the 12th minute. Aguero rounded goalkeeper Julian Speroni, squared the ball to David Silva, whose shot was tipped over the crossbar by the head of Speroni as he rushed back in front of goal.
Silva and Aguero linked up once again seven minutes, this time the connection in reverse. Silva found Aguero centrally, 20 yards out in traffic. Aguero created the half-yard of space he needed to unleash his shot, fired through traffic and smacked Speroni’s far post with the ball rebounding back into play.
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The game’s first goal came in the 34th minute, when Scott Dann’s first-time shot was saved by the leg of Hart, but deflected into the path of Glenn Murray who was lurking at the back post, perhaps just in front of Martin Demichelis. Murray calmly put his foot through the ball and the hosts were on top, completely against the run of play (more than 2-to-1 possession held by City at that point).
The second half began just as poorly for City as the first half ended, as Jason Puncheon doubled Palace’s lead less than three minutes into the second period. Puncheon lifted his curling free kick from 25 yards out up and over the wall, then dropped the bottom out of it to beat Hart low and inside his left-hand post. (Current possession ratio: nearly 3-to-1 in favor of City)
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City continued their dominance of possession through the second half, but failed to create anything with it, until the 71st minute. With 19 minutes left to play, Fernandinho saw his left-footed shot deflected by Yannick Bolasie, but the ball remained goalbound before Murray seemed to intentionally knock the ball down with a raised hand. No penalty given.
Fernandinho saw another chance go begging two minutes later, as James McArthur somehow managed to clear his effort and lift the ball over the crossbar from a yard and a half out.
The breakthrough finally came for City in the form of Yaya Toure’s thunderous, left-footed strike from the edge of the penalty area. Toure hit the ball hard and low, around Speroni as it nestled itself just inside the far post. With 78 minutes left to play, City’s entire season was given a lifeline but the miracle of the 2011-12 season’s final day wasn’t to be recreated on this night in south London.
With their latest disappointing defeat, City now find themselves nine points off the pace of leaders and champions-elect, Chelsea, who still have a game in hand. Palace have leapfrogged Everton for 11th place, just three points below Stoke City for a place in the top half of the Premier League.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Kelly, McArthur, Ledley, Puncheon, Bolasie (Souare 84′), Zaha (Gayle 88′), Murray (Sanogo 83′)
Goals: Murray (34′), Puncheon (48′)
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Navas (Nasri 77′), Fernandinho (Milner 88′), Toure, Silva, Dzeko (Lampard 66′), Aguero
Goal: Toure (78′)