Manchester City came up against a hugely resilient Crystal Palace at the Etihad on Saturday, as Manuel Pellegrini’s side labored to their tenth-straight Premier League win at home this season to go top of the PL standings.
Edin Dzeko’s second half goal was the difference between the two teams, after City failed to make their first half dominance show and Palace forced the excellent Joe Hart into several top class stops — two from Jason Puncheon and a cracker from Joel Ward — in the second half.
But the Eagles came up just short as City were relieved to take all three points and go top of the table.
With the win, the Citizens are now in first with a two-point lead over second-placed Arsenal, while Palace are in 17th and out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
Early on Manchester City were well on top as Dzeko struck wide after Silva played him through superbly, as Crystal Palace’s defense continued to retreat.
That trend would continue for the rest of the first half as Palace were quite content to retreat and let City have the lions share of possession.
However Yannick Bolasie was causing plenty of problems on Palace’s left and in the 14th minute he cut inside and dragged an effort just wide of Hart’s right hand post. In the 20th minute Jame Milner flashed a shot just over the bar as City continued to press for the opening goal against a defiant Eagles side.
Moments later Milner flashed in an effort on goal which was deflected wide as City continued to crank up through the gears.
In the 28th minute Hart and Cameron Jerome both needed treatment after John Parr’s ball caused a collision in the box between both players. Hart’s brave save saw him get a nasty gash above his eye as he carried on but Jerome had to leave the pitch and was replaced by Marouane Chamakh.
In the 43rd minute Fernandinho skipped past his marker but smashed a left footed effort over the bar as City racked up 18 first half efforts but just two were on target. Minutes later the Brazilian saw his header tipped over by Julian Speroni as City continued to crank up the heat.
Time after time City piled forward but Palace’s resolute defense stood firm as the score was 0-0 at half time.
After the break Puncheon forced Hart into a magnificent stop as the winger struck from 30-yards out and from the resulting corner Chamakh headed just over the bar as Palace looked to go ahead.
City responded by bringing on Alvaro Negredo and Sami Nasri off the bench but Puncehon almost scored another beauty which flashed wide of the post, then Mile Jedinak saw his effort tipped over and some nervy defending meant City were living life dangerously as Palace pushed them back.
But just as Palace looked to be on top, City broke free and Dzeko smashed home from close range after 66 minutes to put the Citizens 1-0 up. Yet no sooner had City taken the lead than Palace looked like equalizing, as Joel Ward was first denied by the superb Hart and then put a header from close range wide of the post.
City looked dangerous on the break for the remainder of the game, but plucky Palace kept attacking as they searched for a way back into the game.
However that was to no avail, as Pellergini’s side held on go top of the table with a two-point lead over Arsenal in second as the Gunners play on Sunday.
Manchester City: Hart, Boyata (Negredo, 55), Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Garcia, Fernandinho (Nasri, 55), Navas, Silva, Milner (Kolarov, 75), Dzeko
Goal: Dzeko (66)
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Gabbidon, Delaney, Parr, Ward, Jedinak, Bannan (Gayle, 81), Puncheon, Bolasie (Williams, 76), Jerome (Chamakh, 35)