Crystal Palace 0 Manchester City 2

FA Premier League
Sunday 27 April 2014, 16.10 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Milner, Garcia, Toure (Fernandinho 66), Nasri, Dzeko (Negredo 88), Aguero (Jovetic 78)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Clichy
Goals: Dzeko (4), Toure (43)
Booked: Zabaleta

Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the Match: Javi Garcia

Zabaleta crunches into a challenge.

Zabaleta crunches into a challenge.

What a funny old game football can be. After a defeat to Liverpool and a draw with Sunderland, the title was but a pipe dream for City fans – but after Chelsea’s win at Anfield and the Blues’ visit to Crystal Palace, it’s now back in their own hands.

As has been a feature of City’s games, it was them who made the brighter start – and had an early goal to match. Aguero was close to getting in behind, while a Zabaleta low cross was cut out, before the ball fell to Toure on the edge of the box. He crossed well for Dzeko, who had slipped in between the two central defenders, and his header powered past the goalkeeper.

The visitors were almost in again a moment later, as a short backpass was intercepted by Aguero as Speroni came to close down the angle. The Argentine was forced wide and couldn’t find the gap through to goal – in the end the goalkeeper managed to get the ball behind.

With just over 20 minutes gone, City were close to doubling their lead. First, Zabaleta got in behind on a floated ball by Toure, but he couldn’t generate power on his header, so chose to square for Aguero. It wouldn’t sit up for him to shoot, though, and, as it came out to Milner, the cross was deflected behind. Kompany’s free header from the corner was a just wide from six yards.

City wanted a penalty with 10 minutes of the half to play, but it would have been harsh: Toure’s shot from the edge of the box was blasted towards goal and it caught Delaney on the arm in front of his chest. He was close to the shot, though, and the referee rightly played on.

As half time approached, City doubled their lead. A one-two between Toure and Nasri sent the Ivorian clean through. He took a bad first touch and got the ball caught under his feet, but had the awareness and strength to power through and knock it back onto his left foot inside. As the goalkeeper came out, he curled it into the top corner on his weaker foot.

Milner battles to win back possession.

Milner battles to win back possession.

City came out for the second half sloppily – the hosts had the initiative from the off and, in the first minute, forced Hart into his first save of the match. Puncheon fired an effort from the edge of the box that might have crept it and, being unsure, the goalkeeper touched it behind. He was then off his line quickly to punch the resulting corner clear.

A marauding run from Toure down the right, after he was set free by Dzeko in the centre of midfield, came close to picking out Aguero in the middle as he’d powered his way down the flank. He tried to cross low, but it was cut out by Dann en route to the Argentine.

With 20 minutes to play, Aguero went close with an outside-of-the-foot shot from inside the box on a quick breakaway – Milner fed it back inside and allowed the striker to get a shot in. Dzeko went close from the other corner of the box a moment later, as his effort took a deflection and almost sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. Speroni, though, was able to stick out a foot to make the save.

The hosts tried to pile pressure on the City goal in the closing stages, but the visitors were firm in defence, with little getting through to Hart. It was a vital three points for Pellegrini’s men, who can now take the title should they win all three of their remaining games.

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