A wonder volley from Andros Townsend was the pick of the bunch, as Crystal Palace ended Manchester City’s undefeated home record, with a thrilling 3-2 win. The Eagles are filled with festive cheer as they came back from a goal down to beat the incumbent Premier League champions, presenting Liverpool with their first Christmas gift of the year.
On their three previous trips to the Etihad, Palace had come away suffering heavy defeats, conceding 14 with no goals in reply. It looked like history would be repeated when Ilkay Gündogan opened the scoring for the home side, just before the half hour mark. A cross from Delph found the German international unmarked in the Palace box, and he finished with a simple header.
A spanner was thrown into the works five minutes later, when James McArthur won a 50/50 challenge on the edge of the City box, touching the ball to Jeffrey Schlupp, who found himself being forced wider by the pressing defenders. However, he drove the ball back across the goal, under the legs of Kyle Walker, and past Ederson in to the far bottom corner of the City goal to level it up.
Within a couple of minutes, came a moment of brilliance that sent the crowd inside the Etihad into a shared state of shock, when a poorly headed clearance from Bernardo Silva floated out to Townsend who watched it all the way onto his left foot. The result, was a goal of the season contending volley, that soared through the air and flew past the despairing Ederson to put Palace into a stunning 2-1 lead.
The euphoria amongst the travelling fans in the away end only grew larger, as Palace were awarded a penalty in the opening minutes of the second half. Wan-Bissaka made a bursting run down the right and sent the ball into the middle, where it was met with the head of Townsend who saw his effort rebound off the post from close range. The ball fell to the feet of Max Meyer who was brought down by Walker, gifting Palace captain Luka Milivojevic a chance to increase the visitors’ surprising lead. Which he duly did, confidently slotting the ball past Ederson.
City put the pressure on with chance after chance, Gündogan firing a shot narrowly wide and Sane striking the post from a free-kick. But, it was a moment of fortune that gave the home side a slight sniff of a chance of turning it around, when De Bruyne’s cross towards the back post was missed by Palace keeper Guaita and dropped into the far corner.
City continued to press for the equaliser, but as Jesus sent a header over the bar, the referee blew the whistle and secured the most stunning of victories for Crystal Palace.
Palace end Manchester hoodoo
The date was 22nd December, 1990. The venue was Main Road in Manchester. That was the last time that Crystal Palace won a league match in the city of Manchester. In the following night on three decades, the South London side had failed to come away from the city with the full three points. That was until, 28 years to the very day when Ian Wright helped Palace beat Man City 2-0, Palace upset the odds and finally came away as the winning side.
Since the 1990 win, Palace have made 23 trips for a league match in Manchester. Of those 23 games, they lost 17 and drew the remaining seven, conceding 33 goals in the process with just eight registered in response. With the level of opponents, especially in more recent times, it’s not exactly expected that now Palace will go on to have a winning streak in Manchester, simply because they’ve broken a 28 year old hoodoo. However, coupled with moving six points clear of the drop, it should give them the confidence and belief they need to take forward into important games, in a bid to stay away from the relegation scrap, starting at home on Boxing Day to Cardiff.
With that unexpected defeat, the second of their campaign, the defending champions now find themselves four points behind the Christmas leaders Liverpool, having played the same amount of games. The Merseyside club are the only remaining undefeated side in the Premier League, winning 15 of their 18 games this season.
The Citizens are now in a situation they haven’t been in a while, and thats playing catch-up. You have to worry for City’s next opponents, Leicester City on Boxing day, as they look to bounce straight back with one of their trademark emphatic wins. But, with the Foxes fresh off the back of beating fellow City conquerors Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the confidence will be booming, and they’ll be looking to claim another ‘Top Six’ scalp.
It is not long until they can take a huge step in closing that gap, when they meet each other at the Etihad, three days in to the New Year. When they met in the same fixture last season, City came out 5-0 winners thanks to a Sergio Aguero goal, and braces from Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane. On the current form of the side, it would be hard to imagine the result being the same, but if this match has shown anything, it’s that you never know what result will pop up next.
Townsend wonder goal…again
If it’s one thing that Andros Townsend does better than most in the league, is finding the sweet spot on a ball with his left foot. He has made a habit of scoring wondrous goals from outside the box, with his trademark cutting inside off the right hand side, and firing the ball goal-wards with his wand of a left foot. He has already scored a goal of the month contender earlier in the season against Burnley, which was that trademark left-footed thunderbolt shot from the righthand side.
There are always complaints that he does not score enough goals, having scored just 10 goals in his now 100 games for Palace. However, when he does score, they tend to be pretty memorable ones. Even in his time with the England squad and at Tottenham, he was known for his strikes from outside the box, and for all the times he would try and it fly in to the crowd, you knew that one of them, when you really needed it, would find its way into the top corner. Andros looks set to be keeping his spot up front with Zaha, and on current form, Roy will be happy going in to January knowing that he has an able and ready partnership there ready to deploy if the winter shopping spree doesn’t work out.
Rather be underdogs
Palace are one of those sides that really up their game when they come up against one of the so-called ‘Big Six’ sides. They may result in losing efforts, but the performances are always to a respectable level. Palace rode their luck a lot during the game, watching City passing the ball around, keeping 78% of the possession, but they defended resolutely and although they only had three shots on target, they managed to score with each one. Now on the other hand, City had 19 shots at goal, with only five of them troubling Guaita in the Palace goal. It was the Eagles defence that provided the foundations for the win, as the home side set up camp in the Palace half, as shown by the amount of passes that were made in the opposition’s final third, with City completing 256 out of an attempted 313, where as Palace only attempted 49, successfully completing 22 of them.
Palace have garnered praise from their performances in narrow defeats against Liverpool, Chelsea, and Spurs, as well as impressive points against Arsenal and City rivals Manchester United. On the other hand, it’s the drop in level of performances against the sides in and around them that is the concern for Hodgson and his team. Already this season they’ve lost to the likes of Brighton, Watford, Southampton, Bournemouth, Wolves and West Ham, and also failed to pick up all three points in the home game against Newcastle. It is the games against these sides that will determine whether Palace risk relegation or survive it for another season, games in which they are sometimes classed as the favourites, which is not something a Crystal Palace side are comfortable being. They are far better being the underdog team with nothing to lose as seen on Saturday.
Fernandinho is irreplaceable
Manchester City arguably have the best squad in the league, their strength in depth is incredible, with top quality replacements ready at any moment to step in to his first 11. Other than Ederson in goal, who has no worries about being dropped with the injury to Bravo, whether it’s Aguero or Jesus, Sterling or Sane, Otamendi or Stones, there is always competition for places, except for one spot where the replacements never fully put in the same performance.
That is Fernandinho. Whenever the Brazilian midfielder is out, they never seem to find an able replacement for him. Sometimes it’s John Stones, then Fabian Delph, Ilkay Gündogan, David Silva, or Kevin De Bruyne, the list goes on, but nobody gives them what they need back there.
Fernandinho is able to sniff out the danger before it develops and snuff it out swiftly, before having the composure to play a forward pass that will begin another City attack. It is probably why Pep Guardiola tried so hard to get Jorginho in during the summer, before he decided to follow Sarri to Chelsea instead, because he is a player of a similar ilk. One who is ‘cultured’ enough to continue the play forward, as well as someone who’s not afraid to get stuck in when a rougher hand is needed. City really miss his leadership qualities and his presence in the heart of that midfield, and it’s probably one of the strong reasons why the Champions have gone without a clean sheet in the last five Premier League matches.
Man of the Match – Andros Townsend
On a day when you can come away from the home of the champions having scored a frontrunner for goal of the season, and be disappointed that you came a post’s width from grabbing a brace, you know you’ve had a good day.