City thank 'Shaun of the dead good'

Manchester City 3 - Crystal Palace 1
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The Independent Football

Speak to any Manchester City supporter and it would not have been B of the Bang that would have been unveiled outside their Eastlands home this week but C of the Calamity. Quite what the sculpture would be is open to debate - Jamie Pollock heading into his own net is one suggestion - but the artist would not have to search too long for inspiration.

Speak to any Manchester City supporter and it would not have been B of the Bang that would have been unveiled outside their Eastlands home this week but C of the Calamity. Quite what the sculpture would be is open to debate - Jamie Pollock heading into his own net is one suggestion - but the artist would not have to search too long for inspiration.

Yesterday City avoided their trademark cock-up against hapless Crystal Palace but it was not for the want of trying. They could have been five up within 30 minutes but City think opponents' jugulars perform in a circus and, true to form, they could not locate Palace's.

So instead of romping through a game after Shaun Wright-Phillips and Robbie Fowler had put them ahead, City had to suffer a nail-biting afternoon where their nerves were only eased when Wright-Phillips scored again in the last minute. Even so, Palace, who pulled a goal back through Darren Powell, will consider this a chance lost.

"We talked about the start, but we didn't deal with it," was the Palace manager Iain Dowie's critique. "For 20 minutes we just didn't get going." Kevin Keegan, the City manager, said much the same, describing City's opening as their best since they moved to the City of Manchester Stadium. "Then they got a goal from a set-piece and everyone got nervous."

Dowie had described his side's performance last week against Sunderland as "unacceptable", which makes you wonder where he would have placed yesterday's start. Diabolical comes to mind.

Shaun Wright-Phillips fired just wide in the 10th minute, but it proved to be merely a sighter for the City winger because when he found himself in an identical position two minutes later, he drilled the ball into the far corner.

Palace's defence had been notable for its absence in that goal and it hardly distinguished itself after 15 minutes when Richard Dunne lofted an optimistic pass down the right. Fowler got to the ball first, hoodwinked Powell with a step inside and then hit the ball with his left foot into the same corner as Wright-Phillips's goal.

Gabor Kiraly saved from Jon Macken (twice), Danny Mills and Fowler and it was a rout in all but the scoreline. But no team are more adept at letting teams of the hook than City, and after 32 minutes they managed to undermine their near-total mastery. A free-kick on the left from Wayne Routledge was not defended properly and Powell headed home.

That put an end to City's supremacy and they might have surrendered their advantage altogether if the referee had taken a different view of a push by Dunne on Powell in the area after 68 minutes. "I don't know how the referee didn't give a penalty," Dowie said.

City were clinging on, but in the last minute they made a game safe that should have been settled an hour earlier. Fowler won a tussle on the left of the area and then contrived a perfect pass for Shaun Wright-Phillips to poke the ball in.

Manchester City have accepted a bid of £500,000 from Fulham for Ben Thatcher, who wishes to leave for "family reasons". Keegan confirmed he will be allowed to leave once City have secured a replacement.

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