Manchester City vs Crystal Palace: Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta praise 'fantastic' team spirit as City adjust system to cope without strikers

City were without any recognised strikers for the tie against Palace but secured a 3-0 win thanks to David Silva and Yaya Toure

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The Independent Online

Manchester City duo Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta hailed a "fantastic" team performance in their 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace.

Despite being forced to take to the field without a recognised striker, which meant midfielder James Milner had to lead the line up front, City claimed a comfortable win that moved them level on points with Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea.

David Silva opened the scoring just after half-time, via a big deflection, before netting a second on the hour mark before Yaya Toure wrapped up the points at the Etihad.

 

And Zabaleta, whose unselfish pass allowed Silva to break the deadlock, said: "We knew it was a difficult game because we didn't have any strikers, but the team spirit is fantastic, that's what we need at the moment.

"If you look at the whole performance, it was fantastic. We kept patient to score the first goal, they were defending very deep, it was difficult to find the goal and at the end I think it was a different game."

Manchester 3 Crystal Palace 0 match report

Goalkeeper Hart, who earlier this week signed a new long-term contract extension, agreed with his team-mate's assessment following City's eighth consecutive win in all competitions.

"It was a fantastic performance. Millie came in and did brilliant for us up there, worked hard. David and Samir (Nasri) and Yaya, they link up so well and with Zaba and Ali (Aleksandar Kolarov) bombing on it's difficult for any team," he said on BT Sport 1.

"We're in a situation at the moment, but we've not complained about it, we've just changed our system and we've won 3-0."

Joe-Hart.jpg
Joe Hart saves a header from Mile Jedinak

He added: "We're a team of winners, we've been together for a long time. The lads who've come in have realised that we play to win even in difficult times."

City manager Manuel Pellegrini was also delighted with his side's performance, despite their lack of options up front.

"We knew we had to play in a different way than we normally do because we don't have strikers at this moment, but I thought we did a great job," he said.

"We defended well, after that we had the possession and the patience to create the space. We didn't score in the first half, but in the second we made a difference."

With Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic all currently on the sidelines there has been speculation that Pellegrini may look to bolster his forward line in the January transfer window.

But when asked, the Chilean was coy and insisted his only priority was winning again when they take on West Brom on Boxing Day.

"At this moment we have to continue trying to play in the same way because in the next game probably we are not going to have any strikers so it's important to continue working," he added.

"For the moment we are just thinking to win the next game. We will see in the future what we're going to do."

Palace got the ball in the net when James McArthur headed firmly past Hart from a Yannick Bolasie cross but the flag was raised for offside.

It was a tight decision and City sought to ensure Palace did not get so close again.

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McArthur had a headed goal ruled out incorrectly for offside with the score at 2-0

Eagles boss Neil Warnock was furious the goal was not allowed to stand.

"To get a good goal like that and to see it, I don't even have to look at it. The linesman's in a terrible position. Times like this I wish worked for BT and I could say what I want to say and not get fined," he said.

"That's a game-changing decision. How many times do you get a chance to score at the Etihad?

"We've worked so hard to get that, it's a great goal and then we've got it chalked off because someone can't do their job. It's a disgrace."

PA

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