Manchester City: A look back at 2018

Manchester City vs Crystal Palace: Stunning defeat hands Liverpool the edge in title race

Manchester City 2-3 Crystal Palace: A second-half Luka Milivojevic penalty proved the winner as City's unbeaten home run was ended

Alam Khan
Etihad Stadium
Saturday 22 December 2018 18:21

Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool had claimed Manchester City had no weaknesses. Well, Crystal Palace certainly dispelled that theory for a dramatic, deserved victory that shook up the title race.

Having gone behind to an Ilkay Gundogan headed opener, Jeffrey Schlupp, Andros Townsend and Luka Milivojevic struck to leave Pep Guardiola's men four points behind Klopp's leaders.

In a strange quirk of fate, it was on this same day in 1990 when Palace last won at City, the year Liverpool were also last league champions.

With City so relentless at home, this was a remarkable victory.

In their six previous meetings at the Etihad, Palace had conceded 21 goals, 10 in the last two.

So it was no surprise to see them come close to conceding the opener with barely a minute gone.

Raheem Sterling's mazy dribble along the box ended with a chipped pass to Fabian Delph. The left back allowed one bounce before powering a rising drive on the volley that needed a strong left hand from Vicente Guaita to keep it out.

It was an ominous sign of things to come as the visiting backline felt the force of City's attacking artistry.

Schlupp got Palace back into it

A wonderful move, fuelled by Mamadou Sakho's misplaced pass, almost produced the breakthrough.

Gundogan seized on the opportunity, released Bernardo Silva and his incisive pass saw Leroy Sane burst clear, but the German fired a finish into the side netting.

Palace full back Aaron Wan-Bissaka was then well placed to block a Bernardo effort on the line after Sterling's miscued volley dropped kindly for the Portuguese.

Sane next tested Guaita from 20 yards as City's craft and cunning left Palace uneasy.

Their pressure eventually paid off in the 27th minute when Gundogan, also involved in the build up, ghosted into the box to meet Delph's right-footed cross and steer a header past Guaita.

Townsend's rocket stunned City

But the goal perhaps saw City let their focus slip as the game suddenly transformed in the space of two madcap minutes.

First they conceded a sloppy equaliser as a John Stones sliding tackle inadvertently saw the ball run to Schlupp and he managed to fire a drive past Kyle Walker and into the corner.

Then followed the sublime in the 35th minute as City failed to clear their defensive lines and an unconvincing Bernardo header saw the ball drop to Townsend who, from 30 yards, struck home a first-time, fabulous and flawless volley.

The hosts were stunned, as was Ederson, who did not have a save to make in the first half.

And that was still the case when Palace claimed a third in the 52nd minute - the first time they had managed that against City in a top-flight league game since 1973.

Milivojevic's penalty proved decisive

After Townsend's diving header had rattled the post, the ball came to Max Meyer and he was brought down by Walker's rash challenge.

Up stepped Milivojevic to slot the spot-kick calmly past Ederson.

Having seen his side crumble after being so commanding, Guardiola turned to his bench for inspiration, and Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez were not a bad trio to call upon with defenders Nicolas Otamendi and Delph sacrificed.

Yet there was a renewed defiance and tenacity about the visitors with even Townsend back to press and pinch balls.

With five minutes left, De Bruyne sparked hope with a curling cross from the left that deceived Guaita and dropped into the corner.

And in injury time, Jesus headed just over and Sane's shot dribbled into the hands of Guaita. Agony for City, ecstasy for Palace.

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