Roy Hodgson insists Manchester City’s title hopes are intact despite Crystal Palace exposing defensive frailties

While City were nowhere near their most potent in attack, they also defended poorly, without the midfield cover offered by the injured Fernandinho, with Kyle Walker particularly at fault for two of the Palace goals

Ian Whittell
Sunday 23 December 2018 12:12
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Pep Guardiola defends team selection as Palace claim surprise win

It is safe to say Roy Hodgson is not exactly revered among Liverpool fans for his seven-month reign in charge there eight years ago, but the Crystal Palace manager certainly rose in the Anfield popularity stakes after this astonishing upset.

Andros Townsend’s 30-yard volley for Palace’s second goal was just one unforgettable aspect of a victory that opened up a four-point gap for Hodgson’s former employers at the top of the Premier League.

Liverpool supporters can finally dream of an end to their 29-year wait for a league title and their visit to the Etihad a week on Thursday takes on even greater significance after this rare setback for Pep Guardiola.

And while Hodgson was not getting carried away with the result – either from his perspective or Liverpool’s – it was hard not to view this weekend as a potentially pivotal one in the title race.

“Not at all,” said Hodgson when asked if he had dealt City’s title hopes a blow.

“Pep Guardiola is a very intelligent guy, it means that they haven’t caught up those four points but he knows there are 20 matches left to play and one of those is going to be against Liverpool.

“I don’t think he will concerned about that and he’ll know that no matter how Liverpool play they will come against a game like this. They will go somewhere and someone will beat them against the odds.

“There is a long way to go yet and I am sure the only disappointment for Pep will be that having so much of the ball and being able to buzz around our final third as much as they were able to do they didn’t create as many chances as he would have liked.

“But I would like to think he will give Crystal Palace a bit of credit for that. I would like to think he will say we did all we could, we asked all the questions but they came up with the answers.”

Indeed, Palace deserve all the credit for this upset, especially as they were required to come from behind after Fabian Delph’s headed opener for City.

But while City were nowhere near their most potent in attack, they also defended poorly, without the midfield cover offered by the injured Fernandinho, with Kyle Walker particularly at fault for two of the Palace goals.

Jeffrey Schlupp’s equaliser was down to the full-back, as was Palace’s third from a Luka Milivojevic penalty, and in between was that incredible Townsend volley.

“Having watched it back it’s probably the cleanest strike of my career and probably the best,” said the former England winger.

“And one of the most important to come away to City and get three points is no mean feat and I think we were incredible defensively, everyone was structured and stuck to their job.

“And we knew it would have to be a perfect performance to get anything here and thankfully we held out in the end.

“Of course it is difficult but I have said before Man City are probably the team of our generation. I have never played against a team as good as them especially at home and it is impossible to get the ball off them.

“So we knew if we were going to get anything it was going to have to be a perfect disciplined performance and it saw us to a well-needed three points.”

Kevin De Bruyne’s late consolation ensured a frantic final five minutes but there was little on this particular day to suggest City were deserving of Townsend’s description as “the team of our generation”.

Crystal Palace's Andros Townsend celebrates scoring

“It’s a massive setback but at the end of the day it’s a very long season,” said City full-back Delph. “We’re not focused on Liverpool, or on any team other than ourselves.

“Most games we are competing against ourselves to do better and get the three points on the board and the next game will be no different.

“We’ve been there – last season was an incredible season for us, and we’ve started this season incredibly well. It stands you in good stead for the future but we are only concentrating on ourselves.

“It always helps when you have a fully fit squad, people pushing each other for places is healthy. We have more than enough in the squad to win any match, whether someone is injured or not.”

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