Man City 1-0 Palace
Crystal Palace were meant to just turn up at the Etihad Stadium and take a beating from title chasing Manchester City. Three points was meant to be a mere formality for Pellegrini. What followed in the ninety minutes was anything but.
A solitary Edin Dzeko strike, just over twenty minutes into the second half, settled the game but three Joe Hart stops and a glaring miss from Joel Ward has left many arguing that Palace were good for AT LEAST a point.
Once again the Eagles were happy to let the opposition dominate possession, yet, once again, created fantastic chances on the break whilst limiting City to only one real chance of note. City have played a lot of the big teams at home this season, all of whom like to play a high line which suits City. Palace sat deep and limited the space in behind and City looked lost as to how to break it down.
Despite 77% possession and 23 shots, City could only muster up 4 efforts on target, 1 finding the net, 1 bringing a decent save from Speroni whilst the other 2 saw the Argentinean save comfortably. Meanwhile Palace, with only 23% possession and 9 shots, managed to seriously test Hart on three occasions.
"It was his save from Joel Ward that really earned Hart his plaudits and the official Man of the Match award."
Puncheon stung the palms of the England number one from the edge of the area and a rasping Mile Jedinak drive saw Hart do extremely well to tip over. However, it was his save from Joel Ward that really earned Hart his plaudits and the official Man of the Match award... That’s the Manchester City goalkeeper winning the Man of the Match award at the Etihad against little old Palace. Says it all.
Ward drilled a shot from 25 yards that seemed destined for the bottom corner only for Hart, sporting a nasty eye injury suffered in a collision with Cameron Jerome (a collision that saw Jerome removed from the game through injury), to spring away to his left and get just enough finger tip on the ball to turn it around the post.
"Ward was then guilty of missing Palace’s easiest chance of the match."
Ward was then guilty of missing Palace’s easiest chance of the match. He arrived at the back post to meet a corner and with Hart completely stranded Joel only managed to head the ball downwards and wide.
Further, Puncheon was within inches of finding the top corner of Hart’s net with a curling effort from the edge of the box, however, the ball whipped just the wrong side of the post, ultimately seeing City’s blushes spared.
Pellegrini Learns a Lesson
Pellegrini was left bemoaning the short period between the boxing day fixtures and this, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Palace had also played just 48 hours before and fielded the exact same eleven, whilst City were able to make SIX changes and still field a starting eleven worth £140m in transfer fees. The expression ‘cry me a river’ springs to mind.
"City were able to make SIX changes and still field a starting eleven worth £140m in transfer fees."
Despite the comment of “we knew that it was not going to be easy” from Pellegrini, the team Pellegrini fielded suggests that he thought that it would be easy. To be fair to him, why not? 7 goals past Norwich, 6 goals past Arsenal and Spurs, 4 past Man Utd and 3 past Everton shows that life has been easy for City at the Etihad. The problem is, this is England and this is the Premier League. On any given day each and every team can beat their opponents meaning that no fixture can be taken for granted. The sentiment from each and every City fan that I spoke to after the match was this, “he (Pellegrini) just about got away with it.” I doubt the Etihad will see such wholesale changes again this season.
Man of the Match: Mile Jedinak
Marshalled his troops superbly. As usual he was everywhere and getting right into the faces of the City players all across the midfield.
Gabbidon and Puncheon came very close to the award. Gabbidon misses out as he was at fault for the goal. He lost Dzeko and we paid the price.
As for Puncheon, this man is so very frustrating. After a nothing short of shocking start to his Palace career, Puncheon started to show a bit of form before turning in an appalling performance versus Villa. Now, two days later, he looked very lively and came very close to scoring what would have been one of the famous Crystal Palace goals. Perhaps a goal is all he needs to allow to have the confidence to find the consistency that we so badly crave from him.
This was my first ever trip to the Etihad. I had been to Maine Road on a few occasions and was always impressed by the atmosphere there. One move to a new stadium later and once again we’re visiting a soulless modern day arena. It is hardly surprising when there is a stage outside with band performing and all sorts of food stands and shops. I had to double check that I had not turned up at a NFL match at Wembley! Sorry City, you just embarrassed yourselves and have lost the awesome place that you previously held in my mind.
As for the Palace. Again we were raved about by the press and City fans alike, however, I still think that it was something missing. Perhaps it was just a Palace goal on this occasion or perhaps it was the layout of the away end that prevented an epic atmosphere, however, once again ‘could do better’ is my assessment... even if it seems a little harsh.
Up Next: Norwich
I do not need to emphasise the importance of this match. A win could see us climb as high as 14th in the table, a loss could see us slip back into the relegation zone and lose touch with the middle reaches of the table.
A win for Palace, the axe for Hughton and expect Malky Mackay in at Norwich before the third round FA Cup ties have kicked off.
Come on you Palace!