Man City 2-3 Palace
“Stand up for the Champions” swept around the Etihad Stadium as Manchester City fans, old, new, and tourists alike, climbed to their feet to applaud their team in the minutes that followed the hosts' opening goal.
The song, which showed what sort of atmosphere could be created in the stadium if only they bothered to sing on a consistent basis, followed hot on the heels of “City, City will tear you apart again.” Crystal Palace had conceded eighteen goals with no reply in the Premier League since 2013 and everyone expected that Ilkay Gundogan’s header in the 27th minute was just the start of another mauling.
Everyone except the visiting players.
Crystal Palace have history for what followed. In 2017, the Eagles travelled to Stamford Bridge and after Cesc Fabregas put the hosts ahead, the world expected the floodgates to open. Instead, Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke responded within two goals in two minutes, just as Jeffrey Schlupp and Andros Townsend did in the rain on Saturday.
As the City fans sat back down in their rain drizzle covered seats after ‘standing up for the Champions’, the atmosphere in the stadium was the same as the one back on April Fool’s Day in 2017 at the Bridge. It was an atmosphere of 100% surety that the three points were in the bag.
Having burned Chelsea and Liverpool (three times) from behind in recent years, Manchester City should have known better than to relax. But, as we saw on the Amazon Documentary ‘All or Nothing’, when Pep Guardiola told the City players that the coming game against Palace was going to be “their hardest game of the season” the superstars donning sky blue just sat there with looks on their faces that said, “whatever, mate, it’s Palace.”
Maybe now, after only one point from the last two games against us, they will listen to their esteemed coach.
Jeffrey Schlupp’s Leveller
With Kouyate out injured, Schlupp came into to the team, but within seconds of the kick off the entire away end, and across social media from people watching on streams, Palace fans were all looking around and asking why Schlupp was playing in centre mid. When the Premier League winner let Gundogan go for the City opener, most thought that the experiment had failed.
That thought lasted all of six minutes.
Jeff picked the ball up in the middle of the park and sprayed a City-esque pass out to the right flank where Zaha pulled the ball from the sky like he was having a kick around in the park with his mates. If this incredible touch escaped you at first viewing, go back and watch the build-up to the goal and drool.
Wilf then cut inside with a chop before setting Laporte up for the move that has fooled so many in the past. He rolls his right foot across the top of the ball, steps over the ball in an overexaggerated fashion, again with his right, before then slotting the ball through the legs of the defender with his left. Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier or pick a full-back, they’ve all eaten it at some stage. Laporte, however, got himself into such a tangle that he inadvertently stopped Zaha.
Our luck was in. The ball fell straight into the patch of Townsend, who turned it immediately to James McArthur and once again we received the rub of the green. McArthur was tackled, but the ball ran straight into the path of Schlupp, who had sprinted to catch up to play after spreading the initial pass out wide to Wilf. Walker attempted to show the former Leicester man wide, but he did not keep tight enough and after dribbling into the area and perfectly setting himself on his left, Schlupp fired across Ederson low and into the far corner. The away end fell about in shocked celebrations, but, like at Chelsea in 2017, things were about to get even better before the post-goal celebrations had even contemplated dying down.
Andros Townsend’s Wonder Goal
It is a rare occasion when Palace score three and Zaha is not directly involved in a single goal, but his involvement was key in this goal. He broke away and made a mockery of £100m worth of defenders in Stones and Walker before being taken out. Patrick van Aanholt put the resulting free-kick into the City penalty area and when the ball was eventually cleared, well, the rest is history:
“Oh my word. Wait until you see this goal. This is sensational” said Jermain Jenas on BT Sport Score as his hands cupped his face that donned a look of utter disbelief.
“AND ANOTHER GOAL!” Exclaims Jeff Stelling on Sky Sports.
“GOAL OF THE SEASON! OH MY GOD!” Shouts Matthew le Tissier in the background.
“Another goal at the Etihad Stadium. Almost always when Manchester City are pegged back, what do they do? They go straight down the other end and score. What’s happened this time around? PALACE have gone straight back and scored AGAIN, Tis!”
“OH MY GOD! Andros Townsend has scored the goal of the season, Jeff. Un-UnBELIEVABLE volley!”
Or, if you’re into your French commentary, some bloke on Canal + just screamed;
“OOOOOOOOOOOH! OOOOOOOH LA LA LA LA LA LA LAAAAAAAAA!”
These are just some of the reactions to what will unquestionably be the goal of the season. Well, assuming that the goal is not voted for in a Twitter poll that will see a half decent goal from Liverpool or Arsenal win it.
Inside the Stadium, it was utter bedlam. Limbs were flying everywhere in the away end whilst what seemed like thousands of City fans applauded the strike.
Immediately, comparisons were drawn in my mind to the Ambrose strike against Manchester United in 2011. Not in a ‘which goal is better’ sense. I refuse to compare them like that as they are two completely different goals. The link was made in my mind because, like at Old Trafford, I was directly behind Townsend and at the other end of the field, just like when Ambrose let fly, and from the moment it left his foot you knew it was in.
Townsend said after his beauty against Burnley, “I want to score more scruffy goals.” What a great way to start.
29 yards, 67mph, countless replays, and a lifetime of watching it back awaits.
Man of the Match: Andros Townsend
After the game, I called it one of the “modern day great Crystal Palace performances” from the winger. It wasn’t just the goal that made Townsend stand out in this masterclass of an away performance from Palace. From start to finish, he did not stop running and did not give City a single second in which to think when the ball was anywhere near him.
Playing wide right, instead of up front as we have become used to in recent months, Andros and Aaron Wan-Bissaka formed a formidable partnership that the City left simply could not penetrate. Leroy Sane adds a long list of impressive forwards that have been pocketed by Wan-Bissaka, and on any other day, I would have been giving MOTM to the young full-back. But Townsend was simply something else on the day. A Star Man, some might sing.
Luka Milivojevic’s Penalty
The range of emotions that I experienced in the space of a minute around our third goal was extraordinary.
Firstly, brilliance from Zaha again opened up the space for Wan-Bissaka on the right and the Palace academy graduated must have laughed himself at the ease in which he passed Fabian Delph before sticking the ball on Townsend’s head with a peach of a cross. Ederson was beaten all ends up, but the ball cannoned off the inside of the post and across the goal.
Straight away I thought that our chance of taking anything from the game had evaporated. Surely, we would not get another chance as good as that to score.
As I am cursing our luck, my jaw hits my chest as Walker, in the pouring rain, makes the decision to slide at the ball when he is a clear underdog to get to the ball first. Max Meyer sees him coming, lifts the ball cleverly over the defender’s foot and gratefully accepts the contact. Immediately my eyes seek out referee Andre Marriner and I am stunned to find him shaking his head. I have talked about this with several people who were at the game and all saw it. He was shaking his head which can only mean that he is saying that is not a penalty. A roar of abuse in the referee’s direction is about to leave my mouth only for it to turn to a scream of delight as he blows his whistle and points to the spot.
What was Marriner shaking his head at? Was he simply shaking his head at the stupidity of Walker’s challenge? It’s the only thing that makes sense, but it seems mightily unprofessional.
Then joy turns to dread as I realise that Milivojevic is set to face off against Ederson from the spot almost a year to the day that the Brazilian saved his spot kick at Selhurst Park. One look at our Serbian skipper tells me that I have nothing to worry about. I swear, you can look at Luka and know if he is going to score a penalty or not.
Confidence radiated from the Palace number four, and his effort found the side netting, sending the away end pouring down the aisles to meet him as almost the entire team came over to the fans to soak up the cheers.
The scenes at the final whistle were similar. Half the squad gave up their rain and sweat soaked shirts to fans and a lucky kid has the shirt that Townsend wore when he scored one of the greatest goals in the history of the Club, in one of the greatest results in the history of the Club.
Up Next: Cardiff
It would be very Crystal Palace to lose this one. Fingers crossed that we remained focused and complete a nine-point haul across eleven days.
Come on you Palace!