MANCHESTER CITY 2
Gundogan 27 De Bruyne 85
CRYSTAL PALACE 3
Schlupp 33 Townsend 35 Milivojevic 51 pen
BY MATT WOOSNAM AT ETIHAD STADIUM
When it comes to ending sequences of results which had previously made for grim reading, scoring three times and earning victory away at the reigning Premier League champions takes some beating.
The last time Crystal Palace won in Manchester, none of their goalscorers at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday had even been born. That came in a 2-0 win over City at Maine Road in 1990.
It was somewhat fitting that 28 years later to the day, a stunning performance capped by a wonder goal from Andros Townsend saw Palace come away with a 3-2 victory against a team which had an unblemished record at home this campaign.
It came after a run of six away games without a win, and ended the goalscoring drought which had seen the Eagles fail to record a single league goal at this stadium since promotion back to the top flight.
There may have been a surprise in the formation chosen by Roy Hodgson here, but certainly very few would have anticipated his side setting up much differently in respect of their tactics.
Opting for a 4-5-1 shape, with Wilfried Zaha up front, Palace sat deep and maintained their shape and rigidity. May Meyer and Andros Townsend were deployed to burst forward alongside the Ivorian when the Eagles were on the attack.
In truth, this set-up favoured the personnel chosen by Hodgson. It has become clear that the manager will not use his key man out wide for fear of weakening his defensive unit, after all defence is undoubtedly the priority under the former England boss, and not unreasonably.
“The day it becomes impossible for teams like Crystal Palace to get results against Manchester City the league might just as well fold up and we’ll do everything on paper. The game is played on the grass.”
Those were Hodgson’s words prior to the match. Ignoring that no manager is ever going to deem a match ‘unwinnable’, this was as close to that tag as most games in the Premier League this season will get. City had a perfect home record coming into this game, and it would have been no surprise to see it remain intact. For many, this was simply a free hit.
But that wasn’t how it turned out. This game most certainly did not play out on the grass as it was expected to do so on paper. Perhaps the weight of expectation has been playing on the minds of the Palace players, but here they seemed to play with more freedom.
Zaha has been out of sorts, but he was integral for both goals. Just as Townsend has shown a lot of effort and not enough quality this season, things turned in the opening 45 minutes. Both produced here.
Zaha caused City’s defence problems throughout. Referee Andre Marriner overlooked him going to ground easily, although later booked him for a retaliatory foul, but he played a part in the equaliser when Jeffrey Schlupp swept into the far corner, before winning the free-kick from which Andros Townsend belted a 25-yard volley past Ederson as they turned the game on its head following Ilkay Gundogan’s headed opener.
The change in tactic worked, and that is credit to Hodgson who has so often opted for conservatism over pragmatism. Although the two are not mutually exclusive, they have been for Palace, but they weren’t here.
The counter-attacking option worked perfectly. City were slightly lacklustre, but Palace rocked their hosts with two excellent goals and a perfectly-placed Luka Milivojevic penalty. Kevin de Bruyne’s late goal served merely to ramp up the tension inside the Etihad as Palace held on for a famous win.
Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Guaita 7, Wan-Bissaka 9, Tomkins 7, Sakho 7, Van Aanholt 7, Townsend 8, McArthur 7, Schlupp 7, Milivojevic 7, Meyer 8 (Puncheon 90+5), Zaha 8 (Ayew 88). Not used: Speroni, Ward, Dann, Sorloth, Riedewald.
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