BY SAM SMITH
Two goals in as many minutes by Manchester City at Selhurst Park condemned Crystal Palace to a third consecutive Premier League defeat.
After an end-to-end first 56 minutes, Sergio Aguero opened the scoring with a powerful strike high inside Vicente Guaita’s near post. Palace had barely settled down by the time Guaita was plucking the ball out of his net again after Ferran Torres fired home from the edge of the area.
The South Londoners have not won since a 1-0 victory against West Brom on March 13, but they had the better of the first-half chances at Selhurst Park.
Andros Townsend crossed for Christian Benteke and the Belgian leapt high above Nathan Ake, though he failed to properly connect with his header.
Aguero worked some space in the penalty area but shot well wide before Palace created their best move of the game. A high-tempo spell of passes led to Townsend playing Joel Ward into the right-hand channel.
The full-back could have struck goalwards but opted to cross. A scramble in the box led to Benteke forcing a good save by Ederson from close range.
The visitors thought they had gone ahead when Gabriel Jesus hammered in on the volley from Fernandinho’s cross, only to have his celebrations thwarted by the assistant referee’s flag. A short VAR check confirmed that the Brazilian had strayed slightly offside.
This was beginning to become an entertaining, end-to-end game. At times it was evident that City had one eye on next week’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Paris Saint-Germain. Pep Guardiola had made eight changes from last week’s 2-1 first-leg success.
Ebere Eze fired wide before the champions-elect took control of the game early in the second half. Scott Dann intercepted Jesus’ lofted pass across goal, where Aguero was anticipating a tap-in.
But the Argentine then collected Benjamin Mendy’s penetrative left-wing cross, controlled with the inside of his right foot and smashed the ball into the roof of the net with the outside.
The other goal came within 90 seconds. A loose ball fell to Spaniard Torres who drove it through a crowd of bodies and under Guaita. The goalkeeper could perhaps have done better with both goals, but there was a fair argument to made that he was slightly unsighted for the second.
Raheem Sterling almost added a third but was denied by the foot of the post from a tight angle. A Liverpool win against Manchester United tomorrow will confirm City’s third title in four years.
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