Manchester City drop points in the title race against Crystal Palace, shrinking their lead over chasing Liverpool to just one point on Wednesday. Despite several great opportunities, the league leaders failed to score against deep Londoners.
Palace coach Patrick Viera’s side went into the game without a change for a 2-0 away win at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Pep Guardiola, on the other hand, made six changes from the 0-0 draw in the Champions League last 16 second leg against Sporting Lisbon: Egan-Riley, Zinchenko, Fernandinho, Gündogan, Sterling and Jesus were replaced by Cancelo, Walker, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Mahrez and Grealish.
The game at Selhurst Park in London got off to a slow start. Palace stood deep but defended strongly in the final third, leaving the Citizens with little to play for at first. After eight minutes it was Walker with a shot from distance who could create some danger for the first time. Shortly afterwards, however, the home side were also in the game and had their first major opportunity through Olise. The 20-year-old was set up by ex-Mainz Mateta and just missed the goal with an outside shot (13th).
In the course of the first half, however, ManCity became stronger and stronger: First, a shot by centre-back Stones just missed the goal (19th), then De Bruyne created danger with his outside shot (26th). The biggest chance so far came from left-back Cancelo, who hit the post with a long-range shot (28). Midfielder Zaha then had Palace’s most dangerous chance from distance, but his shot flew just wide of the goal (38th) and the score remained 0-0 at the break.
Kouyaté with the first great chance – then the post saves and Guaita
The picture in the second half was much the same as in the first: the visitors had almost all the play and the Eagles were defensively well positioned and lurked on the counter-attack. It was the home side who created the first dangerous situation of the second half. Kouyaté headed home from the five-metre area but was unable to put any pressure on the ball, so the Citizens were not punished for their carelessness (51). After that, however, only City played again and De Bruyne had the best chance of the game. The 30-year-old Belgian was superbly released in the penalty area and just missed the post. The rebound came to Mahrez, who finished with the first contact and found his master in the brilliantly reacting Guaita (57th).
This opportunity was to remain the biggest and last good chance of the game. The hosts were entrenched in defence and fought for every ball. City seemed to be lacking ideas and had to make do with high balls into the penalty area, which found no takers without a real “nine”. Despite this lack of penetration, Pep Guardiola refused to make any changes and Palace were able to keep the 0-0 scoreline alive and remain unbeaten in their second encounter against the league leaders this season.
The Citizens now hold a four-point lead over chasing Liverpool after the game, an advantage that could shrink to one point after the Reds’ make-up game against Arsenal on Wednesday. At one stage the cushion had been eleven points. Palace remain fifth in the table and face Everton FC in the FA Cup quarter-finals next Saturday at 4pm. Manchester City host Southampton FC at the same time.