Champions Manchester City narrowed the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool with a comfortable victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Two weeks on from a surprise defeat by Wolves, Pep Guardiola’s side made a blistering start to proceedings but had to wait until the 39th minute for the breakthrough to arrive, as Gabriel Jesus met Bernardo Silva’s cross with a clever, flicked header.
It took just 93 seconds for David Silva to double the advantage, the Spaniard allowing Raheem Sterling’s delightful chipped pass to drop over his shoulder before volleying past goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
Hennessey produced quality saves to deny both Bernardo Silva and Jesus twice apiece as City were prevented from running riot, but Christian Benteke’s powerful header struck the crossbar as the hosts failed to capitalise.
As City sought to extend their lead in the second half, the video assistant referee (VAR) upheld referee Anthony Taylor’s decision not to award a penalty after Wilfried Zaha and Kevin de Bruyne collided in the Palace penalty area.
Guardiola’s side return to second in the table following Leicester City’s earlier victory over Burnley, five points behind leaders Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp’s side set to face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday (16:30 BST).
City overcome Selhurst test
Beaten 2-0 by Wolves before the international break, Guardiola’s side arrived at Selhurst Park having lost two of their previous four league games and desperate not to concede further ground to leaders Liverpool.
Roy Hodgson’s in-form Eagles, last beaten at home in the league by City themselves back in April, promised to provide a tricky assignment. It was, ultimately, one they overcame with relative ease.
Setting up without any recognised centre-backs – midfielder Fernandinho lining up centrally between wing-backs Joao Cancelo and Benjamin Mendy – the visitors launched wave after wave of attack but were initially frustrated by Hennessey.
Jesus was unable to direct Kevin de Bruyne’s excellent cross on target within the opening five minutes, while Bernardo Silva’s curled effort – bound for the top-corner – was met by Hennessey’s fingertips as the visitors peppered his goal with 11 first-half attempts.
Striker Jesus was given the nod ahead of Sergio Aguero, who was involved in a car crash on his way to training on Wednesday, and the Brazilian repaid his manager’s faith with a moment of quality to score the crucial opener.
Offering Guardiola much food for thought, Jesus has now scored in his last seven starts for City.
While Silva’s exquisite finish from Sterling’s equally delicate pass before half-time suggested the flood gates had opened, City were uncharacteristically unable to add more goals as Jesus and Sterling both passed up glorious second-half opportunities.
That did not matter. Despite their recent inconsistency, two quick-fire first-half goals were enough to extend their impressive away record to 11 victories from their past 12 in the top flight – and a favour from cross-city rivals United on Sunday would a big help as the champions look to get back on track.
More to follow.