Football Features

Palace 1-3 Man City: Winners & losers as Sterling and Co hold their nerve

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 16:25, 14 April 2019

In a comfortable afternoon, Manchester City beat Crystal Palace 1-3 in south London.

City avenged their defeat earlier in the season by beating Palace and moving one point clear at the top of the table. Who were the winners and losers? Read on and find out!

Winner: Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling came into this game with eyes on surpassing his greatest-ever goal tally in a season. It stood at 18 Premier League goals and 23 in all competitions (this season he had 15 in the league and 19 in all competitions).

Today he began the business of hunting that record down, bagging a match-winning brace. Sterling’s first goal was a supreme display of pace, movement and a powerful finish high into the roof of the net.

His second goal was most amusing given that, earlier in the game he had missed a huge chance to give City the lead when he scuffed a shot wide with his weak foot. David Silva pinged a delightful low cross from the left-flank and it was a simple finish scuffed stupidly wide.

Then later, in the second half, Leroy Sané fired a delicious low cross from the left-flank and Sterling, instead of trying to sweep the ball in with his left as he had done earlier, simply poked it back towards the near-post and totally wrong-footed Vicente Guaita to double the lead.

Two goals put him within one goal of his league-best total and two off his all-comps record. Raheem Sterling is continually improving.

Loser: Ederson

In a closely-fought trophy chase like the one Manchester City are embroiled in, the smallest thing can tilt it in either way. The City boys have to be near-flawless as they look to keep pace against a relentless Liverpool side. And right now a key boy is having some woes.

Ederson wasn’t culpable for Heung-min Son’s goal midweek, nor Luka Milivojević’s stunning strike this afternoon, yet there was a sensation that both goals came because he wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t sharp enough.

Today in particular, when Milivojević stood over the free-kick, Ederson had one side of his goal well covered by a massive wall, but instead of trusting that he stood centrally, thus creating the angle for the Palace man to rifle it in on his side.

That goal gave Palace a huge lift and forced City to see out the final five minutes quite uncomfortably. They managed it in the end, even picking up a third goal through Gabriel Jesus, but as the Spurs game showed and this one confirmed, if Ederson isn’t super sharp then Manchester City can concede goals that do matter.

Winner: Kevin de Bruyne

Kevin de Bruyne was the best player in the Premier League last season (Mohamed Salah ran him close, but ultimately the Belgian was more balanced and, y’know, won the title) but this season he has spent most of it out injured. When he has played, he’s not looked himself either.

This should have spelled doom for City but they have somehow coped without him. De Bruyne could have been rightly worried by that, but as the season draws into its most crucial six weeks, De Bruyne is finding his form in a big, bad way.

The Belgian was superb today against Palace, pulling off some special passes, defending with confidence and always keeping City on the front foot. The highlight of his game was his atom-splitting pass for Sterling’s opening goal, a world-class pass from a world-class player approaching top form.

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Winner: Kyle Walker

If there’s one player Manchester City have come to take for granted despite his signing actually being a massive deal, it’s Kyle Walker. The English defender cost a whopping £45m but has settled in and produced so consistently that it’s not even talked about anymore.

Well, let’s talk about him, because Walker faced up against the blistering pace and sumptuous skill of Wilfried Zaha today and handled the Ivorian winger with, well you don’t want to say ease, but it did look kind of easy.

Walker is fast, he’s powerful, he has superb instincts and he works his socks off up and down the right touchline. His form will be so important against Spurs given how quickly they will counter-attack.

Winner: Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Walker was great but he wasn’t the most impressive right-back on the field. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is seven years younger than his compatriot but plays with such assurance and quality that you’d never know it. Wan-Bissaka is a duel master and was at it again at Selhurst Park.

Wan-Bissaka won 10 duels at a 70% completion rate. 10! That is absolutely absurd. Take-ons, aerial duels – he did it all. He also made five tackles (no Palace player had more) and eight clearances, yet never once committed a foul.

He was a miracle and showed why he deserves to be playing on the same level as Walker, and any top club this summer in need of a right-back should move for him. He had Sané and Benjamin Mendy locked down, which is pretty incredible.

Loser: Spurs

Liverpool have the chance to respond instantly to City’s quality, but Spurs have to sit with it for a few days. Spurs have to contemplate the whirlwind that awaits them when they travel to Manchester, first for a Champions League quarter-final second leg (where they need to defend a 1-0 lead) and then a rematch in the Premier League.

Spurs are a good side, but they will be without talisman Harry Kane for both of these games and City have shown that even a poor performance from their own star striker Sergio Aguero, and a dodgy bit of goalkeeping against their bogey side, can’t knock them out of their stride.

That has to be a terrifying prospect for Mauricio Pochettino’s men.