LONDON – A double by Raheem Sterling helped Manchester City beat the title hopes after a 3-1 win at the Crystal Palace. The England winger stormed Kevin De Bruynes's clever pass and fired City in the 15th minute before bouncing off Leroy Sane's cross in the second half. But Luka Milivojevic's free-kick was an exciting goal nine minutes from time before Gabriel killed the game with a late strike.
The city's task is pretty clear: stay and be re-elected Premier League Champion. This is another game, and despite Palace's poor home record, they'll be happy to see the back. City came into play between two major Champions League games against Tottenham and could easily have missed the ball, but they controlled the game from the first minute.
Injuries are a major threat to the city's hopes fourfold, and they continue to rise. Fernandinho, a key player in midfield, missed the trip to Selhurst Park and also doubted Wednesday in the Etihad Stadium against the Champions League. Oleksandr Zinchenko was also missing, Bernardo Silva was only fit enough to leave the bench, while Sterling faced some big challenges in the first half that had to be dealt with on the pitch. With two games a week, each setback has a significant impact on a stretched squad.
Manager rating of 10
7 – Guardiola's team selection in recent weeks suggests he does not fully trust Sane and Benjamin Mendy in big games. However, he trusted the couple in Selhurst Park and was rewarded with two dynamic displays when he needed it. Only when Sterling scored a second goal, the managers turned to the game on Wednesday night, which allowed David Silva and his Portuguese namesake Bernardo a short break. That could have backfired with the Eagles, which caused a sight of the point, but it did not.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes will not receive a rating)
GK Ederson, 6 – Got hit in the midweek defeat in Tottenham and would have been happy not to be overwhelmed, but was beaten by Milivojevic's free-kick.
DF Kyle Walker, 8 – The security guard Wilfried Zaha was handcuffed and forced the winger to defend more time in his own half.
DF Vincent Kompany, 7 – First start in six weeks and without any problems dealing with the physical threat of compatriot Christian Benteke.
Aymeric Laporte, 7 – Pinpoint passes started the attacks and he was defensively solid.
DF Benjamin Mendy, 8 – Mature performance of the entertainer, as he controlled the winger Andros Townsend and progressed at every opportunity.
MF Ilkay Gundogan, 7 – Left open and dictated the game like a quarterback, but gave the free kick that led to the gate of the palace.
MF Kevin De Bruyne, 8 – A midfield midwife, surprisingly surprising his season's first Premier League assistant with an exquisite Sterling pass to score.
MF David Silva, 7 – Drifted into dangerous positions before the palace defense and caused them great problems with his delicate touches.
FW Raheem Sterling, 9 – An unfamiliar chance for an early chance was unfamiliar, but made good again with a professionally conquered opener and a deciding second.
FW Sergio Aguero, 5 – Buzzed around the city attacks, but seemed a bit off the pace and misjudged a great pass from De Bruyne, who could have hit him at the gate.
FW Leroy Sane, 7 – Guardiola has a point to prove after missing out on big games recently and took his chance against a strong full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka
MF Bernardo Silva, 6 – The city remains in motion and under control despite the mini-comeback of Palace.
FW Gabriel Jesus, N / R – Maintained his mastery to hit the killer's third goal.
MF John Stones, N / R – Came to tighten the midfield.