Manchester City 0-2 Crystal Palace: Zaha and Gallagher strike as Crystal Palace stun 10-man Manchester City

    Pep Guardiola’s 200th Premier League match leading Manchester City was ruined by a sparkling show of power and effervescence from Wilfried Zaha that gave Patrick Vieira, the returning alumnus, the sweetest of victories as Crystal Palace manager.

Zaha scored the first after six minutes, created Conor Gallagher’s late clincher and generally terrorised the home centre-backs, Rúben Dias and Aymeric Laporte, causing the latter to be sent off during a fractious end to the first period.

If the defender deserved his punishment for wrestling Zaha to the turf as last man, City rallied impressively after the break but could not find an equaliser. It meant the champions lost a second league game of the season and a first at home since May, leaving Guardiola’s count at 146 wins and 29 defeats from his double century.

For the opening goal Zaha nicked the ball from a dithering Laporte, swapped passes with Gallagher and, as the angle started to close, beat Ederson to his left, the goalkeeper perhaps defeated by a bobble. This hushed the home crowd, who had witnessed the concession of a league goal for the first time this term, with 456 minutes in total passing since Chelsea scored here.

City’s response was expected: a blue swarm that hustled for possession, with Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Kyle Walker and Bernardo Silva moving Palace around. One sequence ended in João Cancelo claiming City’s first corner and when this dropped in the area Rodri hit the ball into Vicente Guaita’s midriff.

Manchester City and Palace players clash at half-time after Aymeric Laporte’s red card

  Manchester City and Palace players clash at half-time after Aymeric Laporte’s red card

Palace, led by James McArthur and Cheikhou Kouyaté, were noticeably quick to press and smother City at source. Another key tactic was to feed Zaha with a mid-range ball that tested the defensive smarts of Dias, who tried to match up with him.

When City click it always entertains as when Walker, on the overlap, pinged over a cross aimed at Foden, which Palace hoofed away for a corner. From this, efforts from Gabriel Jesus and Grealish were blocked.

Around this point boos became the contest’s soundtrack. These were from City enthusiasts who, despite only 30 minutes having passed, suggested Palace were time-wasting. When Grealish led a stampede forward, Vieira’s men scattered, the No 10 feeding Jesus, who shot into a diving Marc Guéhi before, eventually, Palace were awarded a goal-kick. Cue more jeers. Then there were groans, as a passage of slick football was spoiled by Cancelo lifting a diagonal ball into the seats behind Guaita.

One concern for Guardiola was how his side’s high line was pierced. Odsonne Édouard did so with a ball that left Dias marooned and Zaha skating towards Ederson, City saved by an offside flag. Nothing, though, could help Laporte the next time Zaha burst forward as now the centre-back took him down and off went the No 14: after Andre Marriner raised the red card, VAR supported the referee.

When the match restarted, City diced with truly losing the plot: Silva chopped down that man again – Zaha – and was booked; on half-time, Ederson followed for further contretemps. As the players wandered off for the interval, Silva was spied putting a sarcastic hand on the assistant referee by the benches.

The visitors began the second half with a golden chance of defeating the 10 men, who were now configured by Guardiola in a 3-3-3. But the champions were not giving way easily: Rodri soon blasted over then after Grealish claimed a corner the ball broke to Foden, whose cross skidded across the area.

Foden was about to see a sublime assist chalked off for a marginal offside. John Stones, who had just come on for De Bruyne, chipped to the midfielder, whose instant control and sweetly precise parabola found Jesus, who finished before VAR intervened.

In this invigorating spectacle Jordan Ayew then spurned a close-range chance before Ederson beat away a fierce Gallagher shot at the near post. When Walker sprayed the ball wildly over this suggested it was to be Palace’s day and it was: Gallagher’s finish, in off a post, sealing it, after cute Zaha footwork.

Vieira deserves much credit for the display. On this showing he may return in future – to become City’s manager.

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