Zaha and Gallagher strike to secure stunning win at Man City
Palace held on for a famous victory over ten-man Manchester City, in a nail-biting afternoon bookended by breakaway goals from Wilfried Zaha and Conor Gallagher.
Sky-blue shirts hared after the visitors straight from kick-off, as Pep Guardiola’s high-pressing Manchester City side looked to gain momentum, but Palace weren’t afraid to push forward themselves, and began hunting for possession. Soon, it paid dividends.
Latching onto a loose pass, Wilfried Zaha raced forwards in the Man City half, working the ball out to Conor Gallagher in support. The midfielder drew the City defender before slipping Zaha back in, one-on-one with Ederson – he made no mistake with the finish.
It was no more than they deserved for their fast start, and the pressure continued as City looked to respond. Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish bobbed and weaved as they searched for an opening, but Palace’s defence held firm much to the chagrin of an increasingly frustrated home support.
City were looking increasingly dangerous as the game approached the half-hour mark, Vicente Guaita held on to a firmly struck volley from Rodri, after Palace failed to clear a corner.
Soon after, Gabriel Jesus found space on the right, and it took a flurry of desperate Palace blocks to prevent him delivering the ball into the six-yard box. But for all their possession, there were still uncharacteristic lapses in concentration from side normally so pinpoint in their passing.
Where City’s passing was sloppy, Palace’s defending had to be faultless. Suddenly, Grealish found the pocket of space in the penalty area he’d been searching for all afternoon. He turned well but, just as he was preparing to pull the trigger, across raced Marc Guehi with a perfectly timed tackle to steal the ball away.
City kept coming, and wave after wave of attack was rebuffed as the seconds ticked away. Then, as the half-time whistle approached, Edouard nodded a ball towards Zaha. The Ivorian turned Aymeric Laporte and looked to be through on goal, before the defender hauled him down; Andre Marriner was quick to brandish the red card.
The second-half started at a frenetic pace. Keen to make amends, City showed no sign of their man disadvantage as they sought to catch Palace cold. Grealish was the dangerman once again, this time popping up on the left and laying the ball back to Rodri, who swept over the crossbar when he really should have scored.
But with more space to exploit when breaking forwards, Palace looked equally threatening. Twice they broke forwards early in the second-half, first finding Ayew on the right to lay the ball back for the onrushing McArthur, but his first time effort was well over the bar.
Moments later, Gallagher won a free-kick on the touchline. His delivery was whipped in towards the far-post, where Guehi rose highest but could only nod over the crossbar.
Despite the red card, there was no let-up from City as they poured forwards through Grealish once again. This time Jesus was the recipient, making space for the shot but only stinging the palms of Guaita.
Moments later, City thought they were level. Controlling a long ball over the top with an exquisite piece skill, Foden turned away from Ward and picked out Jesus at the far post, who poked home from a tight angle.
The wave of relief that swept around the Etihad was short lived however, as VAR ruled the goal to be marginally offside.
The game had opened up, and Palace could have doubled their lead. First Zaha had the ball in the back of the net, before a late flag denied him. But it was Ayew who had the best chance, cutting inside at speed to create shooting space twelve-yards out, but firing over the crossbar.
At the other end, Jesus was once again holding his head in his hands, as he nodded over the top from close-range.
The City pressure grew, but the quality of the chances were the same for either side. Once again roaming forwards, Gallagher found space on to shoot powerfully, but Ederson was able to push behind.
But the introduction of Michael Olise in the final few moments was enough to ensure that, at the end, Palace took advantage of their chance to break forwards. Advancing down the right, he drew two Manchester City defenders and slipped in Zaha.
Zaha was forced wide, but found Olise once again, who laid it off for Conor Gallagher to stab home a second. The travelling fans were sent into ecstasy, as all Palace’s hard-work was paid off.
It meant a famous victory for Patrick Vieira’s side – no less than their performance on the afternoon deserved.