LONDON — A Raheem Sterling double helped keep Manchester City’s title hopes remain in their own hands after a 3-1 victory at Crystal Palace. The England winger raced onto Kevin De Bruyne‘s clever pass to fire City into a 15th minute lead before he turned in Leroy Sane‘s cross in the second half. But Luka Milivojevic‘s free-kick nine minutes from the end set up a tense finish before Gabriel Jesus killed off the game with a late strike.
City’s task is pretty clear: keep winning and they will be crowned Premier League champions again. This is another game ticked off and, despite Palace’s poor home record, a dangerous one they will be glad to see the back of. Coming in between two huge Champions League matches against Tottenham, City could easily have taken their eye off the ball, but they controlled the game from the first minute.
Injuries are a major threat to City’s hopes of a Quadruple and they continue to mount up. Fernandinho, a key man in the centre of midfield, missed the trip to Selhurst Park and is also a doubt for Wednesday’s Champions League second leg at the Etihad Stadium. Oleksandr Zinchenko was also missing, Bernardo Silva was only fit enough to come off the bench, while Sterling took a couple of strong challenges in the first half that saw him needing treatment on the pitch. With two games a week, each setback has a significant impact on a stretched squad.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Guardiola’s team selections in recent weeks suggest he doesn’t wholly trust Sane and Benjamin Mendy in big games. But he put his confidence in the pair at Selhurst Park and was rewarded with two dynamic displays when he needed it. Only when Sterling added a second goal did the manager’s thoughts turn to Wednesday night’s game, giving a welcome rest to David Silva and some minutes to his Portuguese namesake Bernardo. That could have backfired with the Eagles giving themselves a sniff of snatching a point, but it didn’t.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Ederson, 6 — Picked up a knock in the midweek defeat at Tottenham and will have been happy not to have been overextended, but was beaten by Milivojevic’s free kick.
DF Kyle Walker, 8 –Confidently shackled danger man Wilfried Zaha and forced the winger to spend more time defending in his own half.
DF Vincent Kompany, 7 — First start in six weeks and easily dealt with the physical threat of fellow countryman Christian Benteke.
DF Aymeric Laporte, 7 — Pinpoint passes started the attacks rolling and he was defensively solid too.
DF Benjamin Mendy, 8 — Mature performance from the entertainer as he controlled winger Andros Townsend as well as getting forward at every opportunity.
MF Ilkay Gundogan, 7 — Left wide open and dictated the play like a quarterback but gave away the free kick that led to Palace’s goal.
MF Kevin De Bruyne, 8 — A driving force in the centre of midfield and surprisingly claimed his first Premier League assist of the season with an exquisite pass for Sterling to score.
MF David Silva, 7 — Drifted into some dangerous positions in front of the Palace defence and caused them big problems with his delicate touches.
FW Raheem Sterling, 9 — Uncharacteristically scuffed an early chance wide, but made amends with an expertly taken opener and crucial second.
FW Sergio Aguero, 5 — Buzzed around the City attacks but seemed slightly off the pace, misjudging one great pass from De Bruyne which would have seen him through on goal.
FW Leroy Sane, 7 — Has a point to prove to Guardiola after missing big games recently and made the most of his chance against a strong full-back in Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
MF Bernardo Silva, 6 — Kept City moving forward and in control despite Palace’s mini-comeback.
FW Gabriel Jesus, N/R — Maintained his composure to strike the killer third goal.
MF John Stones, N/R — Came on to tighten the midfield.