Crystal Palace 2 Manchester City 1 (HT 1-0)
Manchester City crashed to a third successive away defeat despite totally dominating this match at Selhurst Park. A controversial Glen Murray tap in the first half which had at least two offsides turned down and a brilliantly struck Jason Puncheon free kick just after the break gave Palace a 2-0 lead despite City’s complete domination. Palace defended manfully for most of the first half and almost all the second, and could do nothing about Yaya Toure’s sizzling 78th minute strike, but it was not enough. Granted referee Oliver should have given a penalty for blatant hand ball but something is not right at City. Pellegrini’s 4-4-2 does not work enough now and I am sorry to say this, but with Dzeko playing in this form, which has been for most of the season, it is like playing with one arm tied behind our backs. Pellegrini’s failure to pick his best team – Zabaleta and Milner on the bench again – is going to cost him his job this summer. It was an undeserved defeat for City who gave everything, but fair play to Palace who worked very hard and defended well. Man of The Match Murray was outstanding at centre forward, even if he should have cost his side a penalty with his ball juggling skills.
The question is no longer about retaining our title – so badly have City fallen away to 9 points behind Chelsea. We are in 4th place, one point behind United and two behind resurgent Arsenal, with Liverpool and Tottenham 7 points behind. Even 4th place, and a potentially tricky Champions League Qualifier in August, is not guaranteed with a visit to Tottenham to come. The damage that could do to the club (which top players would we lose?) does not bear thinking about.
City played quite well in this game, having 74% of the possession, but we have to look how we can improve. Where did we go wrong? What can we learn from our mistakes? Was Joe Hart too far over to his right, and Yaya have done more to head it out from his position in the wall? Has the delivery from wide positions been good enough? We are better with 4-5-1. We must not panic. We have to keep playing our style, improve and do the best we can in every game for the rest of the season. We have to get to the end of this season in the best shape possible. Then a full review can be taken of the management – not only Pellegrini but Soriano and Begiristain too – and playing staff, when careful decisions have to be made, and at least one top quality signing made. Preferably it will be evolution rather than revolution, but there will be very big decisions to be made by Khaldoon Al Mubarak and his board.