Date:Monday April 28 2014
Maybe, just maybe. The Pedmachine's pages had all but surrendered any chance of the title crossing Manchester in favour of a trip down the East Lancs but with the results having favoured City for once over the weekend, Jose Mourinho and his "weakened team" blew the lid off the title race and opened the doors for both his own team, Chelsea and, of course our very own Manchester City.
With the fans rejoicing from what they had witnessed on the big screens, it was down to The Blues to take advantage of the situation at a stadium where a much improved Crystal Palace have been causing grief to much bigger sides, notably Chelsea.
And as has been the norm in recent matches it didn't take City long to lay down the marker as the newly restored Yaya Toure teased the Palace defence with a cross that split the central defenders, landed neatly on Dzeko's head and ended up sailing past Speroni and into the back of the net.
Tony Pulis' tactics were blown apart as early as the third minute and it was not to be a day when City sat back and enjoyed the ride before leaving the Blue world sitting on the edge of its seat and conceding a late equaliser. City provided a masterful combination of the exciting attacking masterminded by Pellegrini and the ball retention that was Mancini's trade mark, denying the lively Palace a sight of goal.
Whether it was along the ground or in aerial format, it was not going to work for Palace. Kompany seemed to be restored to his title-winning best and alongside him the maligned Demichelis only made one discernable error all afternoon. For the remainder he was simply mean and unyielding.
Without the craft of the magician known as David Silva, one would've thought City would lack in this area, but with Nasri providing the buzz, Milner the running and Yaya the creativity, all Garcia had to do was simply guard his defence, put in the necessary tackles and keep his nose clean.
Up top Aguero didn't get open but showed enough to tell me he is getting back to his best and Dzeko laboured and toiled unselfishly as well as getting the vital opening goal.
For the rest of the half City simply bossed proceedings. Whatever Palace tried to create was nullified and City always looked the more likely to score. Dzeko could have added to his early goal and Kompany should have done better with a free header from a corner on 23 minutes.
When the viewing world was putting the kettle on, Nasri, in traffic in central midfield, returned a one-two by fishing out an exceptional pass to find the overlapping Yaya who set off like a locomotive shrugging aside all-comers, getting the run of the ball and then curling the most audacious of shots into the top corner leaving Speroni without a prayer.
Half time team talks were re-written in haste.
Palace tried hard to get a foothold in the match and at times had City on the back foot surrendering the ball far too regularly as they kept their lines clear without a natural ball retainer in the shape of Silva. But they were classy enough to hold Pulis' men at bay to the extent that Hart was never really troubled despite pulling off one excellent save and then excelling in his work cutting out crosses and holding onto high shots.
On the flanks Zabaleta looked untroubled and the hosts could not take advantage of the space left along City's left where Kolarov took every opportunity to provide the width and link up with Nasri.
Nasri might not be Silva but he is not afraid of getting stuck in, and working hard for his team in a way he simply didn't last season. Ahead of half time he took a poor challenge on the back of his calf, recovered and got up to face the world and more of the same. As far as Yaya is concerned they just couldn't stop him. He played for an hour or so before making way for the rested Fernandinho and it was an hour of pure torment for Crystal Palace. His goal and assist easily made him man-of-the-match, but there was more to his all round game than that. He looked to be back to his rampaging best. If he spotted a gap he was in it and those in blue and red were in his wake trying every trick they could to bring him to a halt, largely without success.
The second half brought practically no grief, although Hart fielded a series of corners and set pieces without difficulty, his decision-making for once spot on. He also made a good save from Puncheon who had been known to score against City for Southampton last season.
But with the route to the title now right back in blue hands, City were not going to let this chance go. Players maligned and slaughtered in these columns over the course of this season, notably Kolarov, Garcia and Dzeko all did the business against a side unbeaten in five matches, a run liberally designed to distribute banana skins along Rowsley Street. City were in no mood to take the slip hazards though, dancing around them better than a contestant off "Strictly".
This looked like a performance worthy of title winners, although for now we'll simply refer to City as title contenders, but contenders with the shoe on their own foot for a change. The Blues will need both shoes firmly in position for the visit to Everton this weekend. Can anyone remember the last time City won at Goodison? I can't. The red side will certainly be hoping that City's dismal run across Stanley Park continues whilst they play out their two winnable matches against Crystal Palace and current Premier League whipping boys Newcastle United.
Aston Villa might still need something when they appear at the Etihad next week when City become the only team in the top three to have to play three games in eight days as a conclusion to the campaign, although Chelsea do have a Champions League match this week which could conclude their season or leave them looking for a snooker in the Premier League debacle.
So here we are again in the land of nailbiting, our minds in a whirl and simply trying to calculate the outcomes. What we do know is that if City win all three matches they will be Champions.
UPCOMING DATES FOR YOUR FILOFAX:
all times East Manchester BST
Sa 03May 17h30, Everton, Goodison Park, PL
We 07May 19h45, Aston Villa, The Etihad, PL
Su 11May 15h00, West Ham, The Etihad, PL
Date:Monday April 28 2014
Inter Play Down Yaya Rumours (Sunday January 25 2015)
Pellegrini - We Have No FA Cup Excuse (Saturday January 24 2015)
Stats: Manchester City v Middlesbrough (Saturday January 24 2015)
Manchester City v Middlesbrough - Team Line-Ups (Saturday January 24 2015)
No Villa Move For Scott (Saturday January 24 2015)
Team News - City v Middlesbrough (Friday January 23 2015)
Containing Boro (Friday January 23 2015)
FA Cup Magic Not Lost On Fernando (Friday January 23 2015)
Pellegrini - We Need To Return To Our Best (Friday January 23 2015)
City Need To Refocus In A Set-Piece Nightmare (Friday January 23 2015)
|Man City||3||-||0||Crystal Palace|
|2. Man City||22||14||5||3||+23||47|
|4. Man Utd||22||11||7||4||+15||40|
|7. West Ham||22||10||6||6||+10||36|
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