Palace came to Manchester in typical Tony Pulis fashion – stubborn and very defensive, but decent on the break. Fair play to them because to attack us with their personnel would have been naive and they came closer to snatching a draw than most other teams.
The game was a frustrating one for City fans. Many chances were squandered and the tempo wasn’t great, but it’s worth remembering the gap between the grueling Liverpool match and today’s was one of the shortest in Premier League history. Those playing again will have suffered physically and the usage of fringe players means a drop in quality in some cases.
City had their chances to make this easier than it was, with a staggering 23 shots, but many of them were wasted.
It was a case of chipping away and trying to unlock a resilient Palace, who left very little space between defence and midfield. They also had some good chances, with the fantastic Joe Hart (sporting a nasty cut eye after a collision) making a couple of crucial saves.
The relief was obvious and a huge roar went up at the Etihad when the lively Jesus Navas notched up his second assist in two games, squaring the ball to Dzeko to fire home his 50th goal for City. Dzeko hadn’t been playing well at all, but in typical Dzeko & Hyde fashion he scored out of nowhere to win us the game.
Palace pushed for an equaliser but City stood strong and picked up a crucial 3 points in a turgid game. One of those you’re just happy to have over and done with.
City end December with 8 wins, 1 draw and 0 defeats in all competitions. If there is any justice in the world, Pellegrini will be handed his first Barclays Manager of the Month award soon.
January promises more challenges, including trips to Swansea, Newcastle and Spurs in the league. Not easy, but this City team has a strong mentality and are finally top of the league – until tomorrow at least.
Manchester City: Hart, Boyata (Negredo 55), Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Fernandinho (Nasri 55), Garcia, Navas, Silva, Milner (Kolarov 75), Dzeko
Subs not used: Pantilimon, Lescott, Toure, Rodwell
Goal: Dzeko 66
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Gabbidon, Delaney, Parr, Puncheon, Ward, Jedinak, Bannan (Gayle 81), Bolasi (Williams 76), Jerome (Chamakh 35)
Subs not used: Campana, Phillips, Moxey, Price
Attendance: 47,151 (sold out)
TKA Man of the Match: Joe Hart
Stats courtesy of WhoScored: