Manchester City closed to within three points of the top of the Premier League table with a straightforward 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Palace have proven a resilient side—particularly at home—this season, but Edin Dzeko broke the deadlock after just three minutes to give City an early boost before Yaya Toure sealed the points before half-time with a glorious finish.
With Liverpool losing earlier in the day to Chelsea, City’s win means Manuel Pellegrini’s side are now three points behind the Reds—with a game in hand and a superior goal difference.
The title, once again, is a strong possibility for City, as long as they win their remaining three fixtures.
Afterwards, Pellegrini said (per the BBC):
Of course we talked with the players [about the Liverpool result] before the game but we could not play against Palace depending on Liverpool—we still had to win so we were very concentrated on our own game.
Yaya Toure has had a wonderful year. He has been recovering from an injury—that is why he played only 60 minutes but he is a top player. Today had a very important role to play with his goal and with his assist.
It was a happy day and it was very important for us. Before today we were depending on other teams. Now we continue as we were two weeks ago, depending only on what we do.
City fans may not agree, but a game pretty much sapped of tension once Dzeko scored. City also recovered their verve with that Toure goal.— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) April 27, 2014
If they start as well as they did at Selhurst Park, then they should have few problems in that regard. Crystal Palace boss Tony Pulis named a typically robust starting XI, but inside the first four minutes, they had conceded.
Dzeko scored the goal, but in truth it was all about the delivery: Toure producing a sublime in-swinging cross from a central position that the striker gratefully met with a powerful header to leave Julian Speroni helpless.
Palace’s survival is already guaranteed—against many experts’ pre-season predictions—but they are not a side set up to break down the opposition, and in truth, they only occasionally looked like getting on terms. Jason Puncheon’s long range effort was about their only viable shooting opportunity in the first half.
City, in contrast, continued to look impressive, with Sergio Aguero causing the Palace back line all sorts of problems with his movement and control. It was Toure who got the second goal on the eve of half-time, however.
The Ivorian took the ball from Samir Nasri and embarked on a typically bustling run into the penalty area before pausing and curling a pinpoint left-footed effort into Speroni’s far corner.
It was a goal of sublime skill and incision, and it effectively secured the three points.
It's getting crowded at the top. pic.twitter.com/Wjxfj0unh7— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) April 27, 2014
The second half saw Palace attempt to push forward, but with Vincent Kompany keeping Cameron Jerome in his pocket and Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon both looking a little short of their best form, Joe Hart was never in serious danger of seeing his clean sheet spoiled.
Instead, it was City who created a number of further openings: Dzeko twice denied a second goal by Speroni, who was also forced into a smart save after Aguero wriggled free inside the area.
The Argentine, along with Toure, was soon withdrawn—as Pellegrini attempted to preserve some of his biggest assets for the three challenges still to come.
City are now firmly back in the title race. Liverpool are next weekend’s visitors to Selhurst Park—City will be hoping Pulis’ side will be back to their obdurate best by the time that meeting roles around.
Crystal Palace face another title challenger—Liverpool—next weekend. Prior to that, Manchester City travel to Goodison Park to face Everton, in what appears to be on paper their toughest remaining fixture.