Manchester City went top of the Premier League on goal difference after beating Crystal Palace 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday. It was rough day for Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, who was beaten by a long-range shot from Fabian Delph and a deflected effort from Sergio Aguero in the first half.
Aguero netted again in the second half as City turned on the style after the break. David Silva wrapped up the rout.
Hennessey ought to have done better with both early goals, although, truthfully, City were always in control in this one.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini opted for a bold team selection, handing a start to Nigerian teenager Kelechi Iheanacho alongside Aguero. Pablo Zabaleta also returned at right-back.
City provided the full starting XI on Twitter:
Palace boss Alan Pardew flooded central midfield with Yohan Cabaye, Joe Ledley and James McArthur. The club's official Twitter account detailed the starting lineup:
City broke the deadlock just after the 20-minute mark, following a very cagey start. Delph rasped a shot from far out that crept underneath Hennessey's body. The Welsh stopper was guilty of a late dive.
Almost 20 more minutes elapsed before City doubled their advantage, as Aguero bent a shot that hit Palace centre-back Scott Dann.
Mark Ritson of the Croydon Advertiser felt no blame belonged to Hennessey since the deflection left him with little chance:
No, is my opinion. Takes big deflection off Dann to beat Hennessey. #cpfc— Mark Ritson (@MR_LWMedia) January 16, 2016
Two long shots had undone the Palace defence. It's a common route to goal for City this season, according to OptaJoe:
11 - Manchester City have scored a league-high 11 goals from outside the box this season, including both of their goals today. Arrow.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 16, 2016
Aguero's finish also reaffirmed his familiar dominance in front of the home fans, something noted by Squawka:
Sergio Aguero has now scored 30 goals in his last 34 Premier League games at the Etihad. Home comforts. pic.twitter.com/AZdemhqJna— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 16, 2016
The second half began with some mild controversy when Aleksandar Kolarov pulled up with a calf problem. It took City a long while to get replacement Gael Clichy onto the pitch, something that angered Pardew.
Then Pellegrini made another change by introducing Yaya Toure for the impressive Iheanacho. Pardew answered by swapping Connor Wickham for Marouane Chamakh.
But the change did little to improve the away side's fortunes, and Aguero added his second. Kevin De Bruyne rolled across for the Argentinian goal-getter to tap in.
Stuart Brennan of the Manchester Evening News described the flowing move that created the finish:
Clinically worked by Silva, Yaya and KDB, giving Kun a tap-in #MCFC— Stuart Brennan (@StuBrennanMEN) January 16, 2016
De Bruyne's assist was further evidence of his role as City's chief creative force, per Squawka:
No player has more assists in Europe's top 5 leagues since 2013/14 than Kevin De Bruyne (36). Lovely team goal. pic.twitter.com/nGFjxX5PdL— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 16, 2016
A fast City break ended with Aguero turning provider. He teed up David Silva to complete the scoring and end Palace's nightmare day.
Speaking about Delph, Pellegrini was full of praise for the midfield dynamo:
PELLEGRINI: (On Delph) "I'm very happy with his performance. He had bad luck at the start of the season with different injuries..."— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) January 16, 2016
Meanwhile, Pardew refused to be critical of his team's efforts, despite the lopsided scoreline:
AP: That was not a terrible performance from us. We've threatened the goal today, which is a positive.— Crystal Palace FC (@CPFC) January 16, 2016
He also bizarrely downplayed Aguero and City's attacking efficiency:
AP: Aguero did create some lovely moments today, but he wasn't red hot! Most of their shots went in, it wasn't as if we were peppered.— Crystal Palace FC (@CPFC) January 16, 2016
City getting back to their prolific best is an ominous sign for the rest of the league. This team have been inconsistent this term but remain the most talented squad in England's top flight.
On this form, Pellegrini's men will take some stopping in the title race.