Saturday 15 December 2018

City avoid loss but draw may come at a heavy price for Pep

Crystal Palace 0 Man City 0

Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace tangles with Leroy Sane Photo: Getty
Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace tangles with Leroy Sane Photo: Getty

Jason Burt

In a bone-crunching encounter, three players left the pitch on stretchers - including the best in the Premier League this season in Kevin De Bruyne - and Gabriel Jesus departed, injured, in tears.

There was also damage inflicted to Manchester City's long run of league victories, halted here at 18, one short of the European record set by Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich in 2013-14. But it could have been worse, even if City's lead at the top was extended to 14 points.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah of Crystal Paalce stands over an injured Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City Photo: Getty
Timothy Fosu-Mensah of Crystal Paalce stands over an injured Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City Photo: Getty

As goalless draws go this was far from drab. It was the kind of festive fixture that has the rest of the world shaking their heads at the crazy English schedule.

Astonishingly it was Palace, reviving superbly under Roy Hodgson, who came closest to winning it. The best chance in open play was missed by Andros Townsend, skying the ball high when he had to score.

And then Palace missed a penalty in the 92nd minute. It came as Wilfried Zaha - later hailed as a player who "amazes me" by Hodgson - tricked his way past Danilo and then went down as he was challenged by Raheem Sterling. It looked soft, with TV pundits calling it a dive.

Surely, then, City's unbeaten record was about to go?

Christian Benteke of Crystal Palace is foiled by Eliaquim Mangala and Ederson of Manchester City Photo: Getty
Christian Benteke of Crystal Palace is foiled by Eliaquim Mangala and Ederson of Manchester City Photo: Getty

Up stepped Luka Milivojevic, but the midfielder looked nervous and drove the ball too straight. Keeper Ederson dived to his right with the ball cannoning off his legs, and his legend at City grew.

City broke, and Jason Puncheon threw himself at De Bruyne, catching him knee-high. It was late and ugly, and Puncheon was also injured in the process. It did not look good and the damage will be properly assessed today.

De Bruyne later said he was "OK", but Guardiola weighed in about the need for officials to protect players.

As De Bruyne and Puncheon - who was only cautioned - were lifted on to stretchers, Guardiola walked over to Hodgson for a chat, a moment of respectful calm after a pell-mell encounter that saw Palace became the first team to stop City scoring in the league this season. It was a huge compliment to Hodgson - he has been defeated just once in his past 10 league matches.

It was a broken encounter, with injury also to Palace's Scott Dann, who badly hurt a knee in bringing down De Bruyne.

In the first-half Sergio Aguero went closest to scoring as his shot flicked up off Jairo Riedewald's heel and hit a post. Wayne Hennessey excelled in the second-half as he denied the out-of-sorts Leroy Sane.

City did not have their usual rhythm, but, crucially, did not lose. There is steel as well as silk to this side.

It was a hard-earned point for both teams. But one that may well have come at a heavy price. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

 

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