Wednesday 22 November 2017

Sane and City in cruise control

Manchester City 5-0 Crystal Palace

Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling scores his side’s second goal past Wayne Hennessey. Photo: Getty
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling scores his side’s second goal past Wayne Hennessey. Photo: Getty

Jamie Jackson

The Manchester City show rolls on. This fifth win of the Premier League season took the tally to 21 goals and added a fourth clean sheet to a formidable start from Pep Guardiola's men.

It was a duck-shoot at times as Crystal Palace provided easy prey and the south London side's search for a first goal of the campaign continues. They have now lost all six of their opening games. This equals Portsmouth's dubious feat at the beginning of the 2009-'10 term, and if Roy Hodgson's side go down next week they equal Pompey's mark of seven straight losses overall.

The bad news for the Eagles is that Manchester United are up next but City will hardly care about that. What did annoy Guardiola was Neil Swarbrick's failure to give a penalty after Timothy Fosu-Mensah pulled down the excellent Leroy Sane. However, when Sergio Aguero headed home for the fourth a few seconds afterwards, the smile returned to the Catalan manager.

As expected, City were a blue swarm from kick-off. Guardiola's team won a series of corners which drew them ever closer to registering. The third of these was driven in off Kevin De Bruyne's boot from the right. Nicolas Otamendi connected cleanly and smacked Luka Milivojevic. The ball came to Fernandinho and he hit as ferocious a shot that Wayne Hennessey beat away. Now, Aguero took a turn to try and finish the job but the ball was scrambled away.

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates scoring his sides first goal. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates scoring his sides first goal. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Palace lined up in a 4-5-1 that had Christian Benteke at the tip and Reuben Loftus-Cheek as the midfielder with most licence to get forward quick. The former Chelsea man came close to upsetting the expected form by dancing inside from the left and beating Ederson but not the goalkeeper's right post. Loftus-Cheek was later guilty of a glaring miss when a run took him deep into City's area.

Aguero was also culpable of wastefulness though his chance was harder. Sane surged along the left and cut the ball back but, on the edge of the six-yard box, it caught his Argentinian team-mate off-balance and he ballooned over. Later David Silva lobbed the ball on to the No 10's head but his effort lacked power. The Spaniard directed his own header over when Fernandinho crossed and, as the contest neared the interval, there was some frustration among the home crowd.

Now, though, came Sane's third goal in four days. The German fashioned a one-two with Silva that featured a lovely chip from the later and Sane did the rest. At times it had been attack-versus-defence, City camped in Palace's half and this was just reward for their superiority.

Guardiola made one change from the last league outing and when announced it was received as a surprise. Yet after his opener the dropping of Gabriel Jesus for Sane, who scored both goals in the mid-week Carabao Cup win at West Bromwich Albion, seemed smart.

Roy Hodgson, Manager of Crystal Palace looks on during the match. Photo: Getty
Roy Hodgson, Manager of Crystal Palace looks on during the match. Photo: Getty

By then City had lost Benjamin Mendy, the French left-back forced off in the 28th minute and replaced by Danilo.

Hodgson, meanwhile, had made three changes from his first match in charge, the last of the five previous league losses. Mamadou Sakho started for a first time while Patrick van Aanholt and Milivojevic were also included.

As the second half kicked off, the Silva-Sane combo started up again as soon. Another percussive move switched ball between them and after Sane threatened, Fernandinho was able to shoot but to no avail. Sane, though, was about to turn creator as City moved up the gears. This was simple and slick: De Bruyne found Sane down the left and he pinged the ball past Sakho and in to Raheem Sterling and it was 2-0, the winger collecting a fourth goal of the season. Moments later he should have had a fifth. Hennessey spilled a De Bruyne shot into the lurking Sterling's path but he hit side-netting not the back of Hennessey's goal, and Palace escaped.

City's interplay now was delightful. Aguero went close after an exchange with Silva and Sterling. Guardiola has wanted more from Aguero and here he got it, the No 10's volley a neat short-range pass from which Sterling rolled home. This was the 22-year-old's final act. Guardiola paid him a compliment by taking him off on the hour to protect him for Shakhtar Donetsk's Champions League visit on Tuesday.

By the close it was all so familiar: Fabian Delph added the fifth as Palace became the latest patsies steam-rolled over by a City side that can be expected to improve. It is a frightening prospect.

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