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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Man City’s Title Hopes Put to the Sword at the Palace

For Crystal Palace, it felt like a moment of déjà-vu. On May 5th last year, a Tuesday night, they came from three goals down versus title-chasing Liverpool, scoring three goals in 11 minutes to claim a hitherto unlikely 3-3 draw.

That stalemate saw Liverpool surrender the title-hunt driving seat to Manchester City who seized the chance and were crowned Champions at the end of the season.

Fast forward to April 6th, on a Monday night, Crystal Palace was at it again, this time Manchester City – the team they did a favor to last season – being on the receiving end.

For much of the opening half, the defending champions hunted around the Palace danger area. With every pass they conjured together, they got closer to getting behind the often stubborn, diligent and hard to break home team defence.

It was all looking good for Manuel Pellegrini’s men despite having a passenger in the name of Jesus Navas who for the umpteenth time couldn’t find a blue shirt with his crosses. You have to wonder why the Chilean boss keeps playing him ahead of more deserving players like Samir Nasri and James Milner.

Football’s unfairness can bite even the least harmless and Crystal Palace who had barely had a sniff of Joe Hart’s goal bit Manchester City when it looked least likely. Four Palace players were involved in the build up; Joel Ward, Joe Ledley, Scott Dan and Glenn Murray all touched the ball as it moved swiftly towards Hart, every touch of every man hinting offside.

Murray was the last to touch the ball, the 31-year-old Englishman planting the ball home for the hosts to take the lead in the 34th minute despite vociferous protest from City led by captain Vincent Kompany. Referee Michael Oliver would hear none of it and allowed the goal to stand.

Jason Puncheon had troubled the Citizens’ defence on occasions that The Eagles went forward. He got rewarded just three minutes after the interval when his curling left-foot freekick beat the City wall and landed in the back of the net with Hart chasing to no success.

Puncheon’s free kick was worth winning any game. It was as well as feather in the cap of a matchday in which the Premier League witnessed some mesmerizing goals. The visitors created chances, Murray was lucky to escape with a handball inside the penalty area while Toure almost reproduced Puncheon’s stunning free kick which went just over.

However, with 12 minutes to go, Yaya Toure pulled one back for the visitors to set up a tense finale. It was a customary Yaya Toure goal with power, pace and direction behind it, Sergio Aguero deflecting it in but it would be almost disastrous to deny the Ivorian the goal.

That’s the best it got for City with Pardew’s men hanging on for the full points.

When Pardew took over at Selhurst Park, Palace were 18th but after conquering the English Champions on Monday night, they  moved to 11th, just 3 points shy of the top half.

The defeat for City left them 4th on the log, two points behind Arsenal in second place and 9 adrift of leaders Chelsea who also have a game in hand.

It seems like for the second season in a row, the dream for the Premier League title has once again been shattered at Selhurst Park.

And That’s thesteifmastertake!!