ZAHA ON FORM: Ten men City punished by Palace
Crystal Palace ruined Pep Guardiola’s 200th Premier League match in the Manchester City hotseat as Wilfried Zaha and Conor Gallagher secured a win as impressive as it was surprising against the 10-man hosts.
Few predicted Saturday afternoon ending in anything other than celebration for the reigning champions, yet the well-drilled visitors triumphed thanks to an intelligent and energetic performance.
Zaha fired Palace into an early lead at the Etihad Stadium after capitalising on a mistake by Aymeric Laporte, whose afternoon got worse when he was sent off for hauling down the Palace star late in the first half.
Gabriel Jesus thought he had levelled until VAR ruled out the goal for offside, with on-loan midfielder Gallagher wrapping up a 2-0 win late on to send those from south London wild.
It represented a first Premier League loss since the opening weekend of the season for Guardiola’s men, while Patrick Vieira – a former City player and coach – celebrated the best performance of his Palace reign.
The Eagles started on the front foot and silenced the Etihad Stadium just six minutes into proceedings.
City were bringing the ball out from the back when Laporte passed into no man’s land having been spooked by pressure from Gallagher and Zaha.
The duo broke forwards and the former slid in the homegrown star to hit a low, perhaps hopeful, left-footed shot across Ederson into the far corner. The former Manchester United man clearly enjoyed the goal.
City attempted to respond but looked toothless and far from their free-flowing best.
Vicente Guaita stopped a Rodri snapshot and Joao Cancelo wildly lashed off target as the hosts attempted to draw parity, with Joachim Andersen preventing Phil Foden from directing home a fizzing Kyle Walker cross.
City fans were getting annoyed with Palace’s perceived timewasting and their afternoon went from bad to worse in first-half stoppage time.
Zaha turned centre-back Laporte, who reacted by dragging the goalscorer to the deck to prevent him running through on goal.
Referee Andre Marriner handed out a straight red card – a decision ratified by VAR, much to the hosts’ chagrin.
Bernardo Silva was booked for a frustrated challenge on Zaha, with Ederson joining him in the notebook as tempers frayed at half-time.
“You’re not fit to referee” echoed around the ground.
Rodri fired a first-time strike just over from Jack Grealish’s cutback when play resumed after the break, but the Eagles were still looking dangerous.
James McArthur struck over at the end of a good team move and Marc Guehi headed just over from a free-kick won and taken by impressive midfielder Gallagher.
City patiently probed as they attempted to keep Palace quiet at the other end, with Jesus seeing an attempt saved before Zaha raced through to slot past Ederson before the offside flag was belatedly raised.
Another offside call would rule out a goal moments later.
City had gone back to the halfway line having wholeheartedly celebrated Jesus directing home a lovely clipped cross from Foden, only for VAR to rule the playmaker had strayed offside in the build-up.
Jordan Ayew wasted a glorious chance and Cancelo saw a low shot saved as play swung from end to end.
Ederson did well to deny Gallagher and there were cheers when Guaita was finally booked for time wasting.
City pushed for an equaliser but were hit by a second late on. Zaha kept his cool under pressure and squared for substitute Michael Olise, who laid off for Gallagher to fire home.
Riyad Mahrez headed wide an attempt for a stoppage-time consolation.
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