Manchester City survived a late scare to claim all three points at Selhurst Park, with Raheem Sterling’s brace and a late Gabriel Jesus strike grabbing vital goals.
Here’s what we learned from an intense battle in London…
Long Live King Kevin
Some say experience is the key to winning titles. Others argue that you need a solid defence coupled with a star strike force. For some people, it’s a mix of luck and consistency. They’re all wrong. Actually, the key to winning the Premier League is a 150lb Belgian man named Kevin. And luckily, he plays in sky blue.
Over the season, we’ve had fun trying to convince ourselves that we haven’t missed De Bruyne. But we’ve been lying to ourselves. No team that is or ever was wouldn’t be improved by a tackling machine that scores screamers for fun and pings passes no other player could even comprehend around like they’re five-yarders. He’s a monster, a freak of nature, a machine. There’s simply no replacing KDB. And now he’s back- good luck, Spurs…
Big Ben Rings Again
In a tricky-looking away game, with Fabian Delph and Oleks Zinchenko both missing and Aymeric Laporte needed in the middle of the defence, it was the ideal time for Benjamin Mendy to have one of his best games in a City shirt. He certainly stepped up to the challenge.
The Frenchman has been nicknamed a ‘Flying Machine’, and it’s an apt description. Like the early aeroplanes designed over a century ago, nobody is quite sure if he’ll actually work, or for how long. But when he gets going, he really gets going. A fully fit Mendy offers a certain physicality that most full-backs can’t, and his passing today was as crisp as I can remember since he joined from Monaco. If Mendy can stay fit (petition to make ‘If Mendy can stay fit’ the official Manchester City motto, please) then he and Zinchenko should ensure that left-back will no longer be a problem position. Well, for a little while, at least.
A War of Minds
This title race is all about mentality. On paper, both Liverpool and City should be winning most of their last ten games- but it’s not going to be that simple. Pressure plays a part. Fatigue plays a part. Concentration plays a part (Steven). For the most part, City won today because they handled all three.
When Milivojevic’s free kick flew into the net late on, every City fan watching pretty much lost their minds. I include myself in that. So imagine how the players must have felt, knowing that any mistake could cost them a goal, and any goal conceded would probably cost them the title. But they kept their cool at the crucial time, and kept Palace out for the remainder of the game. De Bruyne (did I mention he’s really good?) was the driving force between every counter-attack late on and he finally got his reward with a second assist of the game as Jesus finished the Eagles late on. City have proven they have the mental strength to take this title race the whole distance.
Raheem Keeps the Dream Alive
Big players step up when their clubs need them desperately. In the final stretch of the season, when every win is vital, it’s the true greats that take responsibility and score the goals to give their team three points. Yaya Touré was a vital part of that in 2012 and 2014. Now, with him gone, Raheem Sterling has taken the baton.
Sterling has to win City’s Player of the Year, he just has to. It’ll be a tragedy and a travesty if his season-defining contribution isn’t recognised as is deserved. Today he was the one who won the game, scoring a brace despite an awful miss early on. He has stared into the face of an overwhelming horde of abuse, pressure and pure vitriol and cooly sidestepped it like a man casually walking around a pile of horse dung. And that, Mr Salah, is why Sterling is in the conversation for Player of the Year and you aren’t.
Sané Stakes A Claim
What’s happened to Leroy Sané’s minutes lately? The German, who should be starting every game when fit, has been spending far too much time on the bench over the last few months. Today, though, he was very much alive and kicking.
Leroy tormented the Palace defence with his inimitable style of driving pace and tight footwork. In fact, he’s the only player to complete a take-on against Aaron Wan-Bissaka more than once in the Premier League this season. Topping it off with an assist for Sterling’s second goal, Sané put in a display today that should have Riyad Mahrez nervous.
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