And on it goes. City maintain their 100% start to the season (just), keep another clean sheet, win their 11th match in a row, win their 5th straight away game, for the first time in over a century or something (I’m very big on research), and now even David James we might scrape into the top four. City have not conceded a goal in their last six games, another new club record, and are the fourth top-flight team to open a season with five clean sheets.
I was very pensive about this game, as I knew it would be very tough indeed, especially without our resident magician. Sterling’s omission didn’t help the mood, nor the formation. It was a top of the table clash after all, so plenty was at stake.
The fact is that barring a 4 goal thrashing, City could lose and still top the table, but I was desperate for the run to continue. Never satisfied, eh?
Chelsea’s woes had continued earlier in the day, and it’d getting to the point that that may not even be title challengers for long – though surely they will go on a run at some point.
And so to the surprising team news. Sterling was out with a supposedly minor problem, De Bruyne and Otamendi only made the bench so it was a reprieve for Navas and a recall for Nasri and Bony. Two up front, which isn’t my favourite formation.
It was the home side that started the brighter. The international break hadn’t appeared to do City many favours, and play seemed sluggish. As expected, Zaha and Bolasie were causing problems down the flanks with their pace, and Bolasie forced Hart into an early save after City gave the ball away cheaply. Thankfully City grew into the game gradually, but were fortunate to avoid a penalty after Fernandinho clipped Cabaye in the area. Seconds later and their luck turned, Scott Dann lucky to stay on the pitch after a nasty kick at Aguero’s knee. Aguero was forced to go off before long, and we can only hope it isn’t a serious injury, though he stayed on the bench and didn’t leave the ground on crutches.
And so this meant a debut for De Bruyne, affording him a good hour on the pitch.
Yaya Toure was the next to escape serious censure, his wild challenge earning him a yellow when it could have been worse. Toure wasn’t at his best, perhaps aware of what the Sunday papers had in store.
Meanwhile in the dugouts, Alan Pardew, incensed by Toure’s challenge, trespassed into f***ing old ****’s technical area, and handbags ensued. Sadly they later shook hands and made up, f***ing old **** probably realising that Pardew wasn’t worth the aggro. The ****.
It was a feisty, enjoyable game, and half-chances were plentiful. Sako blazed over Palace’s best opening, and Bony had a shot saved and should have done better when the ball reached him a second time.
As for the second half, City played better in my opinion. De Bruyne was moved to the left, and should have had an assist, as Navas rounded the keeper, doing brilliantly into that position, before slicing the ball wide – it should have been a goal. On a day when there were no obvious candidates for man of the match, with all players doing well but not brilliantly, De Bruyne has a good a case as any, creating five chances for teammates, more than anyone else on the pitch despite the fact he only played an hour. The silky passing and energy across the pitch was clear to see – he will be a real asset. Chelsea could certainly do with him right now.
City themselves had a penalty shout, with Nasri seemingly fouled in the box, but the replay showed that Cabaye does get a touch on the ball. That doesn’t it mean it can’t still be a foul, but I think it is debatable.
The BBC gave man of the match to Kelechi Iheanacho, a man on the pitch for about six minutes.
Puncheon went close with a header, forcing a smart save from Hart, then Gayle shot wide late on. And then…
It was Nasri who made the goal. He is sublime as ever in possession and did brilliantly to find space on the edge of the area before shooting low. The shot was parried, and Iheanacho became City’s 3rd youngest league scorer because he was the only one who was alert to the possibility of a parried shot. The rest is history, and City march on.
And look what it meant to him, the players and of course the fans. Great SCENES. It felt like a definitive moment in the season, but it’s way too early to think that way.
And perhaps the Nigerian showed why Dzeko was allowed to leave without being replaced. It’s early days, but it is clear that those behind the scenes have very high hopes for the youngster.
After that there was a pitiful handball claim for Palace against Mangala, and that was that, well apart from a scramble in the Palace area and Toure somehow missing sealing the match with a header, though it was wellied at him. Another clean sheet, another three points, in the hardest game of the season. No clear outstanding performances, but a job done professionally by all.
58% possession, 21 shots, with 7 on target. I don’t remember that much action to be honest.
Bizarrely, it seems an age since City have won a game that they didn’t clearly deserve to. That’s bad news for the competition, as we’ve hardly been winging it since hitting form. Palace will feel aggrieved not to get a point, and I would have been satisfied with a draw, but that’s football, and Pardew took off two of his most dangerous players prior to the goal, and paid the price, as City could get further forward without the threat of a quick counter-attack from the home side. With three of our brightest attacking players out, it was never going to be easy anyway – any team would miss Sterling, Silva and Aguero.
And so onto the second big game of the week. We sweat for three days over the fitness of Silva, Sterling and Aguero, and I doubt all three will make it. However, Juventus have injury concerns of their own, limped to a home draw last night, their first point of the season, and none of our Champions League opponents have won a league game this season. There can be no excuses this time around.
Finally, bad news reaches me regarding Martin Tyler. Johnsons the cleaners have had their best people on the job, but sadly cannot remove the stains that adorned Tyler’s pants after United’s match yesterday. Apparently this time they were just too numerous and ingrained into the cotton to safely remove from the pants. Onto the ever-growing pile they go.