After a thrilling 3-3 draw against Newcastle last weekend, followed up with a far less exciting 3-3 draw against Barcelona in a rarely seen mid-season charity match, it was beginning to look as though Manchester City’s woes would continue against Crystal Palace.
After going two goals down for the fourth time in six league games, City once again came back in dramatic fashion to eventually cruise to a 4-2 victory.
Pep Guardiola started arguably his strongest XI, with John Stones and Ruben Dias starting alongside each other for the first time this season. Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo took their natural starting positions, while Bernardo Silva slotted back into midfield alongside Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri. With Jack Grealish still not fully fit, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez flanked Erling Haaland to his left and right.
Much like the home fixture last season, Crystal Palace got on the score sheet early. A set piece ball in from Eberechi Eze deflected off Walker and then Stones to skirt past Ederson to give Crystal Palace an early lead.
From there, Crystal Palace’s pressing was alive and well, and City were unable to build out from the back. And just as the Blues began to find their rhythm, their deficit was doubled.
Palace were awarded a corner following a counter-attack, and Joachim Andersen was left free for a header which Ederson stood no chance of stopping. Just twenty minutes in, and the Premier League champions were 2-0 down.
Pep Guardiola's side closed the half out looking incredibly sloppy, unable to take control of the match and looking for chances in transition.
But the second half was a different story.
In the 53rd minute, Bernardo cut in onto his left foot from the edge of the box. His shot on target wasn’t the strongest but took a fortunate deflection to deceive Vicente Guaita and find the back of the net. Just eight minutes into the second half, Manchester City had cut their lead in half.
In the 60th minute, City nearly tied the game when Bernardo drilled through a flurry of Palace defenders, but his shot was unable to find the target and went out of play.
Following Bernardo’s effort, Cancelo and Mahrez were subbed off for Julian Alvarez and Ilkay Gundogan.
Seconds later, the champions had once again crawled their way back out of a two-goal hole.
In the 62nd minute, Foden recovered a ball that Palace could not clear and immediately lobbed a cross in on goal to a wide-open Erling Haaland, who easily slotted it home to tie the game.
Like clockwork, the Blues were back in it.
However, City weren’t done yet.
Following a corner in the 70th minute, Bernardo carried the ball into Palace’s box and found Alvarez cutting in from 10 yards out. Alvarez’s slightly heavy touch took him out of a scoring position, and he laid it back to Bernardo, who darted towards the byline. The Portugal international cut the ball back to the edge of the six-yard box to Stones, whose scuffed shot landed at the feet of a wide-open Haaland for a tap-in.
The comeback was complete.
Despite now securing the lead, City continued pressing forward, wanting to ensure the victory, and they found it in the 81st minute. Foden freed up Gundogan in City’s own half with acres of space. The German carried the ball across midfield and threaded a pass to the edge of the box towards a darting Haaland, who shrugged off a nearby defender and scored his first of many hat tricks for the club.
After being two goals down, Manchester City had scored four goals unanswered.
Following the deserved celebration, Haaland was taken off to a standing ovation, and Sergio Gomez was brought on for his first competitive appearance for City and his home debut.
From that point, Guardiola's men killed the game and kept their shape to secure the three points and continue their push for their third consecutive Premier League title.
Man of the Match
There was a point in this match where Bernardo Silva deserved Man of the Match. However, Erling Haaland's dominance showed through, and his third goal secured his Man of the Match status. It hasn’t been a perfect transition away from the false nine just yet, but with six goals and an assist through four games, it’s clear to see that, even early on, the Haaland experience is working.
Ederson - 7
Walker - 8
Stones - 8
Dias - 7
Cancelo - 5
Bernardo - 9
De Bruyne - 6
Mahrez - 7
Haaland - 10
Foden - 8
Subs: Alvarez - 7, Gundogan - 7, Gomez (NA), Palmer (NA)
Written by: @IVIeehan
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