Triumphant return for recalled Ivorian midfielder at Selhurst Park
FA Premier League
Saturday 19 November 2016, 15.00 KO
City: Bravo, Sagna, Kompany (Zabaleta 38), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure, De Bruyne, Nolito (Silva 67), Sterling, Aguero (Fernando 85)
Unused: Caballero, Sane, Navas, Iheanacho
Goals: Toure (39, 83)
Booked: Otamendi, Nolito
Referee: Bobby Madley
Man of the match: Toure
Yaya Toure made a stunning return to first team action, scoring twice as City secured an important away win at Selhurst Park. The Ivorian had not started a game since the Champions League qualifier against Steaua Bucharest in August, but had recently apologised to manager Pep Guardiola and was a surprise inclusion alongside Fernandinho in midfield. Guardiola's gamble paid off spectacularly with a goal in either half to ensure three points for the Blues.
In truth, it was a largely uninspired performance from City, as Guardiola acknowledged afterwards. The Blues laboured at times against an out of form Palace side, and Toure's late winner came as a great relief to his manager. However, the win was tempered by yet another injury suffered by captain Vincent Kompany, who suffered concussion in a collision with Claudio Bravo and is a major doubt for City's midweek trip to Mochengladbach.
The Blues dominated possession for much of the first half, without really troubling Wayne Hennessey in the Palace goal before Toure broke the deadlock five minutes before the interval. The Ivorian played a one-two with Nolito on the edge of the box, and saw his deflected shot fly into the roof of the net.
The hosts, on the back of four successive league defeats, offered little in the way of attacking threat in the first half, but upped the tempo after the break. Bravo saved well from Christian Benteke just before the hour mark following good work from Jason Puncheon, and Wilfried Zaha blasted the rebound wide.
Sergio Aguero then had a shot cleared off the line by Joel Ward, and would rue the missed opportunity as moments later Palace were level. Substitute Connor Wickham easily turned Pablo Zabaleta on the edge of the box, before rifling a shot past Bravo. It was a fierce strike, but Bravo will have been disappointed not to have kept it out.
David Silva was introduced as the Blues went in search of a winner, but the game appeared to be petering out to a draw before Toure's timely late intervention. Palace's marking was non-existant as Toure guided home his second of the game from Kevin De Bruyne's low corner.
Despite the result, Guardiola made it clear that he expected more from his players. “I want to be honest with you, in that way we are going to be far away, in that way we are not going to win the titles, in the way we played today,” he said. “Today was possibly a good step, but in the long term you have to play better.
“Sometimes it can happen once. But when it happens often in the end you are going to lose.”
“I was more satisfied when we played against Middlesbrough, against Everton even Tottenham the second half - but you have to win,” Guardiola added. “It is impossible to play in the Premier League three games a week and always play good. It is impossible.
“We controlled it better in the last minutes than for instance against Middlesbrough.
“Our reaction after we conceded the goal - our mentality was to attack. Against Middlesbrough need more control, we didn’t attack like the first half. Today was much better in that sense.
“That’s why it’s a huge compliment to the team - maybe more than ever - because we have to win these kind of games and we did it.”