Dzeko strike secures three points as Pellegrini rings the changes
FA Premier League
Saturday 28 December 2013, 15.00 KO
City: Hart, Boyata (Negredo 55), Kompany (c), Nastasic, Clichy, Garcia, Fernandinho (Nasri 55), Navas, Silva, Milner (Kolarov 75), Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Toure, Rodwell
Goals: Dzeko (66)
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the Match: Fernandinho
The game very quickly slipped into a pattern that would take seemingly forever to break, as Crystal Palace’s intentions to leave with a point became clear from the off. The visitors packed their defence and a much-changed home side were finding it very difficult to break through. Dzeko’s turn and shot was well wide, Fernandinho had a shot deflected over, while Silva powered wide.
The ball was coming back to Palace throughout the first half, but City just could not trouble Speroni. Milner curled an effort over from the edge of the box, Dzeko nodded a high cross back across the area but it was deflected over, and Kompany’s piledriver from range was gathered by the goalkeeper.
As the half hour came up, the visitors enjoyed a spell of possession in the City half – even if it was brief. Bolasie volleyed an effort straight at Hart, before Kompany and Nastasic combine to snuff out a quick break. Jerome threw himself at a low cross into the box, but Hart was there first and took a blow to the face that would see him finish the game with a black eye. Jerome couldn’t continue after the clash.
On the stroke of half time, Silva blasted just wide from a tight angle, before Fernandinho picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box to shoot. The Brazilian flicked it over the challenge and volleyed with his left foot, but it was just over the bar – the home fans were frustrated, but that’s exactly what Palace were aiming for.
Early in the second period, the Blues were thankful for their goalkeeper as the away side could have taken the lead. A long range effort from Puncheon looked destined for the bottom corner until Hart was down and across to palm it behind. From the resulting corner, Chamakh headed wide – when he should have headed in.
On the hour mark, Palace came even closer – though the combination was the same. Puncheon belted a shot from range and Hart, even more impressively this time, was across to his left to get a fingertip on the ball and nudge it around the post. Jedinak then forced the England keeper into a good save, touching his effort over the bar.
But it was the Blues who took the lead, as they got back into the swing of things. Navas picked up a high ball to the back post by Nasri and pulled it back across the area. It missed Negredo at the front post, but Dzeko was waiting on the penalty spot to side-foot it into the net.
The goal, though, didn’t do much for the game. In the end, it was one of the last few meaningful efforts on goal – with two Dzeko headers being the closest either side came in the final 25 minutes. The first – from deep – was from a Kolarov cross, but was a difficult chance and easy for Speroni, while the second – from a tight angle – couldn’t find the net from a Navas driven ball across.
It wasn’t a pretty game, but City did what they needed to. They enjoy a Saturday night on top of the table and have broken the Premier League record for the most number of goals scored at the midway point in the season.