Crystal Palace 0-1 Manchester City: Erling Haaland scores from the spot to close gap on Arsenal
The way Erling Haaland was beating his chest like a man possession only emphasised the importance of this result at Selhurst Park.
Manchester City had not been at their swashbuckling best but they had created enough chances to win this match, with Haaland skying one glorious opportunity in the first half.
In the end it wasn’t some product of a pretty passage of play which did the trick but rather a penalty, rolled into the bottom-left corner by Haaland.
His 28th goal of this Premier League season leaves City two points behind Arsenal, who face Fulham today.
The pressure on Haaland to ensure this team do not drop out of this title race is immense. ‘He has to score five goals every game,’ Pep Guardiola said afterwards, smiling. ‘He knows that.’
Erling Haaland’s 28th league goal of the season was the difference at Selhurst Park
Haaland (9) sent the Crystal Palace goalkeeper the wrong way from the penalty spot
Crystal Palace have gone three games without a shot on target – the longest on record since Opta began keeping track
So of course Haaland was beating his chest at full-time. Of course Guardiola was embracing every one of his players. Of course the away end was a sea of limbs.
This may have only been a 1-0 win over a Crystal Palace team that haven’t won themselves in 2023, but make no mistake of its necessity.
Palace put in a defiant defensive display here, one which they felt deserved at least a point. It was a mad moment from Michael Olise which saw their hard work undone after 78 minutes.
His foul on Ilkay Gundogan gifted City their golden chance and Haaland duly took it, as he so often does.
‘The way he celebrates his goals and his mates’ goals shows how happy he is and how we are with him,’ Guardiola said of Haaland.
‘The personality of a young lad to take the ball and this pressure and put the ball away. The determination was great. The numbers speak for themselves.
‘One of the best attributes I’ve discovered working with him is that he can miss one chance and he is not getting depressed, not sad.’
That mindset came in handy here. But first, there was a curious banner being held up in the away end and the cameras picked it up. ‘Gary Lineker for Prime Minister,’ it read. Much like the man himself, the chances of an appearance on Match of the Day that evening were non-existent.
Pressure is mounting on Palace boss Patrick Vieira (left) after another poor performance
Signs in support of Gary Lineker were held up by some sections of support inside Selhurst Park
Man City striker Julian Alvarez wasted a brilliant chance after coming on in the second-half
Haaland’s first sniff on goal arrived in the 28th minute but he spurned this effort over the bar
How Palace would love a goalscorer like Lineker. They had not managed a shot on target in their previous two games, and no Premier League team had ever experienced the indignity of three in a row. Until now, that is.
Patrick Vieira has faced accusations from fans that his football has turned stale. When you’re struggling to shoot, City are the last team you want to face.
MATCH FACTS: Crystal Palace 0-1 Manchester City
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Guaita 7; Clyne 6.5 (Ward 71, 6), Andersen 7, Guehi 7, Mitchell 7; Milivojevic 6.5 (Ahamada 61, 6), Lokonga 7; Schlupp 6.5 (Eze 80), Olise 5.5, Ayew 6 (Edouard 80); Zaha 6
Subs (not used): Whitworth, Tomkins, Mateta, Richards, Riedewald
Booked: Milivojevic, Andersen
Manager: Patrick Vieira 6
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson 6; Stones 7 (Walker 89), Akanji 7, Dias 7, Ake 7; Silva 6.5 (De Bruyne 79), Rodri 7, Gundogan 7; Foden 6.5 (Alvarez 58, 6), Haaland 7.5, Grealish 7
Subs (not used): Moreno, Phillips, Laporte, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Palmer, Lewis
Booked: Dias, Ake
Scorers: Haaland (78 pen)
Manager: Pep Guardiola 7
Referee: Robert Jones 6
They play keep-ball like no one else in the Premier League. They make it so that opponents cannot escape their own half.
Wilfried Zaha started up top for Palace and he chased countless long balls while City dominated the play.
The visitors’ first chance saw Rodri’s volley repelled by Vicente Guaita before Jack Grealish’s attempt at the end of mazy run was dragged wide.
Haaland’s first sniff of goal arrived in the 28th minute when Bernardo Silva’s through-ball found Nathan Ake.
He squared for his striker, who had the goal at his mercy from seven yards. It was a tap-in by his standards and yet, Haaland blazed over. A mystifying miss by the Norwegian.
In the 31st minute, Ilkay Gundogan’s free-kick found Rodri’s head. It was saved by Guaita, though the assistant Ian Hussin flagged for offside regardless.
Before the break, Haaland leaped for a ball with Marc Guehi. The striker’s arm caught the head of the defender, who dropped down.
Palace’s supporters shouted ‘off, off, off’. Those cries were more in hope than expectation as it appeared an accidental collision.
In the 55th minute, Grealish was pulled from behind by Milivojevic as he swaggered his way into the Palace box.
He landed in the area, but referee Robert Jones and VAR Neil Swarbrick said the foul occurred outside. Foden blasted the ball around the seven-man wall, but Guaita, not for the first time, beat it away.
That turned out to be Foden’s final contribution. He was replaced by Julian Alvarez and with a magnificent turn, the 23-year-old Argentinian left himself with only Guaita to beat. He blazed over.
Michael Olise (right) clattered Ilkay Gundogan (left) in the box as the deciding penalty was immediately given
Guardiola (right) was all smiles at full-time as he joked around with his goalscoring centre-forward at full-time
In the 76th minute, City got their chance to win this game. There was a corner taken short by Grealish to Gundogan, who was inside the box.
As he played his pass back, Olise rushed in. He clattered Gundogan and Jones pointed to the penalty spot.
Haaland grabbed the ball. No chance anyone else was taking this. He rolled the ball into the bottom-left corner while Guaita dived the opposite way. City’s supporters went wild. As did the players and staff.
After feeling frustrated for so much of this match, the relief was palpable and summed up by Haaland’s passionate reaction at full-time.