Manchester City tightened their grip on a place in next seasons Champions League with a convincing 5-0 hammering of Crystal Palace. This season it has felt like the days of putting fours, fives and sixes past teams for fun were well behind us, but we were proven wrong today with a brilliant attacking performance from City.
Since David Silva limped off early in the semi-final at Wembley, City have not won a game and have missed something in the final third. This being said, it was no surprise that he was the name on every City fans lips walking into the stadium. It took El Mago just under two minutes to prove to any doubters that City aren’t half the force without him. His goal, like most of City’s today, came following sluggish defending from Palace, but take nothing away from David, who passed the ball into the net on the volley.
In truth City only had as many chances as they do on the average outing at the Etihad, but the difference today was putting away most of our chances and defending solidly.
The Blues toyed around with the ball for the remainder of the first half, and perhaps should’ve doubled their lead a few times but were denied by good goalkeeping. Wayne Hennessey was undoubtedly the busiest of the two goalkeepers, but at the other end Willy Caballero made a vital stop, showing great reactions to deny Christian Benteke. Willy’s save shouldn’t be overlooked as one of the key moments of the game, if Palace equalised the complexion of the game would’ve changed dramatically.
Shortly into the second half, City did get the goal to double their lead. Vincent Kompany netted again after movement and a finish that any striker would be delighted with. The header in the 2012 derby will always be number one, but today’s strike can take a place as my second favourite Vinnie goal ever. What a finish.
City were well in cruise control following the second goal, and it was Kompany’s Belgian pal Kevin who added to City’s goal tally. The keeper should’ve saved it, easily in fact, but if you don’t shoot, you don’t score. Sometimes it does feel like we try and walk the ball into the net, so it was nice to see De Bruyne have a crack from range.
After the third, City slowed the tempo and looked like they were going to let the game fizzle out and settle for what they had. However, seemingly out of nothing, they stepped it right back up and got a fourth goal via Raheem Sterling. It was another sweet strike to add to City’s collection of aesthetically pleasing goals this afternoon, as Raheem let the ball roll across him before unleashing a rocket with his left foot, not giving Hennessey a chance.
A minute from time, City iced the cake with a fifth goal, to make the goal difference stat look even more pleasing. De Bruyne played a ball to a centre-half leading to a goal, for the second time of the day. Otamendi still had a lot to do and he nodded home with a bullet header, just as he did 18 months ago against Norwich – a goal I see every morning courtesy of @Beardamendi on Twitter.
Overall, it was a very convincing display from City, to bounce back from a poor performance in Middlesbrough last weekend. No player had a poor afternoon, but few were better than De Bruyne and Silva. It’s no coincidence that City played this well on the return of David Silva. The centre-halves were also excellent again, first to everything and covering each other excellently.
Today’s win puts City into third, until tomorrow at least. More importantly, it further cements a position in the top four and did wonders in terms of goal difference, which could be vital come the end of the season.
Next for City is Leicester and West Brom at home, followed by a trip to Watford to finish the season. Neither of the final three opponents have anything to fight for really as far as the table is concerned, and if City reproduce the performance that we were treated to today, they will almost certainly gain Champions League football next season, and hopefully avoid the qualifying round that comes with finishing fourth. Being the pessimist I am, I’d still take fourth place if I was offered it now.