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Man City vs Crystal Palace result: Five things we learned as City close in on leaders United

www.independent.co.uk

City’s early dominance didn’t create too many clear-cut sights of goal, but Kevin De Bruyne served up a brilliant cross from the right for the opener, headed in by John Stones.

The home side were entirely dominant thereafter, with Palace only forging sporadic counter-attacking moments, but they held out defensively until 10 minutes into the second half when Ilkay Gundogan bent a tremendous shot into the far top corner from the edge of the box.

With 20 minutes to play Ruben Dias had a close-range header saved, but Stones made it three anyway by hammering in the rebound and Raheem Sterling added a late fourth with a free-kick.

Here are five things we learned from the game on Sunday evening.

De Bruyne’s outside-of-the-boot cross from the right wing didn’t just tee up Stones for the opening goal, it also brought up the phenomenal figure of 100 assists in the colours of Man City for the Belgian.

His assist was the headline act, but his all-round performance was once again of the highest calibre.

A tremendous threaded pass set Raheem Sterling away once down the left, then again down the right, while his work in the channels continually either teed up a chance or set the Palace defence five yards deeper, allowing space for others to run into.

Another masterful display from the league’s most consistent midfielder.

This was nothing short of a shocking display from Palace, in terms of their lack of intent and ability to attack.

They managed just two shots all game, neither on target, giving them a disturbingly low 0.05 xG for the 90 minutes.

It’s a sixth straight league game where Palace have had an expected goals value of below one, by InfoGol’s formula of the metric, with Roy Hodgson’s side taking just one win in that run – against bottom side Sheffield United.

While De Bruyne rightly gets the plaudits for his creative work, City’s other midfielders have been providing the end product of late.

Phil Foden has been in good scoring form, Bernardo Silva has netted a couple and Ferran Torres, too, has netted a few since signing – but each of these have taken their place in the forward three with frequency.

Ilkay Gundogan, however, keeps providing the ammunition from deep, running into the box, finding a finishing touch from range and being an aerial presence on the run.

Five straight wins in the Premier League for Manchester City, and eight in all competitions.

They are unbeaten since the end of November and, with this win, move above their real rivals – reigning title-holders Liverpool.

Pep Guardiola’s team might not sit atop the league table so far, but it doesn’t look as though it’ll be long before that’s the case, such is their current style and confidence, dominating games in their old way and starting to find the finishing touch again.

As has been the case for a few years, and despite their uncertain start to the season, the same looks true for this term again: if anybody finishes above City, they’ll win the league.

For several seasons Aymeric Laporte has been seen as the key component to the Manchester City quest for perfection.

This season, though, he has played just four games in the league – with only one of those being a victory – and he hasn’t featured at all in City’s last nine Premier League outings.

Despite that, they look more settled and solid than ever, with John Stones’ maturation and new-found reliability merging superbly with Ruben Dias, who has made a fantastic introduction to life in England.

Laporte will have a tough job breaking up the pairing when it comes to City’s big games going forward.

www.independent.co.uk

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