Manchester City go topless, but still tops as midfielder David Silva scores twice
MAN CITY 3
(David Silva 49, 61, Yaya Toure 81)
CRYSTAL PALACE 0
Manchester City went topless, and David Silva went berserk.
Without a true striker in front, Manuel Pellegrini's men clinched a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium yesterday.
Goals by David Silva gave City a two-goal lead, before Yaya Toure added another to complete a remarkable performance.
The three points took them level on points with Premiership leaders Chelsea, who will play their game in hand against Stoke on Tuesday morning (Singapore time).
The victory, their eighth on the trot in all competitions, was a ruthless demonstration of the defending champions' tactical flexibility and strength in depth.
Injuries to all their established strikers, Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko, had forced the City manager's hand.
So, midfielder James Milner took up position as the auxiliary forward, with Samir Nasri, Jesus Navas and Silva providing some serious back-up fire from attacking midfield.
A hamstring problem had also robbed City of skipper Vincent Kompany, their most influential figure in the backline.
Yet, there was no stopping the Sky Blues.
At times, it seemed as if Total Football had descended on the blue half of Manchester.
Fullbacks Aleksandar Kolarov and Pablo Zabaleta ventured into the opponents' half at will, leaving Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis as the only ones on full-time defensive watch.
Yaya Toure had licence to roam, while Fernandinho wasn't afraid to push up when he had the chance too.
Silva, Nasri, Navas and Milner freely switched positions, at times so fluidly they seemed to be rotating on a well-oiled axis.
But it took a while to get them going.
Silva, Toure and Zabaleta had chances to put the home side in front in the first half, but none managed to test goalkeeper Julian Speroni.
It was after the break that City looked especially impressive.
Four minutes into the second period, they went in front.
The opening goal involved a significant slice of luck but then again, City probably deserved some to compensate for the long queue outside their treatment room.
Silva it was, lashing a shot that took a huge deflection off Scott Dann before looping into Palace's goal.
There was nothing fortunate about the second goal though.
In the 61st minute, Silva connected sweetly with a Kolarov cross to sweep the ball in from close range.
Toure's 81st-minute powerful blast added the icing on the cake.
There were scares along the way though. In Neil Warnock's soak-and-strike game plan, Yannick Bolasie and Fraizer Campbell offered the biggest threats.
But on the few occasions City's defence went to sleep, they blew their half-chances.
Without a recognised striker, City fired a deafening salvo in Chelsea's direction.
It's their most significant yet.
Just when they appeared to be at their weakest, they pulled off a solid, cohesive performance through teamwork, tenacity and sheer brilliance.
No striker? No problem.
It was a very good win. A very good performance. I enjoyed the way the team worked the whole week — to work in a different way without strikers.
— City manager Manuel Pellegrini