Mark Sellers reports on that rarity of late – a fine away performance AND a win.
I’ve visited Selhurst Park many times in recent years, but had never seen City win in SE25, and to be honest I wasn’t particularly hopeful of getting a result this time either. Recent form certainly had Palace as strong favourites, with most bookies quoting evens for a home win. With insipid away displays for City against Swansea and Southampton still fresh in the memory, this one didn’t look good from the outset.
The game kicked off in the South London sunshine and the travelling away support was in excellent voice. The anti-Allam feeling was very strong from the start with banners and songs all portraying the “ALLAM OUT” message. It was certainly the most vociferous demonstration against the owners to date, but was oddly ignored by the Match of the Day cameras (despite them mentioning a similar protest at Newcastle).
Bruce had reverted to the more familiar 3-5-2 formation, and it immediately paid dividends. City started with energy and confidence from the off, although it was Palace with the first attempt on target as Zaha shot, but Harper saved well. City continue to work hard and the first real chance came 15 minutes in when Brady puts in a great cross for N’Doye, who slid in, but mishit the ball and somehow managed to miss the target.
At 19:04 the travelling supporters belted out “City till I Die” even louder than usual. I clearly remember a small but vocal gaggle of Allam supporters heckling the CTID chant at last years visit to Palace. If there were any Allam apologists in the Arthur Wait stand this time they were keeping a very low profile.
As the first half progressed City enjoyed more spells of pressure, one of which started with a surging run from N’Doye who whipped the ball into the Palace box on the 20 minute mark. Speroni punched the ball out but it landed at the feet of Huddlestone who curled a magnificently flighted ball toward the top corner of the goal, only to be denied by a brilliant one handed save from the Palace keeper.
On 27 minutes Harper denies Zaha again with another strong save. The 40 year old put in a sterling afternoons performance in the City goal. Just before half time Quinn (who was excellent throughout with tireless box-to-box running) picks out Livermore who should have scored but chipped the ball weakly into Speroni’s hands.
We get to half-time with City the better team, but wondering if (as we’ve seen many times before) we’ll rue not taking our chances. It didn’t look like the game would end goalless but the feeling was that whoever scored first would probably take all three points.
City started the second half still looking slightly sharper, and shortly after the restart Elmo fired in an inch perfect cross which found N’Doye at the far post. Speroni blocks his point blank header, and we start to wonder if it’s going to be “one of those days.”
These feelings were short-lived though, as on 51 minutes Aluko jinked inside and fed a great ball through to Brady. He controls the ball (possibly with his hand) and although Brady’s shot is saved N’Doye is in the right place to follow up the rebound…0-1 and joy is unconfined in the away end.
City continue to dominate and almost make it 2 a few minutes later with N’Doye firing just wide after an excellent build up from Huddlestone. The game is really enjoyable now although both Huddlestone and N’Doye don’t quite succeed in converting decent chances. On 74 minutes Ramírez replaces Quinn who has run himself into the ground and walks off clutching his hamstring.
Palace start to get back into the game and with 10 minutes to go that all too familiar sinking feeling descends on the City support as Sanogo heads past Harper. Most of the away support have their heads in their hands and don’t realise that Clattenburg has disallowed the Palace equaliser for a push on McShane. This is met with nearly as much celebration as the City goal, and the Palace player’s heads are starting to drop.
City continue to attack and Rosenior volleys from 25 yards out but the ball hits the bar. An inch lower and the ever-popular defender would have won goal of the season. Palace then break and Harper bravely dives at the feet to deny the on-rushing Sanogo.
The 90 minutes are now up, and halfway through the 4 minutes of injury time Ramírez craftily robs the ball from a Palace defender and plays a perfectly weighted pass through to N’Doye who finds the back of the net to make the 3 points a certainty. Game over.
The performances throughout the team were very encouraging, with Huddlestone playing his best game for a long time. The relegation battle is certainly not over, but these 3 points could prove to be very valuable indeed.
In all, a rare away win for City at a ground where we usually leave empty handed. Its days like these that make it all worthwhile.
15 Jedinak (Lee Chung-yong – 64′ )
11 Zaha (Gayle – 73′ )
17 Murray (Sanogo – 59′ )
24 Lee Chung-yong
29 Quinn (Ramírez – 74′ )
11 Brady (Rosenior – 84′ )
24 Aluko (Bruce – 85′ )
Ref: Mark Clattenburg Att: 23,876
Mark Sellers @mrmarksellers