Man City lay down title marker as Stones bags brace in Palace rout

John Stones TEAMtalk

Manchester City moved to within two points of rivals United at the top of the table, with a game in hand, after they brushed aside Crystal Palace 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday night.

A John Stones double, a superb Ilkay Gundogan strike and a fine Raheem Sterling free-kick gave Pep Guardiola’s men a comfortbale win over a toothless Palace side.

The visitors were without key man Wilfried Zaha as they took on City in the final game of a busy Sunday of action.

The Palace forward, who was struggling with a knock, did not even make the bench as manager Roy Hodgson named only seven of the permitted nine substitutes.

Jordan Ayew, James McCarthy and Gary Cahill all came into the side that drew with Arsenal on Thursday with Christian Benteke – who was among the replacements – and Cheikhou Kouyate the others to make way.

City made four changes following their midweek victory over Brighton with goalscorer Phil Foden dropping out along with Joao Cancelo, Rodri and Riyad Mahrez. Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho and Kyle Walker returned.

The game at the Etihad Stadium took time to warm up but City had the better of the early chances and broke through to open the scoring after 26 minutes.

Stones gives City upper hand

Kevin De Bruyne controlled a Sterling cross-field pass superbly on the left and then curled a brilliant cross into the box with the outstep of his right foot. John Stones rose to head past Vicente Guaita.

Stones’ first Premier League goal for City left Guardiola’s men holding the upper hand at half-time.

City doubled their lead 11 minutes into the second half with a superb strike from Ilkay Gundogan. The German won the ball on the edge of the area from Andros Townsend and then curled a shot into the top corner.

And it was game over with 22 minutes to go when Ruben Dias’ powerful header from a corner was pushed out by Guaita, but Stones was there to lash home for his second of the game.

City wrapped up the points in style when Sterling curled home a stunning 20-yard free-kick that gave Guaita no chance.

The victory sees City breathing down the neck of neighbours United, in what is turning into a pulsating title race. Palace, meanwhile, remain 13th in the table.