Sergio Aguero reaches 250 goals but Manchester City slip-up at home to Crystal Palace
Eagles' late equaliser takes shine off latest milestone by prolific Argentine striker
It was Pep Guardiola’s birthday but it ranked as another milestone occasion for Sergio Aguero. On the day Manchester City’s manager began his 50th year, their record scorer reached 250 goals.
By the time he headed in his fifth in two games, he had 251 and City were transforming defeat into victory.
Yet Guardiola has had happier birthdays and Crystal Palace can be the most awkward of opponents. For the third successive season, they took points off City.
Fernandinho’s 90th-minute own goal, which was fashioned by Wilfried Zaha, meant they have four from their last two trips to the Etihad Stadium. “I am proud of the win here last year and perhaps even more proud of the draw here this year,” said manager Roy Hodgson.
Factor in an August victory at Old Trafford and Manchester is becoming a favourite venue for intrepid travellers.
City trailed for 43 minutes but there was no doubt this ranked as a frustrating afternoon for them. “It was a pity at the end to drop two points in this way but that is football,” said Guardiola. The game itself, he felt, was “difficult to analyse.”
City had 25 shots and 72 per cent possession and exerted a level of pressure that felt unrelenting at times. “The spirit was there,” Guardiola said. “We tried and we tried. We did everything.” Nevertheless, they relied on Aguero to pierce Palace’s expertly organised, impressively defiant defence.
Fresh from his hat-trick at Aston Villa last Sunday, his five-minute double took him past his former team-mate Frank Lampard to become the third highest scorer in Premier League history.
Each came from crosses, showing that Guardiola was looking to outflank Palace’s resilient rearguard. The Catalan had summoned Gabriel Jesus with his first substitution and he set up City’s equaliser.
“Such a fine piece of play, the cross and movement from Aguero,” said Hodgson. “You have to hold your hands up and say: ‘I just don’t know what would have been possible to stop that.’”
Then Benjamin Mendy, who had stretched the game and offered width throughout, centred and Aguero gave Vicente Guaita no chance with a downward header.
The goalkeeper had saved well from Aguero earlier, just as Gary Cahill had denied David Silva with a magnificent block.
Hodgson used the same formula that worked so well last season, defending in numbers and counter-attacking at speed. It yielded a late leveller.
Guardiola had omitted Kyle Walker, who was tormented by Zaha last season. Instead, the winger surged past John Stones to create the equaliser. “The second goal was a mistake,” Guardiola said. “It is just not possible Zaha can run and we allow it.”
The Palace gameplan, he felt, was familiar, though City struggled to combat it. “When they beat us here last season, it was the same,” Guardiola said.
City had different kinds of near-misses. Kevin de Bruyne, often the scourge of Palace, hit the bar with a wonderful free kick.
Joao Cancelo thought he had won a penalty when his cross hit Jairo Riedewald’s hand and referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot. The decision was overturned via VAR, the fact the ball flew up off the left-back’s foot on to his hand seemingly the decisive factor. “I don’t know the rule of the hand,” Guardiola said.
Palace knew they had made an immediate impression in the January transfer window. Unwanted at Everton, Cenk Tosun made an auspicious start to his short-term spell at Selhurst Park, scoring on his full debut.
If Tosun’s task initially appeared thankless, as the lone and lonely striker, he made much of comparatively little support.
His predatory finish, after Gary Cahill had headed a corner to him at the far post, meant he opened his account in fine fashion, and he almost scored two more goals.
“A wonderful debut,” said Hodgson, who has been short of strikers. “We do quite a lot of scouting for centre forwards but we don’t end up buying them.”
Updated: January 18, 2020 10:11 PM