Led by Gabriel Jesus, Manchester City offer glimpse into the future with win over Crystal Palace

It was not just the ability to play the pass that impressed, but also the intelligence to see it in the first place.

Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City looks on during their FA Cup fourth-round win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on January 28, 2017 in London, England. Steve Bardens / Getty Images
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Crystal Palace 0-3 Manchester City

■ Man City: Sterling (43’) Sané (71’) Touré (90’+2’)

It was not just the ability to play the pass that impressed, but also the intelligence to see it in the first place.

Gabriel Jesus, making his first Manchester City start after a promising substitute appearance against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, wriggled away from Martin Kelly and provided an inch-perfect through-ball for Raheem Sterling to open the scoring at Selhurst Park on Saturday.


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It was one of many examples of the Brazilian’s technical prowess and spatial awareness, with Jesus, 19, starring as part of a thrilling City frontline that possessed too much quality for a struggling Crystal Palace outfit in the fourth round of the FA Cup. City won 3-0.

Sam Allardyce’s side struggled to gain a foothold in the opening exchanges, as City dominated possession and camped themselves in their opponents’ half of the field.

David Silva was, unsurprisingly, heavily involved in his team’s best passing moves, but it was an attacking three of Sterling, Jesus and Leroy Sane that caught the eye most. The former tended to hug the touchline on the right, drawing Palace left-back Jeffrey Schlupp towards him and in turn opening up space in the channel, while the latter drifted infield to combine with Silva and Fabian Delph, who made a number of dangerous darts forward from midfield.

Jesus, meanwhile, generally stayed central but did not restrict his work to zones in and around the penalty area. The teenager often dropped deep to link the play and encourage runners beyond him, while Pep Guardiola would have been delighted to see him press from the front as City sought to deny Palace an easy way out.

After plenty of promising moments throughout the opening half, Jesus’ first decisive contribution came just a couple of minutes before the interval. He showed both strength and skill to shrug off Kelly, before his slide-rule pass made it easy for Sterling to break the deadlock.

City became a little sloppy after the restart, with Palace twice going close to an equaliser, but a fine counter-attacking goal in the 71st minute gave Guardiola’s side some valuable breathing space. Sane timed his run brilliantly to sneak in behind Joel Ward as the visitors broke quickly when a Palace move collapsed, with the excellent Silva measuring a pinpoint pass to the German.

It was Sane’s third strike in his last three outings, and while there has been justifiable criticism of City’s recent transfer record when it comes to defenders and midfielders, the club’s supporters will be incredibly excited by a talented front three made up of a 22-year-old, a 21-year-old and a 19-year-old.

Goals from the two older members of that trio, Sterling and Sane, had put City in a commanding position even before Yaya Toure bent home a free-kick in second-half stoppage time. Overall, though, it was Jesus who caused Palace — now without a win in their last nine matches against Premier League opposition — the most problems.

“He’s so aggressive [even though] he’s not a tall, tall guy,” Guardiola said of the striker in his post-match press conference.

“It’s his first game so it’s not easy for him — he doesn’t speak English so we need time. He makes a lot of movements, and his assist for the first goal was outstanding.”

The Brazil international had a fine chance to get his name on the scoresheet late on, but after holding off Kelly and rounding Wayne Hennessey, he slipped before he could pull the trigger.

While a goal would have capped off his day nicely, there were more than enough positives to take from his first 90 minutes in English football.

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