Football: Silva steps up as Man City reel Chelsea in

Manchester City's David Silva (centre) shoots to score his second goal against Crystal Palace during their English Premier League soccer match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, northern England Dec 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Manchester City's David Silva (centre) shoots to score his second goal against Crystal Palace during their English Premier League soccer match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, northern England Dec 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - David Silva filled in for Manchester City's absent strikers as the champions beat Crystal Palace 3-0 on Saturday to move level on points with Premier League leaders Chelsea.

City were missing Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic due to injury, but they secured an eighth consecutive victory in all competitions thanks to Silva's second-half brace and a late Yaya Toure strike.

Victory left City level on 39 points with Chelsea, who remain top by virtue of a superior goal difference (+23 to +22) ahead of their trip to Stoke City on Monday.

Faced with an injury glut in the attacking department, City manager Manuel Pellegrini deployed England midfielder James Milner as an auxiliary striker at the Etihad Stadium.

City goalkeeper Joe Hart signed a new five-year contract on Friday and he was quickly called into action, producing a sharp point-blank save to repel Mile Jedinak's header.

Yannick Bolasie then set up Fraizer Campbell to lash a close-range overhead kick narrowly wide of Hart's goal, but gradually City began to pick their way through Palace's defences.

Toure shot over twice, Samir Nasri teed up Silva to prod wide, and Pablo Zabaleta scooped a shot just off target from Toure's piercing through-ball.

The breakthrough arrived four minutes into the second half. From Fernandinho's pass, Zabaleta scuttled into the area before cutting the ball back for Silva, who beat Julian Speroni with the aid of a deflection off Scott Dann.

Silva claimed his second goal in the 61st minute, neatly steering home at the near post from Aleksandar Kolarov's left-wing centre.

James McArthur thought he had replied for Palace moments later when he headed Bolasie's cross past a statuesque Hart, but although Fernandinho appeared to have played him onside, the assistant referee's flag went up.

Toure made the game safe for City in the 81st minute, collecting a square pass from Milner and slamming home left-footed at the near post.

Later on Saturday, third-place Manchester United will attempt to close to within five points of the summit when they visit Aston Villa.

Fourth-place West Ham United host bottom club Leicester City, while fifth-place Southampton will look to end a run of five straight defeats in all competitions when they host Everton.

The weekend's stand-out fixture sees misfiring Liverpool host sixth-place Arsenal on Sunday.