Pep eggs on City's 'provocative' side

Leroy Sane puts the ball through Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey's legs to net the first goal. His strike opened the floodgates for Manchester City to eventually win 5-0 after a goal-less first half.
Leroy Sane puts the ball through Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey's legs to net the first goal. His strike opened the floodgates for Manchester City to eventually win 5-0 after a goal-less first half.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Pep Guardiola challenged his Manchester City stars to keep firing on all cylinders as they look to maintain their position on top of the Premier League.

His side moved ahead of Manchester United on goal difference with a 5-0 demolition of lowly Crystal Palace on Saturday.

City have now scored 16 times in their last three top-flight games, but Guardiola is demanding more from his players after they struggled to convert their dominance into goals in the first half.

"Nobody went to take the ball and start to play, so it's five or 10 seconds before someone moves and takes the ball," he said.

"When that happens, everything is slow. We have to be creative and provoke the situations and we didn't for most of the first half."

City's performance after the break pleased Guardiola more and was closer to what he is demanding of his team for the visit of Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League tomorrow.

"I know Shakhtar very well from my period in Barcelona and Bayern Munich, we played a lot of times. They were able to beat one of the best teams in the world right now playing football against Napoli," he said, referring to the Ukrainian side's 2-1 win in their opening Champions League game.

"We cannot get distracted because in the Champions League group we need to be careful."

The Spaniard is calling on City fans to turn out in force for that fixture despite their frosty relationship with the competition and Uefa.

"We need our fans, hopefully they can come," he said. "If we can win, we'll take a huge step to be in the knockout round in February."

Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson is bracing himself for a tough few weeks.

With games against Manchester United and Chelsea on the horizon, the former England manager is aware his team could be in deeper trouble, as they are yet to earn a point in the Premier League this season.

They are also the only side in Europe's top five leagues not to have scored a goal yet.

"We've got to accept that we've been given a headache and during the course of the week we've got to try and find the aspirins that will ease the headache," he said.

"We've got to keep working on the things we've been working on because, unfortunately, there's a risk that Man United and Chelsea would also be as capable as Man City have been of punishing us if we don't get things right."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2017, with the headline 'Pep eggs on City's 'provocative' side'. Print Edition | Subscribe