City win but Pep frets over wastefulness up front

Man City’s David Silva scoring his side’s second goal in their 2-0 win at Crystal Palace. The visitors had 21 shots, including 10 on target, but their failure to convert more of those chances is a concern for manager Pep Guardiola.
Man City’s David Silva scoring his side’s second goal in their 2-0 win at Crystal Palace. The visitors had 21 shots, including 10 on target, but their failure to convert more of those chances is a concern for manager Pep Guardiola. PHOTO: DPA

LONDON • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has called on his side to be more sharper in front of goal despite brushing aside Crystal Palace 2-0 on Saturday night to return to second place in the Premier League.

The defending champions travelled to Selhurst Park with questions over their ability to sustain a title challenge after two defeats in four matches, but they produced some incisive football against a side that had just two losses from eight games before their clash.

Quickfire goals before the break from Gabriel Jesus - his 50th goal for City - and David Silva within 30 seconds of the restart broke the Eagles' resistance.

Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey kept his side in the game despite facing 21 shots, with 10 on target. His counterpart Ederson, meanwhile, had to be alert, notably when he was at full stretch to tip Christian Benteke's header onto the crossbar.

Afterwards, Guardiola urged his players to take their chances, before expressing his delight with his makeshift centre-back pairing of Fernandinho and Rodri.

"Hopefully, we can start from here and continue our good performance," the Spaniard said. "Their keeper made a lot of saves but hopefully, we can be more clinical.

"Unfortunately, we could not convert the chances we had but it was an important three points after the international break."

While his side's defensive woes should ease up after substitute John Stones played the final 10 minutes after recovering from his thigh injury, Guardiola hinted he could stick with the burgeoning partnership of Fernandinho and Rodri - the first time they have played together at the back.

He added: "Our build-up was quicker because they have more intelligence and they pass the ball so well because they are central midfielders."

Palace manager Roy Hodgson also insisted his players could not have done any more to test a "very good team" despite the visitors fielding an unfamiliar backline.

"A back four with two full-backs (Joao Cancelo and Benjamin Mendy) who have been brought in at great expense. Fernandinho has played at centre back and Rodri played there for Atletico Madrid," he said.

"Pep would have been very pleased. I was proud of the way we kept going and didn't give up."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2019, with the headline 'City win but Pep frets over wastefulness up front'. Print Edition | Subscribe