Pep Guardiola says Manchester City’s aim is to “secure a place” in the Champions League next season after their faint title hopes were dealt another blow by a resolute Crystal Palace side.
Fernandinho’s 90th-minute own goal ensured the Eagles claimed a draw at Etihad Stadium in a remarkable conclusion to the game.
The result leaves champions City 13 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool, who have two games in hand and play Manchester United on Sunday (16:30 GMT).
Two Sergio Aguero goals in the last 10 minutes had turned a thrilling contest on its head – and looked set to earn City victory – after Cenk Tosun had given the Eagles a first-half lead.
“We did everything to win the game and unfortunately in the end we lost two points because we could not stop the counter attack,” said the City boss.
“But we have to continue, there are still a lot of games to play. We have to try to secure the place for the Champions League next season.”
Palace had the final word, however, when Wilfried Zaha stole down the left and put in a low cross that Fernandinho reached before Connor Wickham, only to divert the ball into his own net.
For long stages it appeared City would end up empty-handed, as they struggled to break down a brilliantly organised Palace side.
Kevin de Bruyne fired a first-half free-kick against the underside of the bar with the score at 0-0 but, for all the home side’s possession, they found clear-cut chances hard to come by.
Palace, meanwhile, hardly ventured forward until they scored and their defensive outlook was so entrenched, the City fans booed James McArthur for time-wasting as he walked over to take the corner that led to their first goal.
When the ball did come over, Gary Cahill out jumped John Stones at the back post and Tosun was unmarked to steer his knockdown into the corner.
That silenced an already subdued stadium, with the home fans frustrated further after the break when referee Graham Scott pointed to the spot for a Jairo Riedewald handball, only for the video assistant referee to overrule the decision. Replays showed the ball came off the defender’s foot first as he blocked Joao Cancelo’s cross.
It took Aguero to lead the rescue mission, with his first goal – his 250th for the club – coming when he turned home a Gabriel Jesus cross, before his second saw him expertly nod home a Benjamin Mendy delivery.
That should have settled the outcome but Zaha had other ideas, sending in a dangerous delivery that Fernandinho could only help home to preserve their five-game unbeaten run.
No birthday joy for Guardiola
Manager Pep Guardiola was hoping to celebrate his 49th birthday with three points rather than by taking his City squad to a local cinema to watch La La Land, which he did when he turned 46.
But his jubilant reaction to Aguero’s second goal turned to despair after Palace punished his side for dreaming at the back in all too familiar fashion.
The hard work had been done – they had found a way to break down a resilient Eagles side that offered City few chances after the break.
There was no way through the middle of the pitch so, time after time, City fired balls into the box. They had 46 crosses from open play alone.
That tactic repeatedly ended in frustration until two deliveries, both from the left, found Aguero in space, and he made no mistake.
Guardiola celebrated City’s second goal wildly but he was soon back on the touchline to bark instructions at his players – unfortunately for him, they did not follow them.
A lapse in concentration saw Cancelo stray too far forward, allowing Zaha to make the most of the space behind him, with Stones unable to catch him.
“I told them to keep going, put more balls into the box and try to control Zaha on the counter-attack,” Guardiola added.
“It’s difficult to analyse when they shoot one corner have no more chances and we did many times and unfortunately could not win. We take it one game at a time.”
Palace get reward for effort and organisation
Palace were the only team to win here in the Premier League last season, and came close to a famous double – Guardiola has never lost consecutive home games against the same opponent during his time at City.
While that triumph came largely thanks to two brilliant strikes from distance – first from Jeffrey Schlupp and then notably from Andros Townsend – the point they earned here came from teamwork, effort and discipline.
Roy Hodgson’s side needed a cutting edge too, of course, and they got it from Tosun, who has joined on loan from Everton.
The Turkey striker marked his first start for the club with a fine finish to give Palace the lead with their first effort at goal, and he tested Ederson again after the break.
“We have only had him for a week so we are still learning about him, but his performance was not only very professional but also technically very good,” Hodgson said.
“He’s going to be delighted with his debut and I hope he continues along those lines for the next 15 games, because there is a lot of football to be played.”
The Eagles have been short of goals this season – they came into this match with the joint-lowest tally in the top flight – but if Tosun continues in the same vein then he could fire them even further up the table.
Man of the match – Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Aguero and Silva reach landmark figures – the stats
- Manchester City have conceded 12 goals in their 12 league games at the Etihad this season, as many as their 19 home league matches last term.
- This was City’s third Premier League draw of the campaign, more than they had in their 38 matches in last season’s competition.
- Crystal Palace have drawn four consecutive Premier League games for only the second time.
- Manchester City have conceded the first goal in six of their past nine home league games, as many as they had in their first 60 under Guardiola.
- Guardiola became the fifth manager to take charge of Manchester City in the Premier League on his birthday, with all five failing to win (also Brian Horton in 1995, Joe Royle in 2001, Mark Hughes in 2009 and Roberto Mancini in 2010 and 2011).
- Crystal Palace’s Cenk Tosun – on loan from Everton – became only the fourth Turkish player to reach 10 or more Premier League goals, after Muzzy Izzet (34), Tuncay Sanli (20) and Tugay (10).
- David Silva made his 300th Premier League appearance for Manchester City – becoming the first player to reach that total for the club in the competition.
City head to Bramall Lane on Tuesday to play Sheffield United in the Premier League (19:30 GMT), while Palace host Southampton at the same time.