LONDON: Manchester City moved to the brink of a third Premier League title in four seasons as a piece of magic by Sergio Aguero set them on the way to a 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s side were totally dominant but missing a cutting edge until Aguero’s stunning half-volley finish just before the hour mark broke Palace’s resolve at Selhurst Park.
A minute later Ferran Torres’s clinical low shot doubled City’s advantage and they could have racked up a bigger margin of victory as they turned on the style with Raheem Sterling denied by the woodwork and Joao Cancelo also going close.
With four games left City have 80 points, 13 ahead of Manchester United who host Liverpool on Sunday knowing that defeat would seal the title for their neighbours.
Should United draw on Sunday they could still mathematically catch City but their goal difference is far inferior. If United win, City can seal the title by beating Chelsea next weekend.
The wealth of options available to Guardiola was evident as he left the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Ruben Dias and Kyle Walker on the bench, with one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final against Paris St Germain.
Yet his starting line-up still oozed quality with an attacking quartet of Aguero, Sterling, Jesus and Torres.
Sterling, whose place in the starting line-up is no longer guaranteed, should have put City ahead after skipping into the box but he delayed his shot and his effort was blocked.
Jesus thought he had opened the scoring with a close-range volley but he had strayed offside and City, for all their possession, looked to be playing in third gear and failed to force a save from Vicente Guaita before the interval.
Palace’s only real chance fell for Christian Benteke but his close-range effort on the turn was saved by Ederson.
It was left to Aguero, veteran of four City title triumphs, to break the deadlock with a finish of stunning quality.
The 32-year-old Argentine, in the final weeks of his City career, was picked out by Benjamin Mendy’s pass. His first touch was superb and his second even better as he thrashed the ball past Guaita without breaking stride.
Torres threaded a shot past Guaita 83 seconds later and City looked as though they could run riot with Sterling thumping a shot against the post and whistling another effort just wide.
Cancelo also curled over the bar and Guaita denied Aguero a second goal late on.
Meanwhile, third-placed Leicester City suffered a frustrating Friday night on the south coast as they were held to a 1-1 draw by a Southampton side who played almost the entire match with 10 men.
In the end Leicester needed a 68th-minute Jonny Evans header to salvage a point after a gritty Southampton side had taken a surprise lead via a James Ward-Prowse penalty.
Southampton had begun the game in lively fashion but they suffered a blow after 10 minutes when Jannik Vestergaard was harshly shown a red card for a last-ditch tackle on Jamie Vardy.
The draw left Leicester with 63 points from 34 games, eight points above fifth-placed West Ham United who play on Monday.
Southampton moved up a place to 14th and with a 10-point gap between themselves and third-from-bottom Fulham they look to be safe from the prospect of relegation.
Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2021