Manchester City could clinch the Premier League title on Sunday after two goals in the space of 83 seconds saw off a stubborn Crystal Palace.
City will secure a third title in four seasons if second-placed Manchester United lose at home to Liverpool.
After a scrappy first half at Selhurst Park, Sergio Aguero thumped City ahead with a clinical finish before Ferran Torres drilled in a low shot.
That ended the resistance of Palace, who stay in 13th place.
Roy Hodgson’s side had chances in the first half through Christian Benteke, who flicked a header wide and had a close-range shot blocked by City keeper Ederson.
But once City made their breakthrough when Aguero smashed high into the net, quickly followed by Torres’ precise finish, the result was not in doubt.
Now it is a question of when, not if, Pep Guardiola’s side will be crowned champions again after relinquishing the crown to Liverpool last season.
“We can start to put the champagne in the fridge – not to open yet, but to think about it,” said Guardiola, whose side moved 11 points clear of United.
“The Premier League is already there – it is in our hands. We need one more victory, two more points.”
Aguero inspires City once again
Not for the first time, but perhaps the last, Aguero provided the inspiration for City as they close in on another trophy.
The 32-year-old Argentine will leave when his contract expires at the end of the season after playing such an instrumental role in their success since arriving in 2011.
While he might no longer be deemed by Guardiola as a key starter in City’s biggest games, there was a sense of inevitability that Aguero would still have a significant impact in their chase for the Treble as his iconic spell at the club comes towards an end.
Playing slightly deeper behind Gabriel Jesus, Aguero was at the heart of City’s brighter attacking moments in a first half when they lacked quality in the final third of the field.
Yet they had not managed a shot on target until the ball came into the Palace box from the left and Aguero took a deft touch to create space and blast a powerful shot into the roof of the net.
It was a reminder of the quality he still possesses, which is leaving the leading clubs in the world reportedly eyeing a move for him in the summer.
“I’m so happy because it has been a long time since I played 90 minutes and the goal was good because maybe we can win the Premier League,” said Aguero, who said he did not know if he will watch United’s game against Liverpool.
“Always I’m ready. I am feeling good. I always want the opportunity to play like today.”
City round off a wonderful week
As far as weeks in the world of football go, City have enjoyed one which could not have been more perfect.
Starting on Sunday when they won the Carabao Cup final against Tottenham, and continuing on Wednesday with the impressive victory at Paris St-Germain in the Champions League semi-final first leg, Guardiola’s squad perfectly rounded off a pivotal week.
With the second leg coming up on Tuesday, Guardiola shuffled his team by making eight changes and they initially lacked rhythm against a well-drilled Palace side.
After Jesus saw a close-range finish ruled out for offside, City went into the break having failed to manage a shot on target in the first half for the first time in 21 matches.
Patience and second-half improvement had been the key to the win in Paris and so it proved again.
Guardiola’s demeanour was buoyant and relaxed after securing a vital win, having been able to rest key players and seemingly avoiding picking up any injuries.
Now he switches focus to completing the job against PSG on Tuesday and taking City into their first Champions League final.
‘What a man, I am in love as a person’ – reaction
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson: “Unfortunately we were playing against a team with so much technical ability. You have got to work so very hard to keep them at bay.
“The first goal was just a fantastic pass, control and shot.
“After all the good work you’ve done to keep them at bay, you’re then looking at 1-0 to Man City and you know you’ve got to work hard to score a goal or two.
“As a result they could take their foot off the gas and run through the latter part of the game quite easily.”
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on Sergio Aguero: “What a goal, what an action, what a player, what a man. I am incredibly delighted he is back.
“He is going to enjoy the last games. He showed with his goal what he has been and what he is. I am in love as a person He is an incredible guy.
“After the Champions League it is always tough but the players who didn’t play in Paris spoke on the grass and they did it perfectly.”
Why City are enjoying their travels – stats of the day
- Palace have suffered three consecutive Premier League defeats for the first time since July 2020 (a run of seven)
- City enjoyed their 11th away league victory in a row, equalling the English top-flight record for consecutive away wins – Chelsea (Apr-Dec 2008) and City (May-Dec 2017)
- No team have conceded more Premier League goals from outside the box this season than Palace (11, level with Sheffield United)
- City’s second goal was their 700th in all competitions under Pep Guardiola, 157 more than any other Premier League side since he took over in 2016
- City had to wait until the 57th minute to register a shot on target, their longest wait in the Premier League since November 2019 v Southampton (70th minute)
- Raheem Sterling has failed to score and registered only one assist in his past 11 appearances in all competitions for City, after netting six and assisting two in the previous nine
Palace travel to relegated Sheffield United on 8 May (15:00 BST).
City turn their attention to Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg against PSG (20:00), before hosting Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday (17:30).
- 8KouyatéBooked at 81mins
- 44RiedewaldSubstituted forSchluppat 59′minutes
- 4MilivojevicBooked at 49mins
- 10TownsendSubstituted forJ Ayewat 82′minutes
- 20BentekeSubstituted forMatetaat 67′minutes
- 3van Aanholt
- 9J Ayew
- 25FernandinhoSubstituted forZinchenkoat 67′minutes
- 9Gabriel Jesus
- 3Rúben Dias
- 17De Bruyne
- 20Bernardo Silva
Match ends, Crystal Palace 0, Manchester City 2.
Second Half ends, Crystal Palace 0, Manchester City 2.
Attempt missed. Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.
Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jean-Philippe Mateta (Crystal Palace).
Attempt missed. Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is just a bit too high following a corner.
Attempt blocked. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Vicente Guaita.
Attempt saved. Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Ferran Torres.
Foul by Oleksandr Zinchenko (Manchester City).
Joel Ward (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by Nathan Aké.
Foul by Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).
Tyrick Mitchell (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Substitution, Crystal Palace. Jordan Ayew replaces Andros Townsend.
Attempt missed. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) right footed shot from outside the box is too high from a direct free kick.
Cheikhou Kouyaté (Crystal Palace) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Cheikhou Kouyaté (Crystal Palace).
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