John Stones scored twice as Manchester City moved into second place in the Premier League by sweeping aside Crystal Palace 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
With league leaders Manchester United and defending champions Liverpool sharing the spoils in a goalless stalemate at Anfield, City took full advantage to move within two points of first place.
On top of another top-class defensive display alongside Ruben Dias, Stones broke the deadlock 26 minutes in with his first league goal for City – Kevin De Bruyne the creator with a sensational cross to bring up his 100th assist for the club.
Ilkay Gundogan doubled the lead early in the second half prior to Stones celebrating an unlikely second, and a classy finish from Raheem Sterling wrapped up a fifth successive league win for Pep Guardiola’s ever-improving City.
In search of his milestone moment, De Bruyne attempted to tee up Sterling with a quick exchange of passes in the 26th minute, when the Belgian might have been better served to shoot.
Yet his 100th assist did not take long to arrive. His initial poor corner was cleared, but De Bruyne was found by Sterling and, with the outside of his right foot, placed a wonderful cross onto the head of Stones, who turned in his first league goal since he scored for Everton in April 2015.
Gabriel Jesus was unable to beat Vicente Guaita after latching onto Gundogan’s flick-on, but the Germany midfielder took matters into his own hands 11 minutes after the restart, robbing Andros Townsend on the edge of Palace’s box and dispatching a fantastic finish into the top-right corner.
Jordan Ayew mustered Palace’s second shot soon after, though it was blocked by Dias, who then played a key part in City’s third.
Dias’ header was parried out by Guaita, but the Portuguese’s defensive partner Stones was on hand to drill in his second.
Sterling had the final say, the England forward – who missed a late penalty against Brighton and Hove Albion – curling a sublime free-kick into the top corner to add further gloss to a resounding triumph.
Key Opta Facts:
– Manchester City are the first team to record five consecutive victories in the Premier League in 2020-21.
– City have kept nine clean sheets in the Premier League this season – their most after 17 games of a single campaign in the competition.
– John Stones and Ruben Dias have started together in 10 games for Manchester City in all competitions this season, with the team concedining only once across these fixtures.
– Kevin De Bruyne has now made 10+ assists in a league season on five occasions while playing in the top five European leagues – since De Bruyne did so for the first time in 2014-15 while playing for Wolfsburg, only Lionel Messi has managed it on as many occasions as him (also five).
City are set to host Aston Villa on Wednesday, though Dean Smith’s side have been suffering from a COVID-19 outbreak and have been unable to play since January 1.
Palace, meanwhile, welcome West Ham to Selhurst Park on January 26.
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