Aguero and Torres fire City to the brink of title glory
Goals from Sergio Aguero and Ferran Torres moved City to within two points of regaining the Premier League title as we secured an impressive victory at Crystal Palace.
Second half strikes from record scorer Aguero – his 258th for the Club - and Torres were enough to earn us an incredible 19th successive away victory in all competitions and a record-equalling 11th straight win in the Premier League.
As with our Champions League win at Paris Saint-Germain in midweek, City proved a side transformed in the second half after a slow-burn first 45 minutes at Selhurst Park.
The latest triumph moved Pep Guardiola’s side 13 points clear at the top of the table with four games remaining and brought up 700 goals for City during the Catalan's time in charge.
And the mathematics are such that should Manchester United lose at home to Liverpool tomorrow afternoon we would be crowned champions for the third time in four seasons.
With the relentless schedule at its peak, Guardiola opted to make eight changes to his side for the trip to Selhurst Park.
But though we dominated possession and there were the familiar tents of hard work, resilience, and tactical fluidity to our play, space proved at a premium in the Palace half in a low-key first 45 minutes.
On a sun-drenched if chilly afternoon in south London, City had to wait 17 minutes before carving out our first serious opening.
A wonderful looping 50-yard ball from Aymeric Laporte found Raheem Sterling in behind the Palace defence.
After the England man had skipped inside two defenders, an opening goal beckoned as Sterling prepared to pull the trigger only for a last-gasp block by Tyrick Mitchell to put the winger off.
Roy Hodgson’s side had previous for causing City problems and the Eagles posed a threat when venturing forward.
And on 28 minutes City had to produce a timely double defensive block after a sweeping move up the right flank by the hosts spelt danger.
Rodrigo first did enough to intercept Ward’s goalbound effort and from the rebound Ederson stood tall to deflect Benteke’s follow-up at the near post.
City did have the ball in the net on 36 minutes when Gabriel Jesus applied a fine volleyed finish to Fernandinho’s cross but VAR confirmed the Brazilian had just strayed offside.
In the main though it was a low-key first 45 minutes but just as in Paris last Wednesday, a rejuvenated City soon upped the ante with a devastating double blast after the restart.
We nearly made a 52nd minute breakthrough Torres found space on the right edge of the box and dinked a delicate cross with Jesus waiting to convert only for Scott Dann to head clear over the bar.
We didn’t have to wait long for the all-important opener however – and, as so often, it was that man Aguero who made the breakthrough on 57 minutes.
Benjamin Mendy was the architect drifting down the left before pulling the ball inside the box.
Aguero’s first touch as he ran into the box opened up the chance and our record scorer then despatched a stunning 15 yard half volley to register, remarkably, what was his first-ever goal at Selhurst Park.
It was a marvellous goal and within 84 seconds we had doubled our lead and seized total control of the game through Torres.
The Spaniard gathered the ball on the edge of the area and curled a precise shot between Kouyate's legs and into the bottom left corner.
It was a reminder – if needed – of the quality and resilience running throughout City’s squad and two almost became three with Sterling cracking a shot against the post as the Palace goal came under siege.
Laporte then was denied by Benteke with a Torres shot also inches away as City stepped up our dominance before Sterling was then a whisker away from adding a deserved third.
But though we didn't ad to our tally it was a job well done - the very performance that is the stuff of champions.
SERGIO AGUERO'S REACTION
"I am so happy because it’s a long time since i played 90 minutes. The goal is good because now maybe we can win the Premier League now. I wait tomorrow!
"Yeah, always Mendy tries to pass to me. Inside the box I need one touch, or two touches. It’s my job. Finally it's a goal. I am so happy with that.
"I don't know (if I will watch United tomorrow). I will see tomorrow. Every game is difficult. We wait until tomorrow and of course if Liverpool win, it’s better, no?"
MAN OF THE MATCH
Making his first start in almost a month, Sergio Aguero once again proved the man of the moment, Kun's stunning second half strike finally breaking Palace's stubborn resistance.
It was the type of goal that was the hallmark of the man - an instant half volley delivered with ferocious pace and devastating precision.
He may be moving on to pastures new at the end of the season after a magical decade at City, but on this evidence what price Sergio leaving even more magical memories before he finally bids farewell?
TASTE FOR TRAVEL
Our latest victory on the road saw equal the Premier League record of 11 straight away wins, jointly held by
Chelsea and City themselves after their respective runs between April-December 2008 and May-December 2017.
It was also a 19th consecutive victory away from home – another remarkable record in this season like no other.
WHAT IT MEANS
City have extended our lead at the top of the table to 13 points with four games remaining.
We need two more points to be confirmed Premier League champions for the third time in four seasons.
But if Manchester United lose at home to Liverpool tomorrow we will have officially won the title.
City are back in action on Tuesday for what is, arguably, our biggest game of this remarkable season yet.
We play host to Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final.
Holding a precious 2-1 lead from last Wednesday’s first leg, Guardiola’s side will be seeking to complete the job against Mauricio Pochettino’s side and so reach our first-ever Champions League final.
It promises to be a night to remember.
Crystal Palace (0): Guaita; Ward, Kouyaté, Dann, Mitchell; Milivojevic, Riedewald (Schlupp, 60’), Eze; Townsend (Ayew, 82’), Zaha, Benteke (Mateta, 67’)
Manchester City (2): Ederson; Cancelo, Laporte, Aké, Mendy; Fernandinho (Zinchenko, 67’), Rodri, Ferran Torres; Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Agüero
Goals: 0-1, Agüero (57’), 0-2, Ferran Torres (58’)
Referee: David Coote. Bookings: Milivojevic (49’), Kouyaté (80’)