Sergio Aguero scored twice as Manchester City got their Premier League title challenge back on course with an emphatic 4-0 win over Crystal Palace at a snowy Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Aguero’s goals, which took his total for the season to 13, came in each half as City made up for their midweek blank against Everton when they failed to score in a home Premier League match for the first time in 12 months.
Fabian Delph and David Silva scored either side of Aguero’s double as Manuel Pellegrini’s side recorded a seventh successive home win against the Londoners to go to the top of the table before Leicester’s late kick-off at Aston Villa on Saturday and Arsenal’s match at Liverpool on Sunday.
Palace had failed to score in their previous four league games — their leanest run in the Premier League since 1998 — but should have ended their drought inside the first two minutes as they looked to make amends for a 5-1 drubbing at the Etihad in the League Cup in October.
Defender Damien Delaney stayed up in attack following a corner but, from Connor Wickham’s excellent cross, the Palace captain failed to beat Joe Hart with a header no more than eight yards out.
That miss proved costly as City went in front 20 minutes later through the unlikely figure of Delph.
The England international, given just his third league start of the season with Fernandinho still injured and Yaya Toure rested on the bench, and justified his inclusion with only the 11th league goal of his career.
City’s frustration at failing to find a way through a well-drilled Palace defence was just starting to show when Delph cut in and fired a low, long-range shot into the bottom corner from almost 35 yards, which goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey allowed to skid under his dive.
– Deflection –
That should have given City a measure of control but just two minutes later Hart almost let that slip when his careless clearance went straight into the back of James McArthur. The ball dropped for Delaney but at full stretch the centre-back, a constant threat from set-pieces, hooked his effort just wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Hart did better when turning a Yohan Cabaye free-kick round the post as Palace continued to push for an equalizer but four minutes before half-time City went 2-0 up.
Aguero, who had not scored at the Etihad since November, saw his 25-yard shot deflected in via the head of Palace’s Scott Dann, the defender’s attempted clearance wrong-footing Hennessey.
City were forced into a change seven minutes into the second half when Aleksandar Kolarov went off with a leg injury, Gael Clichy replacing him at left-back.
Pellegrini didn’t wait much longer to make a tactical switch as Kelechi Iheanacho, who had scored in both of City’s previous wins over Palace this season, was replaced by Toure following a frustrating afternoon for the young forward.
City still weren’t entirely comfortable as Palace kept forcing them back but Toure quickly made his mark as the hosts put the result beyond doubt.
From City’s best move of the match, Silva, Aguero and Toure all combined before Kevin De Bruyne pulled the ball back for Aguero to tap in and make it 3-0.
Palace replied with a long-range effort from Yohan Cabaye which flew just wide but they knew they were a beaten side.
And they conceded a fourth goal with six minutes left as City finished in style.
Aguero was again involved as he led a break-away before calmly squaring the ball for Silva, who scored his first league goal since the opening day of the season.
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