To borrow a football cliché, it was men against boys as Crystal Palace U23s routed title holders Manchester City U23s 3-0 at the Joie stadium. Goals from Franco Umeh, Roshaun Mathurin and Danny Imray sealed all three points and made for a happy journey back south for the Eagles. For the Cityzens, however, this loss rooted them 22nd in the table. A title defence that will seemingly be as successful as their counterparts on the red side in Manchester in 2013/2014, and we all know how that went.
City started in a typical possession-based 4-3-3 and looked to use their technical abilities to pop it around their South London counterparts and create overloads out wide. With highly rated Michah Hamilton and Joel Ndala on the wing, it was a viable tactic. It worked for the first, well, ten minutes, until Palace showed everyone why City are the second worst defensive team in the league this season.
Dan Imray, who was the standout player in the match at Right Back, put in a brilliant cross. City’s defenders panicked and desperately tried to clear the ball, only for the ball to fall at the foot of Franco Umeh, who took this early Christmas present with glee and slotted it away to make It 1-0.
Afterwards, City tried to probe through Palace’s tough defence but could not find the correct key to unlock it. This resulted in them taking many pot shots from outside the box, which could be mistaken for them aiming to hit the Etihad instead of the opposition’s net. Palace had many opportunities to counter City, and they did so through the pace and ball carrying of Adaramola at left-back. The Irish U-21 international was a constant thorn in City’s right-hand side and got into numerous dangerous positions with his final ball letting him down.
Going into the second half, City was hopeful of a comeback. But it only took two minutes once play resumed for that to be crushed. Like any possession-based team, there is always risk involved when playing out the back. 18-year-old Max Alleyne, City’s centre half, unfortunately saw the consequences of this risk when his crossfield pass was intercepted in his box by Palace’s number 10, Roshaun Mathurin, who plucked the ball out of the air and swept it past City’s True Grant in goal.
At 2-0, it seemed like a balloon had burst and the air was deflated out the Joie stadium as the city faithful seemed resigned to another defeat. The players did their best to come back with Alleyne doing his best to rectify his mistake with a surging run from the back, skipping past a few Palace players only for Joe Whitworth, Palace’s Goalkeeper, to make an outstanding save and tip the ball round the post.
City did have a few stand-out players with Tom Galvez at Left-back, who is not a left-back, putting on his best Zinchenko impersonation as he impressed with his ball-carrying and dribbling abilities. Often dribbling into midfield and linking up well with his teammates.
However, the game was truly finished when Imray, forward from right-back like he had been the entire game, unleashed a venomous shot just inside the box into the top right-hand corner. Imray, who had made that right side his and kept Micah Hamilton quiet had been rewarded for his endeavours.
The win, their third in a row, puts Palace into 11th place, leapfrogging Manchester United and Chelsea. Whilst Manchester City are on six points after nine games, 22nd in the league and winless in their last five. A horrible start to the season and whether they can pull back to mid-table remains to be seen.
By: Abu Yasin / @abuy2j
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / James Gill – Danehouse / Getty Images