Football: Stones scores twice as Man City cruise past Palace

MANCHESTER (AFP) – Manchester City moved up to second in the Premier League and within two points of leaders Manchester United as John Stones scored twice in a 4-0 win over Crystal Palace.

City can go top if they win their game in hand over their local rivals and took full advantage of dropped points for both their biggest title challengers after United and Liverpool played out a disappointing 0-0 draw earlier on Sunday (Jan 17).

Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling also produced stunning finishes as Pep Guardiola’s men recorded an eighth straight win.

Despite not hitting the heights of back-to-back league titles under Guardiola between 2017 and 2019, City are now unbeaten in 15 games to move into pole position.

A 12th clean sheet in that 15-game run again set the platform as City’s forwards have struggled to match their free-scoring form of old.

Stones’s partnership with Ruben Dias has been key to most of those shutouts and the England defender , after waiting five seasons for his first Premier League goal since joining City, got two in the one game.

Kevin De Bruyne registered his 100th City assist with the outside of his right foot for Stones to nod home from close range to open the scoring on 26 minutes.

Palace had taken four points from their last two trips to the Etihad, but without the injured Wilfried Zaha offered barely any attacking threat as the Eagles remain 13th in the table.

With Gabriel Jesus and Sterling short on goals and Sergio Aguero absent after coming into close contact with a positive coronavirus case, Gundogan’s goalscoring form of late has been a major factor in City’s revival.

The German midfielder curled home his fourth goal in seven games into the top corner 11 minutes into the second-half to end any doubt over the outcome.

Stones then swept home his second of the night on the rebound after Vicente Guaita saved from Dias’s initial powerful header.

Guardiola could then afford the luxury of handing De Bruyne and Gundogan a rare rest for the final 20 minutes ahead of Aston Villa’s visit on Wednesday.

Sterling blazed a penalty over the bar late on in Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Brighton when handed the responsibility by De Bruyne.

With the Belgian off the field, Sterling got another chance from a set-piece outside the box and this time curled a brilliant free-kick into the top corner two minutes from time to round off a perfect day for City.

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