Like a champion racehorse, Manchester City tuned their title challenge perfectly With this win they finish second with 35 points, two behind Manchester United with one game in hand

That cruise of a win over Crystal Palace was the fifth in a row in the league and City can take the lead – possibly briefly – if they beat Aston Villa here on Wednesday, while United visits Fulham later that evening

Pep Guardiola, careful to keep focus, downplayed City’s rise “We fought a lot to be up there [But] I don’t think about it – I’m preparing for Aston Villa” He said, “If there’s a player I’m more than happy that everything is going well, it’s John Stones. He plays because he deserves it. An enthusiastic Stones said,” My last goal in the league was against Man United in Goodison [ for Everton 2015], I was 19 – too long I would have loved a third “

An initial alert for Palace came from a Fernandinho ball that was driven into their area This was repelled, but the Brazilian presence was a clue to Guardiola’s thoughts: at 35, he will be used when it is needed most, and so his fondness for the physical would be directly in line with Palace’s grueling approach

Palace manager Roy Hodgson had arranged his XI in a 4-3-2-1 with Jordan Ayew at the top, followed by Andros Townsend and Eberechi Eze A Townsend cross aimed at the latter , illustrated the thinking here, yet the problem for Palace was the blue wave moving effortlessly from back to front when Oleksandr Zinchenko met Bernardo Silva before Kyle Walker took over, despite the fact that his cross was up to Sunday League standard and sprayed wide

Guardiola will have lamented the slow pace his side settled in and it improved when Kevin De Bruyne went broke, passed the infield, got again and shot at the goal of Vicente Guaita Palace was in fire extinguishing mode and was able to still break to the right over Townsend, who left the Stones behind and overtook Ederson to the far post, although there was no team-mate

This was a brief break in pressure when City took the lead with a beauty stroke when De Bruyne killed Sterling’s ball before delivering a cross outside the right shoe that went home for Stones, the 100th the incomparable Belgian support in all competitions for the club “What can I say? These types of players make life easier for managers,” said Guardiola

But the home team slowed down again – they slammed the ball, but were content with walking around between the passes Guardiola threw her hands in despair when the game went sideways too often and was happier when Silva suddenly found Ilkay Gündogan, whose film was spearheaded by a diving Gabriel Jesus Guaita clung to it, but Palace was alarmed

Guardiola’s instruction at halftime was certainly to create more urgency. Raheem Sterling showed him speeding past Tyrick Mitchell in the area before he stumbled – referee Lee Mason correctly ruled no penalty

Next, Zinchenko, Rúben Dias and Silva tapped the ball between them, the game went to the right and Sterling won a corner. De Bruyne picked the ball not for the first time over a crowd of players and Palace escaped again when they did A moment later, Sterling stuck a flank in the rear post and Silva was unable to establish a connection

City was in control and soon the lead was doubled. Zinchenko won a corner, Silva took it and the ball came to Townsend on the edge of the field: Gündogan stole the palace man before he left a 20 yard peach in the top corner von Guaita rolled “A third goal in a fourth game and another fantastic one,” said Guardiola. “He helped us to live a little better with the second goal 1: 0 is not easy ”

Moments later, Guardiola introduced the shapely Phil Foden, hardly a sight to encourage Palace, and the 20-year-old soon galloped along to the left De Bruyne was on the verge of getting Guaita in trouble: his shot from long range struck him Goalkeeper but not his right post


Stones marked his 171 Premier League stake with a second and struck past Guaita after the goalkeeper blocked Dias’s attempt. From here it was like a practice exercise with City playing with an opponent a class or two below Sterling shot a late free kick to Guaita’s left and ended an impressive evening

Hodgson said: “We miss [Wilfried] Zaha if he doesn’t play, but we shouldn’t lose 4-0, Wilf or no Wilf””

Manchester City – Crystal Palace

World news – FI – John Stones double sinks Crystal Palace as Manchester City closes the gap at the top