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Dublin: 15 °C Sunday 21 October, 2018

Man City restore five-point lead while late Zaha equaliser earns Palace a point

Man City now go seven points ahead of second place, while Crystal Palace earned a dramatic late point against West Ham.

Fernandinho celebrates with Kevin De Bruyne.
Fernandinho celebrates with Kevin De Bruyne.

MANCHESTER CITY RESTORED their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 3-2 victory over West Brom on Saturday, while elsewhere Arsenal came from behind to beat Swansea.

Goals from Leroy Sane, Fernandinho and Raheem Sterling for Pep Guardiola’s side made it eight league wins in a row for the Blues and kept the title race firmly under their control.

Manchester United had moved to within two points with their 1-0 win over Tottenham earlier in the day but City looked unlikely to concede any ground to their rivals after Sane fired home the opener inside 10 minutes.

The Baggies responded swiftly through Jay Rodriguez but City restored their lead two minutes later via a deflected Fernandinho strike.

Guardiola’s side continued to dominate possession and eventually found the killer third goal with a little over 25 minutes remaining, as substitute Sterling finished a slick move for his seventh goal in eight league games.

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City - Premier League - The Hawthorns Fabian Delph celebrates at the end of City's win on Saturday afternoon. Source: Anthony Devlin

Matt Phillips struck a stoppage-time consolation but it could not derail City’s spectacular run ahead of next week’s Champions League trip to Napoli, while West Brom remain just two points outside the bottom three after their 12th defeat to City in a row in the top flight.

City’s early dominance paid dividends, as Sane collected Fernandinho’s pass and forced Allan Nyom to back off towards goal before blasting left-footed past Ben Foster from a tight angle.

The hosts equalised barely three minutes later thanks to an error from Ederson, who found himself stranded from goal as he tried to get to Salomon Rondon’s flick-on and allowed Rodriguez to lift the ball into the net.

The frenetic start continued before a quarter of an hour was played, though. Fernandinho was given time to set himself 20 yards out and his shot took a deflection off the studs of Gareth Barry’s boot before bobbling in off the left-hand post.

City regained their control of proceedings and David Silva should have headed in a third before the break, but he contrived to nod Kevin De Bruyne’s excellent cross over the bar from only six yards out.

With 64 minutes gone, City produced their best passing move of the match and it ended with Kyle Walker sending in a low cross from the right for Sterling, who had the simple task of tapping home from point-blank range.

The visitors entered cruise control but Nicolas Otamendi could have made life a little difficult in the closing stages, the centre-back just pulling out of a lunging challenge on Jake Livermore that could otherwise have earned him a red card rather than a yellow.

Tony Pulis’ side did snatch a lifeline in injury time thanks to a dreadful error from Otamendi, who chested a cross back towards Ederson only to see Phillips ghost in and poke the ball into the net, but they remain in a precarious position in the table and 18 points adrift of the leaders.

Elsewhere Wilfried Zaha struck in the 97th minute as Crystal Palace came from two goals down to earn a dramatic 2-2 draw at home to West Ham.

Crystal Palace v West Ham United - Premier League - Selhurst Park Source: John Walton

Winger Zaha’s effort deep in second-half stoppage time secured a much-needed point for Roy Hodgson after the Hammers looked set for a second competitive win in as many matches.

Javier Hernandez gave West Ham a 31st-minute lead with his fourth Premier League strike this season, and Andre Ayew doubled their advantage before half-time with a stunning solo goal.

Luka Milivojevic scored from the spot after Angelo Ogbonna’s trip of Andros Townsend five minutes after the restart to inspire hope for bottom side Palace. Joe Hart repelled the Eagles’ fightback with a string of stellar saves and his efforts appeared to have given Slaven Bilic breathing room after Wednesday’s come-from-behind EFL Cup win over Tottenham.

But it was West Ham who this time had their lead dashed as Zaha swivelled and fired beyond Hart at the death to ensure Palace avoided a ninth league defeat.

Meanwhile Darren Fletcher’s fine first-half strike was enough for Stoke City as they secured a hard-fought 1-0 win at high-flying Watford to ease the mounting pressure on manager Mark Hughes.

Watford v Stoke City - Premier League - Vicarage Road Darren Fletcher acknowledges Stoke City's supporters after the final whistle. Source: Daniel Hambury

Stoke went into the match having won just one of their last seven in the Premier League and, although they were second best for much of the match, they battled away to earn all three points and clinch a first away win of the campaign.

Fletcher scored what ultimately proved to be the winning goal with a lovely finish just after the quarter-of-an-hour mark, producing a rare moment of quality in a first half which had little flow.

Watford piled the pressure on towards the end but were frustrated by Stoke’s defensive belligerence, and the visitors should have finished with a man advantage.

Troy Deeney and Jose Allen clashed, with the striker grabbing hold of the Wales international’s face as something of a brawl ensued, and the Watford man somehow escaped without being sent off.

Stoke almost had the last laugh, only for Charlie Adam to hit the post from distance after evading Heurelho Gomes, who had come well out of his goal. But it mattered little, with Hughes’ men holding on.

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