Manchester City’s stunning 3-2 loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday — at home, no less — is easily the biggest upset of the Premier League season. It also makes Liverpool the clear favorite to take the title away from the defending champions.
Liverpool extended its lead atop the Prem on Friday, moving four points clear of City thanks to a 2-0 victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers. That put the pressure on the Sky Blues to keep pace, but victory seemed like a foregone conclusion. Pep Guardiola’s side came into the match as the best home team in the circuit with a perfect 9-0 record at the City of Manchester Stadium, where they had outscored foes by a count of 33-6.
Fifteenth-place Palace didn’t figure to put up much of a resistance, and certainly not after German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan opened the scoring for the hosts in the 27th minute. City appeared well on their way then. But things changed completely during a thee minute span before the first half was over.
First Jeffrey Schlupp equalized against the odds, and the run of play. Then Andros Townsend scored what may well go down as the goal of the season, volleying a clearance past City keeper Ederson from 30-odd yards.
Things went from bad to worse for City six minutes after the break, when Luka Milivojevic made it 3-1 from the penalty spot. And while the hosts were able to pull one back late via second half substitute Kevin De Bruyne, it wasn’t enough to salvage even a point.
This will go down as a famous triumph for Crystal Palace and its veteran manager Roy Hodgson. But the biggest winner of all is Liverpool. With 18 games played, the Reds finally have some breathing room against their biggest challenger. Chelsea’s equally shocking home loss to Leicester City on Saturday served to confirm that this will be a two-horse race the finish line as the Blues failed to overtake third-place Tottenham, who remain nine points behind the Reds.
MC 1-3 CP
CHE 0-1 LC
Liverpool fans rn: pic.twitter.com/io95yg4kqk
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 22, 2018
Saturday’s upset has potentially devastating consequences for City. With a plus-five goal difference versus Liverpool, a draw at home would’ve been palatable. Now, even a City win against Liverpool on January 3 won’t be enough to overtake Jurgen Klopp and Co. atop the table
If the Reds do manage to hold serve the rest of the way and claim their their first English title in 29 years — Liverpool’s drought predates the Premier League itself — don’t be surprised if Manchester City’s unlikely slip up against Palace is looked back upon as the pivotal moment.