City reel Chelsea in, Falcao ends United wait
21 December 2014, 08:29
London - Manchester City beat Crystal Palace 3-0 on Saturday to move level with Premier League leaders Chelsea, while Radamel Falco earned Manchester United a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa.
City were missing Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic due to injury, but they secured an eighth consecutive win in all competitions thanks to David Silva's second-half brace and a late Yaya Toure strike.
Victory left City level on 39 points with Chelsea, who remain top by virtue of a superior goal difference (+23 to +22) ahead of their trip to Stoke City on Monday.
"It was a very good win. A very good performance. I enjoyed the way the team worked the whole week -- to work in a different way without strikers," said City manager Manuel Pellegrini.
"I did think December is a key month to be in the fight for the title, and if you want to be involved you must be very near the top of the table. I hope we continue playing like this."
United spurned a chance to close on Chelsea after dropping points for the first time in seven matches at Villa, who had Gabriel Agbonlahor sent off in the 65th minute for a foul on former team-mate Ashley Young.
The draw ended United's run of six straight wins and left Louis van Gaal's side seven points off the pace in third place, while West Ham United, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur all closed on them.
At the Etihad Stadium, City started with James Milner as an auxiliary striker and after growing into the game, the champions went ahead four minutes into the second half.
From Fernandinho's pass, Pablo Zabaleta scuttled into the area before cutting the ball back for Silva, who beat Julian Speroni with the aid of a deflection off Scott Dann.
Silva claimed his second goal in the 61st minute, neatly steering home at the near post from Aleksandar Kolarov's left-wing centre.
James McArthur thought he had replied for Palace moments later when he headed Yannick Bolasie's cross past Hart, but although Fernandinho appeared to have played him onside, the assistant referee's flag went up.
Palace manager Neil Warnock called it "a disgraceful decision".
Toure made the game safe for City in the 81st minute, collecting a square pass from Milner and slamming home left-footed at the near post. Austin hat-trick
Christian Benteke put Villa 1-0 up in the 18th minute at home against United by chesting down a deep free-kick, stepping inside Jonny Evans and curling a fine left-foot shot inside the left-hand post.
David de Gea produced a stunning save to tip a header from Benteke over the bar early in the second half, before Falcao met Young's cross with a powerful 53rd-minute header to claim his first goal since October.
United's record signing Angel di Maria made his return from a hamstring injury as a replacement for Robin van Persie, but despite Agbonlahor being shown a straight red card for catching Young late, Villa held on.
"Very frustrating. I think we gave two points away," United manager Van Gaal told the BBC.
"I'm disappointed because also in the first half we were the better team and when that's the case, you have to win."
Fourth-place West Ham are now just a point behind United after beating bottom club Leicester City 2-0 at Upton Park.
Andy Carroll seized on West Ham old boy Paul Konchesky's disastrous back-pass to put the hosts ahead in the 24th minute and Stewart Downing made it 2-0 11 minutes after the interval with an stunning 25-yard effort.
Southampton are two points further back after ending a five-game losing streak by beating Everton 3-0 thanks to a Romelu Lukaku own goal and second-half efforts from Graziano Pelle and Maya Yoshida.
Tottenham leapfrogged Arsenal, who host Liverpool on Sunday, by beating Burnley 2-1.
Ashley Barnes cancelled out Harry Kane's headed opener for Spurs with a blistering shot from 20 yards, but Erik Lamela gave the hosts victory with a swerving long-range effort 10 minutes before half-time.
Charlie Austin took his tally for the season to 11 goals with a hat-trick as Queens Park Rangers came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at home to West Bromwich Albion, who scored through Joleon Lescott and Silvestre Varela.
The win took QPR out of the relegation zone, but Hull City remain in the bottom three after Jonjo Shelvey's shot deflected in off Ki Sung-yueng to earn Swansea City a 1-0 victory at the KC Stadium.