LONDON (AP) - Manchester City fell further out of title contention by losing 2-1 to Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Monday, dropping to fourth in the standings and all but surrendering its championship defense.
Glen Murray and Jason Puncheon put Palace 2-0 ahead by the 48th minute despite City controlling 74 percent of possession at Selhurst Park. Yaya Toure pulled one back with a fierce shot in the 78th but the defending champions fell short of a comeback and are now nine points behind leader Chelsea, which also has a game in hand.
“We are not talking about the title, only about winning our games,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. “We will see at the end of the season which team has the most points.”
City dropped below both Arsenal and Manchester United, which it faces next weekend, but is still seven points above fifth-place Liverpool.
Palace is virtually assured of staying up after reaching 39 points with seven rounds to go, sitting in 11th place.
“For us it was a huge night. You have the champions coming to your place knowing they’re under pressure,” Palace manager Alan Pardew said. “We didn’t see enough of the ball really … but diligence, character, resilience was enough just to see us home.”
Wilfried Zaha missed a good chance to put Palace ahead in the opening minutes when he fired high after meeting a cross at the far post, but City dominated after that, with David Silva and Sergio Aguero both coming close to scoring.
Palace’s opener came against the run of play in the 34th minute as Joe Ledley headed down a cross toward Scott Dann, whose shot was blocked by goalkeeper Joe Hart but fell for Murray to tap in at the far post. City’s players appealed furiously for offside and replays suggested Dann had been marginally behind the last defender, but the flag stayed down.
There was no arguing about the second goal - except perhaps about Hart’s positioning - as Puncheon lifted a free kick over the wall to beat the goalkeeper at the near post.
City appealed for a penalty in the 71st when the ball hit Murray’s outstretched hand in the area, but were again left frustrated. Toure finally provided a breakthrough when he controlled the ball just inside the right edge of the area and unleashed a hard shot into the far corner, but Pellegrini’s team couldn’t prevent a third loss in its last five games.
They probably can’t prevent Chelsea from winning the title, either.
“Every time we drop points it’s a big blow, especially at the end of the season,” Pellegrini said. “But we must try to continue playing the way we did today.”
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