PEL­LE­GRINI IS

Wilmslow Express - - CITY LIFE LOCAL -

LET down by the of­fi­cials, and some of their own play­ers, City’s vague ti­tle hopes were dealt the death blow at Sel­hurst Park on Mon­day.

In­deed, if this goes on much longer, they will be in­volved in a strug­gle to make the cut for the Cham­pi­ons League – and that would surely sound the part­ing bell for manager Manuel Pel­le­grini.

Last year south Lon­don was a place of joy and re­newed hope for the Blues as they pulled off a 2-0 win that fired them back into the ti­tle race.

This time it spoke of de­cay and dis­gruntle­ment, as the Blues failed to turn their dom­i­nance into goals – a re­cur­ring theme this sea­son.

When it hap­pens once or twice, it can be ex­cused, as all teams have bad luck in front of goal, off days when the fi­nal ball goes astray or the ball de­flects the wrong side of the post. And it can hap­pen that the of­fi­cials give ter­ri­ble de­ci­sions – and THREE times ref Mike Oliver and his team got it ter­ri­bly wrong.

Palace’s open­ing goal was off­side TWICE but the lines­man failed to spot ei­ther of­fence, and in the sec­ond half the of­fi­cial failed to spot a clear hand­ball com­mit­ted by Glenn Mur­ray as City mounted a des­per­ate at­tempt to get back into the game.

By the time Yaya Toure thumped in a goal to make it 2-1, you still felt this would be be­yond City as te­na­cious Palace fought tooth and nail.

The de­feat leaves City lan­guish­ing in fourth place and fac­ing a char­ac­ter-testing trip to Old Traf­ford on Sun­day.

And spare a thought for the City fans, who are hav­ing some shoddy luck lately, not least the in­trepid souls who braved the Bank Hol­i­day traf­fic to make the hor­ren­dous jour­ney to south Lon­don for this fix­ture, cour­tesy of the un­think­ing top brass at Sky and the Pre­mier League.

Many of them were still crawl­ing through the Lon- don jams as their team went be­hind in the first half – a goal that was offffff­side not once, but TWICE.

To be fair to the er­rant lines­man, he had hardly been in­volved in the first half, with the play con­tained al­most ex­clu­sively in the Palace half.

But when the ball was lifted to Joe Led­ley on the edge of the 18-yard box in the 34th minute, he headed on into the path of Scott Dann, who had strayed marginally offffff­side.

It was a tough shout for the lines­man, look­ing across a line of play­ers all scram­bling to­wards goal.

But Dann’s shot was beaten out by Joe Hart, straight to the feet of Mur­ray – who was in a clearer off­side po­si­tion, and tucked it into the goal.

There is noth­ing you can do when the of­fi­cials get it wrong other than roll up your sleeves and try to right the injustice.

And it WAS an injustice as City, de­spite not hit­ting top gear, were ut­terly on top in a one-sided 45 min­utes.

Palace had forged the first chance, wildly missed by Wil­fried Zaha, but City came back strongly, and things usu­ally look prom- ising for the Blues when David Silva is see­ing a lot of the ball – he was danc­ing around the edges of the Palace box with in­tent.

But the Spa­niard saw his shot de­flect off the body of the sprawl­ing Ju­lian Sper­oni and arc over the bar from City’s best chance, and the

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