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In a perplexing draw with Palace, Man City gives Liverpool new hope.

When Pep Guardiola walked onto the Selhurst Park pitch at full-time after a goalless draw with Crystal Palace, he had one person in mind.

He strolled passed his Manchester City teammates, who had failed to score after dominating the previous 90 minutes, resulting in a 0-0 stalemate in south London, putting Liverpool solidly in the Premier League title chase.

After a game that was happily free of refereeing controversy, he strolled past referee Martin Atkinson.

Instead, Guardiola went directly to Vicente Guaita, the Palace goalie. The City leader refused to comment on what was said beyond "congratulating him on a wonderful performance and his saves," but it was a long, animated meeting.

City sent 18 shots at Palace's goal. With the 14 goals they scored in the reverse fixture in October, they have the most goals without scoring in the Premier League this season.

Guardiola stated that he had other players in mind before praising Guaita, notably making a substitute to liven up a forward line that was going blank.

Guardiola stated, "I was thinking about that, Gabriel [Jesus], Gundo [Ilkay Gundogan], but the others were performing well." "The game was moving quite nicely, so I decided to stick with these men."

Guardiola didn't make a single replacement in a game that City needed to win in order to retain a four-point lead over Liverpool. It's not the first time Guardiola has refused to make any substitutes since English football restarted in June 2020 following an enforced break due to COVID-19. In the same time period, no other manager has done it more than twice.

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This was, however, the first time this season he decided not to intervene in a match his side failed to win. Raheem Sterling, Jesus and Gundogan rarely warmed up with any purpose even as the three points began to slip from view. If he really was thinking about changing things, it never seemed particularly close to becoming reality. The result inevitably shapes judgements on such decision-making, but that just felt odd in the immediate aftermath.

Guardiola was right to assert that his team was playing well, monopolising the ball in typical fashion -- albeit bereft of the total control City often display, allowing Palace threaten on several occasions when counter-attacking.

Conor Gallagher epitomised Palace's work ethic. In tirelessly chasing down City as they probed relentlessly for the opener, the 22-year-old covered 12.5 km -- the highest distance of any Palace player in a Premier League game this season.

Gallagher usually tops that statistic -- he has done so in 15 of his 25 league starts during his season-long loan from Chelsea.

Kevin De Bruyne and Manchester City were held to a frustrating draw against Crystal Palace. Getty Images

But Palace's goal was never under constant threat. Guaita had only four shots on target to save, and only one of them was particularly memorable: a reflex second-half stop from Riyad Mahrez after Kevin De Bruyne hit the post on 57 minutes.

Despite Guardiola's full-time reaction, this was not a virtuoso performance worthy of special praise from Guardiola. Opposite number Patrick Vieira underlined the point by focusing on how his goalkeeper "managed the game" by essentially timewasting to ease the pressure on his back line, allowing them to fill their lungs again after a night almost endlessly chasing down the ball.

City dropped points here because of their own profligacy. Bernardo Silva was the biggest culprit, missing the visitors' two best chances: miscontrolling with the goal at his mercy just 14 minutes in and later sliding a second-half shot wide from Jack Grealish's 71st-minute cross.

Joao Cancelo hit the post shortly before the half-hour mark, and Aymeric Laporte will squirm uncomfortably when watching back the two opportunities that came his way.

Recriminations can't be far-reaching for a City side that created plenty but failed to score for the first time in 19 games since losing to Palace at Etihad Stadium almost five months ago.

They have given Liverpool a huge incentive for Wednesday's trip to Arsenal, knowing that victory there in their game in hand will take them one point behind City with nine games each to play. Liverpool's visit to Man City on April 10 just got even bigger and Guardiola will welcome the fact the title remains in their hands as much as it does for Jurgen Klopp's side.

But it is tempting on nights like this -- as rare as they are -- to imagine what might have happened here had City landed Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane or Cristiano Ronaldo last summer. After all, despite their general consistency, there is a reason they are heavily linked with a move for Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland at the end of the season.

And should they end up missing out on another Premier League crown to Liverpool this season, the inquest will not focus on their defence, which is still the best in the division and the foundation of last season's title win.

"I don't know if a striker, like you said is in line for next season, we would win the game because I don't know," Guardiola said.

He's right, of course. But thanks to Guardiola's passivity here, we won't know if City would have won by using all the options at his disposal either.

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