LONDON, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Manchester City stumbled to the Premier League’s shock defeat of the season so far on Saturday, a sensational 3-2 reverse against Crystal Palace at their Etihad fortress providing another unlikely setback to their once imperious defence of the title.
A remarkable 30-metre thunderbolt from Andros Townsend adorned Palace’s remarkable comeback from a goal down in the rain as Pep Guardiola’s champions saw their 100 percent league home record this season shattered.
It left them four points behind leaders Liverpool, who had thrown down the gauntlet with a 2-0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday, with more good news for the Reds coming as fourth-placed Chelsea also squandered their unbeaten home record with a 1-0 defeat by Leicester City.
Arsenal, though, kept up their pursuit in fifth place, thanks to a double from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in a 3-1 home win over Burnley that put the Gabonese striker at the top of the league’s goalscoring charts.
After 18 matches, Liverpool are now the only unbeaten side left in the four top English leagues on 48 points, with City on 44 and Tottenham Hotspur, who visit Everton on Sunday, third on 39. Chelsea and Arsenal both have 37.
On a remarkable, rain-sodden afternoon at the Etihad, Man City, who had lost their season’s unbeaten record at Chelsea just two weeks ago, seemed wholly dominant when striding into a first-half lead through Ilkay Gundogan.
But Palace responded with a Jeffrey Schlupp strike, and three minutes later, a wondrous volley from all of 30 metres from the mercurial England international Townsend, which will be a contender for goal of the season.
Luka Milivojevic put the visitors further clear with a penalty after the break before Palace survived a late onslaught that saw Kevin De Bruyne narrow the deficit five minutes from time.
Chelsea’s loss at Stamford Bridge seemed almost as unlikely with Leicester staring at the prospect of a third straight defeat but Jamie Vardy’s first-time finish soon after the break brought much-needed relief for the Foxes’ manager Claude Puel.
At the Emirates Stadium, the predatory Aubameyang took his season-leading tally of league goals to 12 with his double in the win over Burnley, one more than Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.
Arsenal, for whom the recalled Mesut Ozil was made captain for the day and responded with an excellent display, made hard work of the win in a feisty encounter, only sealing the victory in added time with an Alex Iwobi goal.
Fulham earned a goalless draw at Newcastle United but remained bottom of the table on 10 points alongside Huddersfield Town, who were beaten 3-1 by a Southampton side that look rejuvenated under new Austrian manager Ralph Hasenhuettl.
Goals from Nathan Redmond, Danny Ings and teenage substitute Michael Obafemi earned the Saints a second straight win and eased them away from the drop zone.
Watford moved into sixth place — temporarily, at least, before Manchester United’s visit to Cardiff City in the late game — with a 2-0 win at West Ham United, thanks to goals from Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu.
Bournemouth’s fine 21-year-old Welsh prospect David Brooks scored both goals in a 2-0 win at home to Brighton & Hove Albion that hoisted the Cherries back into the top half of the league. (Reporting by Ian Chadband; editing by Martyn Herman)