Pep Guardiola defended his selection and refused to blame individuals after Manchester City suffered a shock loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The Premier League champions were stunned as the Eagles came from behind to win 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium and leave City trailing leaders Liverpool by four points at Christmas.
City manager Guardiola had opted to start with key pair Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne on the bench while John Stones played in midfield in the absence of Fernandinho.
Guardiola said: “Normally the selection, when you win I am a genius and when they win the selection is not good. I accept that role but I don’t know what would happen if Kevin or Sergio started.
“Dinho is injured. Yesterday he felt that problem but John played so good (in midfield) at Leicester and I want to give another option for the long balls. They are a strong team in the air.
“We decided to put him there and he played good, except one ball. I admire and give credit to people who try to adapt to positions they are not used to.”
City took the lead through Ilkay Gundogan but Palace hit back with a Jeffrey Schlupp strike and a goal of the season contender from Andros Townsend.
City’s hopes of getting back into the game were dashed when Kyle Walker rashly fouled Max Meyer and Luka Milivojevic stuck home the resulting penalty.
Guardiola made clear he was not impressed with Walker’s challenge but did not criticise him publicly.
He said: “The third goal, the penalty, was really tough for us. We have to avoid it. We cannot concede this kind of penalty. But football makes good things, sometimes bad things. He will learn, we will learn about the situation for the knockout stages (of the Champions League) and important games, to improve on that.”
Palace boss Roy Hodgson hailed his side’s performance, saying the result was more than he could have hoped for.
He said: “Getting something from the game was always going to be a tough ask because they have such a strong team and such a good bench. We certainly didn’t come up here thinking we had no chance or this was the kind of game we had to write off.
“But what we did think was that unless we produce a performance of that quality, discipline and workrate then we wouldn’t have much of a chance. Luckily today the goals fell for us. After going 1-0 down we were able to score two good goals and that gives you something to cling on to and makes life harder for the opposition.”
Andros Townsend scored one of the goals of the season as Roy Hodgson’s inspired Palace came from behind to condemn City to their first league defeat at the Etihad Stadium since April.
Townsend struck with a 30-yard volley after Jeffrey Schlupp had cancelled out Ilkay Gundogan’s opener on a rain-soaked afternoon.
A penalty from Luka Milivojevic sealed victory although Kevin De Bruyne’s cross-cum-shot gave City, who also hit the post through Leroy Sane, late hope.
The defeat was City’s second in three league games and handed the title initiative to Liverpool, whom they face on January 3.
Palace’s performance was completely unexpected, the Londoners having lost five of their last six away games and 5-0 on their last two visits to the Etihad. Indeed, it was their first away win over City since 1990.
With the Christmas schedule in mind, City manager Pep Guardiola continued to ease De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero back into action after injury by starting both on the bench.
John Stones also started in midfield in place of the injured Fernandinho and the Brazilian was sorely missed.
City did have a chance within the opening two minutes as Fabian Delph extended Palace’s stand-in goalkeeper Vicente Guaita with a fierce drive.
At that point it seemed Guaita, filling in for Wayne Hennessey, could be in for a busy time but that did not materialise as City struggled to break Palace down thereafter.
They did have opportunities as Sane drove into the side-netting, Raheem Sterling sliced a shot and Bernardo Silva had an effort blocked but Palace stood up to the challenge.
City did break through after 27 minutes as Delph curled in an excellent right-footed cross from the left and picked out an unmarked Gundogan, who planted a firm header past Guaita.
But Palace trailed for just six minutes as they surprised City by pushing back. Stones, looking uncomfortable in midfield, inadvertantly fed Schlupp as he won a tackle on James McArthur.
Schlupp pushed into the area and beat Ederson with a low left-foot shot across goal.
City were then stunned as Palace grabbed a second just two minutes later with Townsend’s stunner.
Townsend, mate. Bloody hell. pic.twitter.com/rsW41bXmvg— Bench Boost #FPL (@BenchBoostFPL) December 22, 2018
A free-kick won by Wilfried Zaha was lofted into the area and only half cleared by City. Silva attempted to head away but the ball dropped invitingly towards Townsend around 30 yards out and he met it with a ferocious volley that flew into the roof of the net.
City brought Aguero off the bench early in the second half and Aymeric Laporte headed wide but Palace shocked the hosts again six minutes after the restart.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka whipped in a cross and Townsend headed against the post. Max Meyer seized on the loose ball but City were in disarray and Kyle Walker felled the German. Milivojevic rifled home from the spot.
City then turned to De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez but Palace continued to hold them back until Sane went close with a brilliant free-kick that struck the post.
De Bruyne did find the net when a cross from the right flew into the top corner five minutes from time but the hosts could not make the most of the lifeline.
Gabriel Jesus missed their best chance to level when he headed over while Palace thought they should have had another penalty when Ederson challenged Jordan Ayew.
2010 - Roy Hodgson is the first English manager to win a Premier League game at the Etihad since Harry Redknapp in May 2010 (P39 W0 D3 L36, before today). Jungle. pic.twitter.com/Txlw2eKNVz— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 22, 2018
Jamie Vardy pounced to give Leicester and boss Claude Puel a valuable and worthy 1-0 win at Chelsea.
Eden Hazard hit the crossbar in the first half and Vardy punished Chelsea’s profligacy six minutes into the second half to ease the pressure on Foxes boss Puel with Leicester’s first win at Stamford Bridge in 18 years.
Maurizio Sarri’s Blues, for whom Marcos Alonso hit a post in stoppage time, have now lost three of their last six Premier League games and desperately need a goalscorer to ease the burden on Hazard.
The Foxes had won just two of their nine games since the October 27 helicopter crash which resulted in the death of five people, including chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
A run of two wins in 12 games had led to speculation Puel’s position was in jeopardy, but a first win at Chelsea since September 2000 should ease the pressure.
Vardy admitted the Frenchman’s patient style did not suit him ahead of the contest, but his strike showed the value of having a recognised striker on the pitch.
Chelsea strikers Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud have been far from prolific, with speculation Chelsea will seek to buy a forward in January, and Sarri started Hazard as the attacking focal point for a third straight Premier League game, after wins over Manchester City and Brighton.
Hazard was prominent from the start. He ran into the immovable object Wes Morgan and crumbled to the floor, but Chelsea kept possession and the ball in play.
David Luiz paused while Hazard stood up before the defender launched a long ball forwards towards Willian, but the ball eluded both the Brazil midfielder and Kasper Schmeichel to go narrowly wide.
Luiz next halted the excellent Ben Chilwell’s run into the box and Morgan headed wide from Marc Albrighton’s cross soon afterwards.
Luiz should have scored when a Willian corner was flicked on by Pedro at the near post, but the ball passed inches in front of the defender’s face as it flashed by the far post.
Puel was animated in his technical area and frustrated with the Foxes for relinquishing possession too freely.
Perhaps the pressure was telling, but on the field his side were standing firm with Chelsea deep in opposition territory.
The visitors had very little of the ball and they frequently fouled Hazard in their attempts to win it back.
Wilfred Ndidi was booked for a poor challenge on Hazard in front of Puel’s technical area and the Belgian almost exacted revenge with a goal.
He pounced on Harry Maguire’s defensive error – a failure to intercept Cesar Azpilicueta’s pass -and shimmied by Morgan before he thundered a shot off the crossbar.
Against the run of play, Ndidi struck a superb 25-yard effort which home goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga did well to turn over.
At the other end, Chelsea’s rapid counter attack concluded with Willian passing at Schmeichel. Again, he should have done better.
Leicester took the lead after 51 minutes following Ricardo Pereira’s strong run down the right. He found James Maddison, who in turn slid the ball to Vardy as Antonio Rudiger slipped, and the striker finished with aplomb for his sixth goal of the season.
Leicester, and Vardy, appeared reinvigorated by the goal. Albrighton crossed menacingly from the right and Kepa parried only as far as Vardy, who improvised to back heel the ball, with Azpilicueta blocking with his knee.
Chelsea had chances to equalise. Hazard had five Leicester players around him as he tried to manufacture a shooting chance from a knock down by substitute Giroud.
Rudiger headed wide from a Pedro corner and Alonso hit a post, with the ball rolling agonisingly across the goal-line, but Leicester’s luck held.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s tackling against the ‘big six’ in the Premier League this season:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 22, 2018
2/3 vs. Liverpool
6/6 vs. Arsenal
3/3 vs. Chelsea
1/2 vs. Spurs
4/5 vs. Man Utd
7/7 vs. Man City
🎶 ‘Your wingers don’t like him.’ 🎶 pic.twitter.com/WfLIB2kxRm