Erling Haaland’s hat-trick inevitably stole the show, but Pep Guardiola highlighted Bernardo Silva’s key contribution after Manchester City came from within two goals to beat Crystal Palace 4-2 on Saturday.
Haaland was the match winner but it was Bernardo’s 53rd-minute deflected strike that put City back in the game after Palace’s first-half dominance was rewarded with an own goal by John Stones and a head by Joachim Andersen.
In a week when Guardiola ruled out selling him to Barcelona or Paris St Germain, Bernardo was the best player on the pitch, once again full of running and invention, bringing City back into the contest and playing a major role in Haaland’s second. afternoon.
“I’m happy that Bernardo has become a winning player,” Guardiola said. “Of course the highlights will be from Erling. But we can’t forget what Bernardo did, scoring the goal and creating on the right side in the second half.
“What amazes me about Bernardo is that when the game goes wrong he takes a step forward, he loves playing in that situation. He’s comfortable with that. Some players maybe step back and he takes a step forward, which is why he is irreplaceable in many ways for us…
“He is so important to us, he can play four or five positions. And it’s not just on the pitch, it’s also off it. In the locker room, I want him here so badly.
Haaland is still finding his way through City’s system but started life in the Premier League with six goals in four games, getting his hat-trick here in the space of 20 minutes in the second half.
“What’s important is that he’s a lovely, down-to-earth guy,” Guardiola said. “We are completely in love with him. It’s not just the goals, it’s how happy he is. I see his behavior and his body language. You pay attention to the players’ body language and he’s always in the right position.
“He is always there, encouraging the players, making incredible efforts. He knows (chances are) ahead. It has an incredible sense of it. »
Haaland and City had to be patient against a Palace side which, according to coach Patrick Vieira, played a “perfect” first half – compact in defense and clinical in attack.
It was the second game in a row and the fourth in six Premier League games where City fell two goals but avoided defeat.
The most famous of these was last season’s final against Aston Villa, when three late goals gave City a spectacular 3-2 victory that sealed the title.
And while giving away goals is a habit City need to quickly shake off, midfielder Rodri said those last-day exploits in May have given the players confidence they can always come back.
“We can do it,” said the Spaniard. “If it becomes a habit, it’s easier so we’re very happy but we have to fix certain things.
“We can’t let this team score two goals from nothing. We must be careful. We were talking that last season we conceded one goal from set pieces for the whole of last season and now we’ve conceded two in one game. We need to improve in this area.
“Sometimes it’s not about tactics, it’s about talking with the guys (at half-time), being patient.
“Sometimes you want to score the second before the first. I was telling the guys we only needed one goal to be in the game and that’s what happened. We scored a goal with Bernardo and suddenly we had 30 minutes and Erling was exceptional.
“Now he makes the difference because we have a player in the box and before it was more difficult to come back like that. With Erling and Julian (Alvarez) it’s easier.