Erling Haaland’s hat-trick inevitably stole the limelight but Pep Guardiola pointed to the key contribution of Bernardo Silva after Manchester City came from two goals down to beat Crystal Palace 4-2 on Saturday.
Haaland was the matchwinner but it was Bernardo’s 53rd-minute deflected strike that got City back in the game after Palace’s first-half dominance was rewarded through a John Stones own goal and Joachim Andersen’s header.
In a week when Guardiola ruled out selling him to either Barcelona or Paris St Germain, Bernardo was the best player on the pitch, once again full of running and invention, dragging City back into the contest and playing a major role in Haaland’s second of the afternoon.
“I’m happy that Bernardo became a winning player,” Guardiola said. “Of course the highlights will be of Erling. But we cannot forget what Bernardo has done, scoring the goal and creating down the right side in the second half.
“What amazes me about Bernardo is that when the game is going wrong he makes a step forward, he loves to play in this situation. He’s comfortable with it. Some players maybe step backward and he makes a step forward. That’s why he is irreplaceable in many ways for us…
“He’s so important for us, he can play in four or five positions. And it’s not just on the pitch, it’s off it too. In the locker room, I want him here so much.”
Haaland is still finding his way in City’s system but has started life in the Premier League with six goals in four games, getting his hat-trick here in the space of 20 second-half minutes.
“What’s important is he’s a lovely guy, down to earth,” Guardiola said. “We are completely in love with him. It’s not just the goals, it’s how happy he is. I see his behaviour and his body language. You pay attention to the body language of the players and always his is in the right position.
“He’s always there, encouraging the players, making incredible effort. He knows (the chances are) coming. He has an incredible sense of that.”
Haaland and City had to be patient against a Palace side who played, according to manager Patrick Vieira, a “perfect” first half – compact in defence and clinical in attack.
This was a second game running, and fourth in six Premier League matches, where City have fallen two goals behind but avoided defeat.
Most famous among those was last season’s finale against Aston Villa, when three late goals saw City claim the 3-2 win which sealed the title in dramatic fashion.
And though gifting the opposition goals is a habit City quickly need to shake, midfielder Rodri said those final-day heroics in May have given the players belief they can always come back.
“We can do it,” the Spaniard said. “If it becomes a habit, it is easier so we’re very happy but we have to fix some things.
“We cannot let this team score two goals from nothing. We have to watch out. We were talking that last season we conceded one goal from set-pieces for the whole of last season and now we have conceded two in one game. We have to improve in this.
“Sometimes it is not about tactics, it is about talking with the lads (at half-time), being patient.
“Sometimes you want to score the second before the first. I was saying to the lads we just needed one goal to be in the game and that’s what happened. We scored one goal with Bernardo and suddenly we had 30 minutes and Erling was outstanding.
“Now he is the difference because we have one player in the box and before it was harder to come back like this. With Erling, and Julian (Alvarez), it is easier.”