LONDON, September 12- Kelechi Iheanacho opened his Manchester City account with a last-minute winner as his side maintained their perfect start to the Premier League campaign by winning 1-0 at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Palace, who had started the day in second place, looked set to claim a point before Iheanacho finished from close range shortly after appearing as an 89th-minute substitute to secure City’s fifth successive win.
It was only the 18-year-old Nigerian’s second senior appearance and drew the attention away from an impressive debut for Kevin De Bruyne, who arrived from Wolfsburg in a £54 million ($83.3 million, 73.5 million euros) move shortly before the end of the transfer window.
De Bruyne was introduced as a first-half replacement for the injured Sergio Aguero and the loss of the Argentina striker added to City’s mounting injury concerns ahead of next week’s Champions League clash with Juventus.
A bad-tempered game threatened to flare up when Scott Dann brought down Aguero with a kick to the knee in the 17th minute and the City striker was forced to withdraw seven minutes later.
Manuel Pellegrini, the City manager, and his players were incensed Dann escaped with only a yellow card and when Yaya Toure reacted by bringing down Palace’s James McArthur in a similar manner, Pellegrini and Palace manager Alan Pardew clashed physically on the touchline.
Iheanacho’s late intervention brought relief for Pellegrini, but Aguero’s injury added to the manager’s concerns after David Silva and Raheem Sterling were both forced to miss this game.
Silva picked up an ankle injury with Spain, while Sterling was unexpectedly absent from the squad with a hamstring problem.
The City manager responded by pairing Aguero with Wilfried Bony up front for only the third time since the latter arrived at the Etihad Stadium last January.
Pardew also shuffled his pack after losing Joel Ward –- the right-back who scored the winner at Chelsea -– and striker Connor Wickham to injury and handed the job of leading the attack to Yannick Bolasie.
– Navas miss –
The Palace manager had insisted before this game that his side deserved to be riding high near the head of the table after a series of impressive early performances.
And the confidence generated by their eye-catching start -– and in particular, the win at Chelsea -– was clear from the way they immediately took the game to the visitors.
Dann’s tackle on Aguero did nothing to help City’s cause and Toure could easily have been dismissed when he chopped down McArthur.
But when tempers subsided, City began to look the stronger side, with De Bruyne wasting no time in exerting his influence.
The Belgium international was quickly involved, receiving the ball from Samir Nasri and setting up Bony, whose low shot was well saved by Palace goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.
De Bruyne was again involved when he moved quickly down the right flank before squaring for Navas, who shot over from 20 yards out.
The Spain international should have done better, but he would produce a more glaring miss shortly after the restart after again being set up by De Bruyne, whose crossfield ball sent Naves clear on McCarthy’s goal.
The winger appeared to do everything right as he took the ball around the goalkeeper, but he was unable to direct his shot into the open goal, finding instead the side-netting.
It seemed that City would rue Navas’s miss when referee Mike Jones dismissed Nasri’s claims for a penalty after he went to ground following a challenge from Yohan Cabaye.
Television replays suggested the City midfielder had a good case, but the debate was ended when Iheanacho reacted first to score after McCarthy failed to hold Nasri’s shot.