Manchester City maintained their title challenge in ruthless fashion as the incredible Kevin de Bruyne claimed his 100th goal for the club in a comeback victory at Crystal Palace

In an entertaining encounter, Palace stunned City with an early opener from Jean-Philippe Mateta, before De Bruyne’s wonderful finish pulled the visitors level in the first half.

Mateta raced on to a pass from Adam Wharton and slotted the ball inside the far corner in only the third minute as noise erupted from the stands at Selhurst Park.

But De Bruyne’s curling effort was a sublime equaliser just 10 minutes later and, with a starring role for the rest of the game, City boss Pep Guardiola said their success was thanks to his “incredible” qualities.

“For many years he has been one of the best players for our club,” Guardiola told BBC Sport.

“What he has done in England has been unbelievable. Many goals, assists and consistency. We had four or five months without him and now we need him at the end of the season.

“I think he likes to score goals but I don’t know if he enjoys it more to make an assist. He is so generous with that – but he has to continue.”

Palace’s Jordan Ayew also struck the crossbar as Oliver Glasner’s side showed plenty of attacking threat but they were undone in the second half.

Having earlier made a crucial stop to deny Erling Haaland finishing off a clever De Bruyne through-ball, Palace goalkeeper Dean Henderson was unable to block Rico Lewis’ strike within two minutes of the second half.

The defending champions then took control as De Bruyne teed up Haaland again and this time the Norwegian striker finished, before the Belgian added a fourth – marking his century of goals for City since joining in 2015 – with a ferocious first-time shot.

Substitute Odsonne Edouard slotted in a late consolation for Palace but this was another crucial victory for Guardiola’s side in an enthralling three-way title race.

City moved level on points with leaders Liverpool, who visit Manchester United on Sunday, while Arsenal face Brighton later on Saturday.

Foden rested but De Bruyne steps up for City
With one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final tie against Real Madrid, Guardiola made four changes to the City side, with Phil Foden dropped to the bench just days after scoring a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Aston Villa.

But in came De Bruyne and Haaland – and both made their mark to fuel City’s charge for an unprecedented fourth successive league title.

Palace, still finding their feet under new boss Glasner, showed plenty of positive signs, particularly in the first half as their defensive resilience and organisation kept the visitors at bay.

They were boosted by the return of Michael Olise off the bench after missing seven games through injury, and the lively Edouard went close before he squeezed home a nice close-range finish four minutes from time.

“I’m not satisfied with the result but I saw many positive things in our performance,” said Glasner.

“When we lose 4-2, I don’t like to talk about positive things, but in phases of the game we could compete. It shows we are able to create chances – but of course when you concede four goals, you lose.”a a a a a a a a

City were too strong in the end and, while Guardiola was able to rest Foden and Bernardo Silva, De Bruyne stepped up to show his quality and claim his landmark goal after an injury-plagued season.

In another boost, defender John Stones managed to play the full match upon his return after being injured on England duty.

Palace have proved a tough opponent for City in the past – they came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at the Etihad in December – so this was a vital victory for Guardiola’s side to keep the pressure on Liverpool and Arsenal.