MANCHESTER, England (AP) -- Edin Dzeko rescued Manchester City with a second-half winner in a shaky 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday, lifting his team to provisionally top of the English Premier League.
The division's most free-scoring attack struggled to break down an obdurate Palace defense until Jesus Navas cut the ball back for Dzeko to score from 12 yards for his 50th goal for City.
''I think the team that wants to win the title must have different faces,'' City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. ''We usually score lots of goals at home, but after 45 minutes we knew it would not be like that.''
Dzeko's strike kept up City's record of scoring in every home league match since November 2010 and maintained the team's 100 percent record at Etihad Stadium this season.
However, City was indebted to goalkeeper Joe Hart, who produced a string of second-half saves to preserve the clean sheet despite playing for an hour with a nasty gash below his left eye after a collision with Palace striker Cameron Jerome.
''It was a hard game, maybe the toughest at this stadium in the Premier League this season,'' said Dzeko, who started in the absence of the injured Sergio Aguero and rested Alvaro Negredo.
City was two points clear of second-place Arsenal, which plays Newcastle away on Sunday for the right to end 2013 on top of the standings.
Palace has improved immeasurably since hiring Tony Pulis as manager in November when the team was bottom of the standings. And with City making six changes from the side that beat Liverpool 2-1 on Thursday, this was always likely to be a tougher proposition than many would expect.
Filling their own box any time City got close, the visitors managed to keep chances to a minimum.
James Milner, David Silva and Fernandinho had half-opportunities in the first half but Palace created some of its own after halftime, with Hart called into action to turn aside Puncheon's fierce shot from 25 yards.
Substitute Marouane Chamakh and Puncheon went close before Navas collected the ball on the byline and picked out Dzeko, who scored with a first-time finish.
Joel Ward had a dipping volley saved before heading wide late on, with City forced to hang on for the points.
''We are really disappointed to have not got anything from the game,'' Pulis said. ''The difference between the teams is spending about 350 million pounds ($580 million).
''The weekly wages of one of their players would probably cover half my team and if I was their manager, I would be sat on the sidelines with a cigar in my mouth.''
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