Manchester City are on the brink of a finals appearance in the Football League Cup thanks mostly to a dominant showing by Alvaro Negredo against West Ham United on Wednesday, Jan. 8.
The two sides are battling in the two-legged semifinals of the Capital One Cup, the first of which taking place at Etihad Stadium. This is obviously bad news for any road team considering City have been dominant at home all year.
Negredo provided the punishment to West Ham early on as it only took 12 minutes for him to score his opening goal. Phil McNulty of BBC Sport credits an impressive finish and the pass from Yaya Toure for the goal:
That Manchester City goal was perfection. Wonderful vision and long pass from Toure and great volleying technique from Negredo.— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) January 8, 2014
However, this was just the start. Negredo was able to score his second goal in the 26th minute and then add an assist to Toure to make it 3-0 shortly before halftime.
Instead of resting his players, manager Manuel Pellegrini decided to keep in his starters. He was quickly rewarded with yet another goal from Negredo on a strong finish to give the Spanish player a hat-trick.
OptaJoe provided a statistic to note how good the star has been at home this season:
15 - Alvaro Negredo has scored 15 goals in 15 appearances in all competitions at home for Manchester City this term. Relentless.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 8, 2014
As Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph notes, the 28-year-old forward dominated a weak defense:
4-0. This is brutal. #mcfc didn't declare at h-t. Negredo superb, now hat-trick. West Ham's defence again awol. Wembley beckons City— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) January 8, 2014
Oliver Holt of the Daily Mirror was also impressed by his play:
Hat trick for Negredo who has been an absolute pleasure to watch tonight. He's what the phrase "complete centre forward" was made for— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) January 8, 2014
Of course, these words do not do justice to explain the importance of Negredo at this point of the year. With leading scorer Sergio Aguero out for a few more weeks with a calf issue, City needed someone to step up, and the former Sevilla star did just that.
Negredo excelled with not only his scoring but also in his leadership role. Before the match he discussed the quality of the team as a whole, via Sky Sports:
It was important to score. It didn't mean the victory or that we got through to the next round but we have to keep working hard, as we are doing.
The main thing is to recover well after all the games. A good thing about this club is we have a big squad with a lot of players, so we can rotate without the change changing the way we play.
Hopefully we can get a good result in front of our fans and get a good result to go with to West Ham.
He certainly helped his team earn that good result. He was absolutely dominant in this first leg, ensuring his club would almost certainly be in the Capital One Cup final. Considering Manchester United just dropped their first leg to Sunderland, this is not something to take lightly.
This performance is enough to show that Manchester City are deep enough to remain tough throughout the season, regardless of which key players go down with injuries.
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