ETIHAD STADIUM, MANCHESTER
As semi-final performances go, this must surely rank as one of the finest. Manchester City, making their fourth domestic cup semi-final appearance in three seasons, completely outplayed West Ham, winning 6-0, and almost guaranteeing their place in the Capital One Cup final with 90 minutes of the tie still to play.
There were so many outstanding performers for City it seems churlish to pick out one for special praise, but it was Alvaro Negredo who stole a very entertaining show. The Spaniard scored a brilliant hat-trick and worked tirelessly throughout as he led his side to the brink of another Wembley appearance.
His first was an emphatic volley after a long-ball from Yaya Toure beat two West Ham defenders, thumping the ball past Adrian with unerring accuracy. It was a superb finish from a striker clearly enjoying his start to life in English football.
He and Edin Dzeko had struggled to strike up any kind of understanding in their previous appearances together, however, Negredo's second gave the first glimpse of their potential as a pair.
A ball forward from Vincent Kompany was dummied brilliantly by The Beast, who let the ball roll into his partner's path. Dzeko then played an inch perfect through ball back to the Spaniard who took one touch before burying the ball high into the net.
It was a goal of the very highest order.
And he completed his hat-trick with another thumping finish—his 18th goal of the season, and his 14th in his last 15 matches. Costing an initial £20.6 million after his summer switch from Sevilla (via the Daily Mail), he is turning out to be one of the bargains of the season.
It’s not just Negredo’s goalscoring and hold-up play that excites the City fans—his work-rate makes him one of the most valuable strikers in the English game. There was a moment in the first-half of this match where he ran back to clear up defensively inside the city penalty area, before turning and running straight back up the other end to try and score another.
He has two great feet, a deft touch and seems to attempt a beautiful outside-of-the-boot pass every game. It's a wonderful mix of attributes that has seen him achieve cult status at the Etihad inside six months.
Dzeko also deserves praise for his finest showing under Pellegrini. He scored two goals, the second of which was the goal of the night, and ran himself into the ground in what was a selfless and excellent all-round performance.
City even managed to give a run-out to young Marcos Lopes, who produced an audacious backheel nutmeg on Alou Diarra in the build up to City's sixth. He looks to have a very bright future indeed.
Manchester City’s season just gets better and better. They’ve scored 92 goals in 31 matches, played the best football of any side in the Premier League and are still fighting on four fronts. When they hit top form, they are undoubtedly the best side in the country.
How long they can stay competing for four trophies remains to be seen, but the signs are that this could be their best season in a very long time. After some initial problems with away form, Pellegrini's great entertainers are looking like the real deal.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.