Manchester City are through to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup after cruising to an impressive 2-0 win over Chelsea, who had posted a 1-0 win on this ground only 12 days prior.
On that occasion the Blues, currently top of the Premier League table after 26 rounds, repeatedly caught out their hosts on the counter-attack, but by Saturday’s kickoff it seemed City had learned their lesson after tasting a rare defeat at Etihad Stadium.
After a moment’s silence in honour of Sir Tom Finney, who passed away on Friday at the age of 91, the hosts quickly went on the front-foot, working the channels down the right-hand side of the pitch.
In the 11th minute Yaya Toure created an opening for himself after an aggressive bit of midfield play, but after laying the ball off to James Milner he couldn’t quite race forward in time to accept the England international’s return pass.
Still, it would take City just five more minutes to get on the scoresheet thanks to a fine display of finishing from Stevan Jovetic, who had earned a rare start for manager Manuel Pellegrini.
Gael Clichy and David Silva were involved in the buildup before the ball came to Edin Dzeko, the Bosnia-Herzegovina striker delivering a lovely ball for Jovetic, who controlled it quickly before delivering a confident finish that beat Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech to the far post.
The guests’ response came quickly through Branislav Ivanovic, but instead of reprising his goal-scoring performance of February 3, the right-back could only play a weak ball into the goalmouth that Costel Pantilimon juggled before smothering.
It was one of the City ‘keeper’s few touches on what proved to be an uneventful afternoon for the 27-year-old.
Ramires was the next Chelsea player to find himself inside City’s 18-yard box with the ball at his feet, but Vincent Kompany was having none of it and quickly dispossessed the Brazilian.
The Blues struggled for openings after that, and it ended up being Jovetic who had the next meaningful opportunity, forcing Cech into a tricky save with a long-distance effort.
Having touched the ball only 12 times in the opening period, Chelsea striker Samuel Eto’o was withdrawn at the break by manager Jose Mourinho and replaced by Mohamed Salah, who somehow managed to do even less than his teammate over his own 45 minutes of action.
City made the better start once again after the restart and might have had a second but for Gary Cahill’s block on Milner, and Jovetic, Silva and Dzeko each found themselves in dangerous space before Samir Nasri doubled their lead.
The France international had barely come onto the pitch as a replacement for Jovetic before he had the ball in the back of the net following a fine exchange with Silva.
Darting forward with the ball, Nasri passed delicately to Silva on his right, and after a few steps the Spaniard returned the favour by reversing for the former Arsenal and Marseille playmaker to tap into the gaping net in the 67th minute.
Nine minutes later City had the ball in the back of the net once again, although Joleon Lescott’s run was deemed offside and Chelsea were let off the hook.
But they simply could not string more than a few passes together, and at the final whistle Pantilimon had yet to make a single stop.
“It’s a big victory against a strong team,” City captain Kompany told ITV following the match, as per the BBC. “We love this competition and it was a great game for the competition.”
Naturally, Mourinho was rather less pleased with the result, telling the BBC that City had deserved the win.
“I don’t say my team failed,” he remarked. “I say City played much better than us, deserved much more than us to win.”
Key Player Grades
Yaya Toure: A+
The Ivory Coast midfielder pulled all the strings for Manchester City on Saturday, touching the ball 80 times and completing 94 per cent of his passes. He also contributed a pair of tackles on the defensive side of the ball and fought a pitched battle with Nemanja Matic that he ended up winning. (All statistics courtesy WhoScored.com.)
Eden Hazard: C+
|Manchester City Player Ratings|
Heroic in the Premier League victory over City earlier this month, on this day the Belgium playmaker was a shadow of his typically domineering self, touching the ball just 50 times and struggling with his distribution. Credit to his opponents, though. Whether Pablo Zabaleta, Javi Garcia, Yaya Toure or Kompany, he rarely had the time or space to make anything happen due to the City marking.
|Chelsea Player Ratings|
Next up for Manchester City is Tuesday’s Champions League round of 16 first leg at home to Barcelona. They’ll then host Stoke in the Premier League on February 22. Chelsea, meanwhile, will host Everton next weekend before a February 26 trip to Galatasaray in the Champions League.