Manchester City 4 Fulham 0
Back on the Cup Trail
Sunday 26th January 2020 : GYKO at the Etihad
This was Manchester City’s 19th straight win in
domestic cup competition, the holders coasting into the fifth round
in a tie that neared a soporific state at times.
Pep Guardiola and his team will not care, of course. They are
favourites to reach Wembley once more when facing Manchester United
here in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg and it may be
unwise to bet against them reaching the FA Cup showpiece again, too.
The sole potential off-note came when the manager revealed that
Aymeric Laporte may not be available for United’s visit. “He has
some fatigue,” Guardiola said. “It is normal after four or five
months [out]. Right now we are not going to take risks. We will see.
If we feel he is not ready, he will not play. If he can play, he can
City’s second strike took them to 100 goals in all competitions, the
first team in Europe’s five major leagues to do so this season.
“Always we score since we are here,” Guardiola said of his four-year
tenure at the club. “Always we have the ability to score. The
problem is we concede [a] few in some games [this term].”
Within six minutes of kick-off, Fulham had lost Tim Ream. The
captain pulled Gabriel Jesus over in the area, Kevin Friend pointed
to the spot and showed him a red card: double jeopardy activated as
he had not tried to play the ball. Ilkay Gündogan beat Marek Rodak
to give City a dream start and a nightmare one for their visitors.
“He’s one of the takers [now],” said Guardiola, City having missed
three penalties this season.
Fulham’s manager, Scott Parker, said: “The prep you do goes out of
the window after six minutes when you go down to 10 men and they
score a goal.”
Riyad Mahrez was next to torment Fulham via nifty footwork that
ended with him letting fly at Rodak, who saved impressively to his
right. Bernardo Silva now got in on the soft-shoe shuffle act, and
this time he doubled the lead.
Bernardo Silva’s effort flies past Fulham’s Marek Rodak
From the edge of the area the Portuguese became a one-man carousel
spinning a group of Fulham defenders with him, finally turning a
last time inside and leaving Ivan Cavaleiro gawping as he rifled in
the sweetest of strikes.
The contest seemed already over – any remaining intrigue concerned
how many City might score. Guardiola’s men toyed with their
opponents, dialling up quality at will, as when Mahrez glided past
Joe Bryan, who chopped down the Algerian. Bryan was lucky not to be
booked and when Friend blew for the break Fulham could be heartened
by having not conceded again. A measure of the one-way traffic,
though, was found in them having had three touches in City’s area.
The tally for Guardiola’s men had been near-countless.
They began the second half with another spurned chance. Angeliño
traded passes with Phil Foden, then found David Silva inside the
area. The captain relayed the ball to Mahrez yet from an inviting
angle he blasted high.
It had Guardiola grimacing and Mahrez was replaced early in the half
– by Raheem Sterling – because of a “kick” on the Algerian, the
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Against a backdrop more akin to a summer warm-up game, Fulham’s
brightest moment arrived via a free-kick in an advanced position.
Stefan Johansen floated the ball in but Cavaleiro bumped into
Bernardo Silva and though Parker protested Friend adjudged no foul
City continued to probe. Nicolás Otamendi rolled the ball to Foden,
it went to Gündogan, David Silva and, once more, they could not
Then, at last, they did. This was simple and derived from Fulham
again trying to play out from the back. Bobby Decordova-Reid was
caught out close to goal, the ball went to João Cancelo and Gabriel
Jesus nodded home. Cancelo would end the game limping. “We will see
how he recovers in the next days,” said Guardiola.
Farcically Fulham conceded via precisely the same slipshod manner
three minutes later. Michael Hector was dispossessed by Jesus in
front of Rodak and the subsequent sequence ended with the Brazilian
finishing after the keeper beat out Foden’s effort.
Now ended Decordova-Reid’s afternoon, Parker introducing Denis Odoi
for him. Yet the manager, really, might have acted more effectively
by ordering his team earlier in the half to forget trying to start
attacks from the back and so stop City’s high press mugging them. By
the final whistle this was as easy an outing as City could have
hoped for. Next up is Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s United. “Now we have
three days to prepare for them,” said Guardiola.
MAN CITY (4-3-3): Bravo; Cancelo, Otamendi
(Stones 74), Garcia, Angelino; B Silva, Gundogan (Rodri 75), D
Silva; Mahrez (Sterling 53), Jesus, Foden.
Subs not used: Ederson, Aguero, Zinchenko, De Bruyne.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Rodak; Christie, Hector, Ream, Kongolo (Jasper 83);
Johansen, Sessegnon, Bryan; Onomah Decordova-Reid (Odoi 78),
Cavaleiro, (Cairney 67)
Referee: Kevin Friend 7
Sheffield United 0 Manchester
City 1 City Blunt the Blades
Tuesday 22nd January 2020 : James Bishop for
GYKO at Bramhall Lane
Sergio Agüero came off the bench to restore
normal service for Manchester City, securing a win with a sharply
taken goal when the defending champions appeared in danger of being
held for a second game in succession.
Certainly before Agüero’s introduction there had been little to
choose between the sides, which is as much a compliment to Sheffield
United as a criticism of City’s performance. And then there was
Gabriel Jesus’s first-half penalty, saved by Dean Henderson. The
striker has been unsuccessful with all three penalties he has taken
for club and country this season, and if Pep Guardiola is going to
persist with using Agüero sparingly he may like to consider giving
someone else a turn from the spot.
“I am definitely going to reflect on it,” the City manager said.
“It’s not just Jesus, Agüero and Sterling have missed too, and in
tight games like these penalties can make a big difference. We knew
this was a tough place to come but we put in a solid performance and
the big plus was the performance of Aymeric Laporte. I think he is
the best left-sided central defender in the world, and when a player
like that is out for five months you are bound to miss him.”
City welcomed back Laporte a few days earlier than anticipated and
nearly lost him again after a mere 12 minutes when Mo Besic was
booked for an untidy challenge that left the defender in a heap,
though after receiving attention he was able to continue. City
retained Fernandinho in a back three to match up with the home
side’s formation, yet United almost found a way through in the
opening minutes when Oli McBurnie played Billy Sharp behind the City
backline. United briefly held a numerical advantage but Sharp was
unable to pick out John Fleck with his cross.
It was United’s turn to get lucky midway through the first half when
Chris Basham miscontrolled on halfway to leave Raheem Sterling
sprinting clear. The winger supplied Riyad Mahrez on the right and
moved up to meet the return pass with a first-time shot, only to see
Henderson dive to his right to save.
While it was a good stop by the goalkeeper United had been opened
up, and from a position near the penalty spot a more accomplished
finisher, Agüero say, might have scored. Henderson came to his
side’s rescue again just minutes later, when Nicolás Otamendi came
up for a corner and managed to improvise an aerial volley that
stayed low and on target but was kept out by the goalkeeper’s legs.
Henderson’s finest moment was still to come, because 10 minutes
before the interval the goalkeeper on loan from Manchester United
kept out the penalty. City had perhaps been a tad fortunate to see
it awarded. Mahrez appeared to be losing control of the ball on a
slalom through a crowded area by the time Basham arrived to bring
his progress to an abrupt halt. With Agüero on the bench Jesus
stepped up to take the kick and put it at a comfortable height for
Henderson to save. The goalkeeper was a yard off his line when the
ball was struck and VAR could theoretically have ordered the kick to
be retaken but as applause for Henderson’s heroics were still
ringing round the ground as the game restarted the officials wisely
opted not to start a riot.
The home crowd were incensed enough by half-time as it was, after
seeing Ollie Norwood booked for a foul on Fernandinho when the City
player had already got away with a couple of similar tactical
offences without punishment.
By the time the Brazilian did receive a caution, right on the stroke
of the interval, he almost appeared to be asking Lee Mason to take
action by piling into McBurnie from behind with no chance of winning
The travelling support had been singing Agüero’s name for some time
before he was sent on with 23 minutes remaining. The effect was
close to immediate, for with 17 minutes left the visitors were in
front. All it took was one measured Kevin De Bruyne pass, expertly
placed between Jack O’Connell and John Egan, and a typically
well-timed Agüero run to meet the ball and tap it home.
United would have been doubly aggrieved because, moments before,
McBurnie had narrowly failed to connect with a similarly inviting
cross from Enda Stevens after Kyle Walker had lost the ball, though
replays gave the impression a goal might not have passed a VAR
“When top sides come here we want them to go through the mixer to
get a result,” Chris Wilder said. “We went toe to toe with City and
that’s something to be proud of but they have real quality and they
won through a world-class pass and a fabulous finish.”
SHEFFIELD UNITED (3-5-2): Henderson; Basham (Robinson 78'), Egan,
O'Connell; Baldock, Besic (Lundstram 78'), Norwood, Fleck, Stevens;
Sharp (Mousset 59'), McBurnie
Subs not used: Jagielka, Kieron Freeman, Verrips, Osborn
MANCHESTER CITY (3-4-2-1): Ederson; Fernandinho, Otamendi, Laporte
(Garcia 78'); Walker, Rodri, De Bruyne, Zinchenko ; Mahrez, Sterling
(Bernardo Silva 90+2'); Gabriel Jesus (Aguero 67')
Subs not used: Bravo, Gundogan, Joao Cancelo, Foden
Referee: Lee Mason 6
Manchester City 2 Crystal
Palace 2 Eagles Wing It
Saturday 18th January 2020 : GYKO at the
If this goes down as the day Manchester City all
but mathematically surrendered their title, frustration will surely
be the searing emotion. They dominated Crystal Palace and looked to
have overturned Cenk Tosun’s first-half strike via Sergio Agüero
goals on 82 and 87 minutes. However Wilfried Zaha raced upfield with
the clock in added time and the winger hit a cross at Fernandinho,
which the Brazilian turned beyond his own goalkeeper, Ederson.
This quietened the home crowd, and the draw means Liverpool can pull
16 points ahead of City if Manchester United are beaten on Sunday,
with the leaders still having another game in hand to play.
On David Silva’s 300th league appearance Pep Guardiola made three
changes, drafting in Ilkay Gündogan, Bernardo Silva and Raheem
Sterling, with Roy Hodgson introducing only the on-loan Tosun as
There is no doubt Benjamin Mendy enhances City – the issue is if he
can stay fit. Here the left‑back’s ability to hit a curving cross
that is difficult to defend was illustrated on countless occasions,
with an early one aimed at Sterling coming close to creating an
David and Bernardo Silva, Sterling, Mendy and Kevin De Bruyne
combined throughout to give Palace problems. When De Bruyne’s
20-yard free-kick crashed off Vicente Guaita’s crossbar, Fernandinho
looked to finish the rebound from close in only to be put off by a
shove from James McArthur. The Palace midfielder was lucky this went
undetected as he had just been booked by Graham Scott for the foul
that led to De Bruyne taking aim from the dead ball.
When Hodgson had a fierce word with Guaita for hitting a clearance
straight to Ederson, this indicated how the visitors could
ill-afford to waste the scant possession they had. Zaha is expected
to carry Palace’s attacking threat and it was noticeable how
Bernardo Silva and João Cancelo worked hard to go tight on him when
John Stones, who was shaky throughout, may have been lucky not to
concede penalty when attempting a tackle on Zaha: the Palace man
went down but VAR, to the centre-back’s relief, ruled him innocent.
Sterling is not renowned for headed finishes but he went near to
opening the scoring from a Bernardo Silva ball in from the right.
By now the half-hour had passed and Hodgson could be pleased at the
goalless scoreline. The City support, though, were becoming
frustrated at having nothing to show for their team’s superiority.
Agüero looked to have fashioned a clear chance when he left James
McCarthy on his backside but unfortunately for City the midfielder’s
trailing leg cleared the ball. Palace then performed a classic
smash-and-grab act. After winning a corner on the right McCarthy
swung the ball in, Gary Cahill beat Stones and his header was turned
home by Tosun.
City’s shock did not last long, with Bernardo Silva forcing Guaita
to tip a shot over but when the second half began they still trailed
and while Palace had hardly attacked the home side were staring at
conceding further ground to Liverpool.
Guardiola’s instructions looked to be that his men should use the
flanks more – Stones drawing his ire when turning infield instead.
However, the centre-back’s pass reached Gündogan who found Mendy and
suddenly City were advancing; the Frenchman’s dipping ball deserved
to find someone on the end of it. Sterling managed to reach the ball
in the Palace box moments later when found by David Silva but his
effort went wide.
Mendy’s next delivery caused havoc as first Agüero and then Bernardo
Silva had attempts blocked desperately, deepening the sense that
Palace would soon be breached.
City were still relentless but with added edge. A De Bruyne corner
was the latest to pepper the danger area but the home team’s
vulnerability at the back – it has plagued them all season – was
illuminated again when a Zaha chip was controlled and volleyed by
Tosun, Ederson having to save sharply.
On 62 minutes, Guardiola replaced David Silva with Gabriel Jesus,
the Brazilian partnering Agüero. The move nearly worked straight
away as Jesus scrambled to shoot before the angle defeated him.
City became more desperate, conscious of the need to engineer a win
that would salvage any faint hope of catching Liverpool. They
thought they had a penalty when Bernardo Silva’s cross was
inadvertently kicked on to his hand by Jaïro Riedewald. The referee,
pointed to the spot but VAR ruled this out: it was an apt summation
of the agonising character of City’s display.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3): Ederson; Cancelo, Stones, Fernandinho,
Mendy; De Bruyne, Gundogan, D Silva (Jesus 62); B Silva (Mahrez 73),
Aguero, Sterling (Rodri 89)
Subs not used: Bravo (Gk), Walker, Otamendi, Foden
CRYSTAL PALACE (4-5-1): Guiata; Kelly, Tomkins, Cahill, Riedewald
(Ward 88); Ayew, McArthur, McCarthy, Kouyate, Zaha 7; Tosun (Wickham
Subs not used: Hennessey (Gk), Dann, Woods, McGregor, Pierrick
Referee: Graham Scott 6 Attendance :
Aston Villa 1 Manchester City 6
Thriller at Villa
Saturday 12th January 2020 : Brian Harwood for
GYKO at Villa Park
Manchester City reclaimed second place in the
Premier League thanks to the leading overseas scorer in Premier
League history. Sergio Agüero wrested that title from Thierry Henry
here thanks to three goals that also took him beyond Alan Shearer’s
record for the number of Premier League hat-tricks, with his 12th
bringing up an extraordinary tally of 177 league goals since his
arrival at Manchester City in 2011.
In addition to being a supreme predator Agüero has developed under
Pep Guardiola to endanger defences in other ways too. Here, for
instance, he helped to create both Riyad Mahrez goals while his
fellow forward Gabriel Jesus also found the net on an afternoon when
Aston Villa performed so badly that several unwitting assists could
be attributed to them. Anwar El Ghazi’s late goal from a penalty
certainly did not dilute their humiliation.
City were 4-0 up at half-time before Agüero added two more goals in
the second period. The only positive that Villa’s manager, Dean
Smith, could salvage from the rubble of this performance was that it
strengthened the case for using this month’s transfer window to
procure players capable of filling the holes ripped in his team by
injuries even before City tore more.
While the visitors started here with two strikers, one an all-time
great and the other Jesus, Villa had none at all. With Wesley
injured and Jonathan Kodjia omitted, the winger El Ghazi had to fill
in up front. And that was only one of the home team’s problems on an
afternoon when they sank into the bottom three before kick-off owing
to Watford’s win at Bournemouth. Things deteriorated from there.
One prospective signing, the goalkeeper Pepe Reina, was at Villa
Park to run the rule over his potential new teammates before
completing a loan move from AC Milan. If his reason for wanting to
sign is to get more action, he will have been reassured. Whoever
keeps goal for Villa will be very busy if their outfield players
continue to dither as much as they did here.
Another loan signing, Danny Drinkwater, was cast straight into the
starting lineup after arriving from Chelsea and must have wondered
what he had let himself in for. At least he had an excuse for being
bypassed by opponents, this being only his seventh league start
since his £35m transfer from Leicester to Chelsea in 2017. An
alarming number of his new teammates also struggled to keep up with
City here. The home side were helpless onlookers as City strolled
into a three-goal lead in the first half an hour.
Villa might have thought luck was going to smile on them when a slip
by Agüero let Ezri Konsa off the hook after the defender had given
the ball away with a loose pass in the 14th minute. But they were
disabused of that notion within two minutes, a lovely individual
goal by Mahrez heralding the start of the rout.
Mahrez collected the ball about 35 yards out after Kevin De Bruyne
let an Agüero pass run to him. Then Villa were equally generous,
with Drinkwater seemingly unable to do more than chug along behind
the attacker, who waltzed into the box unchallenged before using
Kortney Hause’s body as a shield and slotting a low shot past the
unsighted Ørjan Nyland. Rather than wake Villa up, it seemed to
render them even more passive.
Six minutes later Agüero took advantage of dawdling by Ahmed
Elmohamady to prod the ball back from the byline. It landed at the
feet of Drinkwater, whose lack of sharpness was exposed by David
Silva, who nipped in to relieve him of the ball and feed Mahrez, who
swished it into the net from 10 yards.
Villa deteriorated. Jesus fired just over the bar after a Konsa
mistake in the 26th minute. City soon came back for more, scoring
their third before the half-hour mark. De Bruyne breezed past
Drinkwater in midfield before finding Agüero, who brushed aside
Douglas Luiz before blasting into the net from 20 yards to equal
Henry’s record. There was no chance of him stopping there. Jesus got
in on the act before half-time, converting at the back post after De
Bruyne had again been allowed to canter through midfield and deliver
a superb low cross.
City created chances to increase their lead before Agüero did so in
the 57th minute. Again De Bruyne motored past almost stationary
Villa midfielders to supply David Silva, who slipped the ball
through to Agüero. The striker held off Elmohamady and sidestepped
Tyrone Mings before slotting home. He completed his hat-trick nine
minutes from time. Hause gave the ball to Mahrez, he helped it on to
Agüero and the Argentinian made no mistake.
City’s clean sheet was lost when Ilkay Gündogan tripped Trézéguet
and El Ghazi netted from the spot but there could be no wiping away
Aston Villa: Nyland; Hause, Mings, Konsa; Taylor,
Luiz (Nakamba 65), Hourihane (Trezeguet 70), Drinkwater (Lansbury
79), Elmohamady; Grealish, El Ghazi.
Subs: Kalinic, Guilbert, Chester, Vassilev.
Man City: Ederson, Cancelo, Fernandinho (Otamendi 63), Stones,
Mendy, Rodrigo (Gundogan 70), D Silva, De Bruyne (Foden 63), Mahrez,
Subs: Bravo, Walker, Sterling, Bernardo.
Referee: Jonathan Moss Attendance:
Manchester United 1 Manchester
City 3 Guardiola Master Class
Tuesday 7th January 2020 : Guy Lightfoot for
GYKO at Old Trafford
Manchester United were exposed in embarrassing
fashion before the interval then somehow rallied to give themselves
a lifeline via a courageous second-half display.
Manchester City remain firm favourites to reach the final with the
second leg in three weeks but Pep Guardiola’s side really should
have killed the tie here. For Ole Gunnar Solskjær there is relief
this did not finish as a hiding that could have seriously damaged
his young side.
Solskjær started Mason Greenwood at centre-forward with the recently
ill Anthony Martial among the substitutes and made Marcus Rashford
his sixth different captain this season – the forward’s first time
leading his boyhood side.
Guardiola started with both Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Agüero on the
bench, the manager deploying Bernardo Silva as a quasi-focal point
in what would prove a masterstroke in a dominant first-half display.
The atmosphere crackled and so did United – briefly – via a
breathtaking move which featured Fred dancing around Ilkay Gündogan
and ended with Rashford gliding into City’s area and pinging in a
ball the holders scrambled clear.
For the opening 10 minutes or so United were impressive. Jesse
Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Daniel James, Greenwood and Rashford were
a unit City struggled to catch as Nicolás Otamendi initiated a
series of fouls as City tried to wrest control. Silva was about to
show how it was done. After the visitors at last took hold of the
ball, Kevin De Bruyne rolled it to Kyle Walker. He roved forward and
fed the Portuguese who fired a 25-yard finish into David de Gea’s
top-right corner that gave the goalkeeper no chance. City’s support
were jubilant and United were stunned. It allowed Guardiola’s team
to relax with Silva the chief tormentor.
If Guardiola was unhappy with Otamendi and Benjamin Mendy’s
reluctance to play quick balls along the latter’s left flank – they
were visibly remonstrating with each other – he was about to be
delighted with the second.
This began with a loose Victor Lindelöf header that went straight to
Silva. He punished United with a pinpoint pass into Riyad Mahrez,
who slipped in behind the defence, skated around De Gea, and slid
the ball into the empty net. United now had to be careful: while
away goals do not count a City third would have surely all but
killed off their hopes of getting something from this match. Yet
this is what occurred and it had a hint of farce about it. Silva –
again – unlocked the door, hitting a pass from halfway into the path
of Mahrez. He found De Bruyne and when Brandon Williams intervened,
the young left-back ended in a heap on the turf. Solskjær believed a
foul was committed but the Belgian was allowed to move on. His shot
was saved by De Gea only for the ball to ricochet off Pereira and
United had to reach the break “only” 3-0 down as this was
threatening to be a humiliation. City were rampant: Sterling fluffed
a chance to add another – one of a few spurned openings – and when
Mike Dean blew for half-time his whistle was accompanied by boos
from the home support. Solskjær’s response was to take off Lingard
for Nemanja Matic to try and even up the midfield numbers in the
The sense was, though, that United would surely secretly have been
happy with the match ending 3-0. They were still something close to
shell-shocked, a condition Guardiola was intent his team should
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The manager was unhappy whenever they did not look forward, as when
Walker and Mahrez engaged in keep-ball near him. Each time City
attacked they looked menacing so Guardiola’s stance was
understandable. Mahrez had taken over from Silva as City’s
conductor-in-chief and his dazzling feet first won a corner, then
had him driving a shot at De Gea. To United’s credit they continued
playing. Williams is only 19 but his willingness to dribble forward
and ignite a move as the hour mark neared was admirable. This did
not mask the underlying issue though: City were in cruise control
and could again expose United at any moment. After Rashford blasted
a free-kick over, Solskjær took James off for Angel Gomes but hoping
a 19-year-old would help salvage something was optimistic.
It was Rashford who did so. De Bruyne found Rodri but he was
pickpocketed by Greenwood. The forward passed to the No 10 and he
slid beyond Bravo and suddenly the tie was alive again.
It was barely credible yet near the end Bravo had to save another
Rashford effort and United, remarkably, had been the better since
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Jones,
Williams, Pereira, Fred, James (Gomes 64), Lingard (Matic 45),
Rashford, Greenwood (Martial 81)
Subs not used: Mata, Dalot, Romero, Chong
Manchester City (4-3-3): Bravo, Walker, Fernandinho, Otamendi,
Mendy, De Bruyne (Jesus 80), Rodri, Gundogan, Mahrez (Foden 86),
Subs not used: Aguero, Silva, Cancelo, Ederson, Garcia
Referee: Kevin Friend 7 Attendance: 39,223
Manchester City 4 Port Vale 1
Saturday 4th January 2020 : GYKO at the Etihad
Manchester City’s plight in the Premier League
means the double treble is unrealistic but their quest to become the
only club to win both domestic Cups in successive seasons continues.
Port Vale were duly defeated, even if a side 75 places below City in
the league ladder acquitted themselves rather better than some more
visitors to the Etihad Stadium. Watford conceded eight goals here in
the Premier League, Atalanta five in the Champions League. Vale only
let in four while their talisman, Tom Pope, found the City net. A
starting 11 assembled at a cost of nothing helped bank some £300,000
and reputations were enhanced. Oleksandr Zinchenko, Sergio Agüero,
Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Phil Foden nonetheless ensured the
City, often criticised for giving young players too few chances,
could savour the sight of two teenagers and lifelong fans on the
scoresheet. “Of course it is important for Taylor and Phil,” said
Pep Guardiola, though he was quick to point out they were selected
on merit, rather than for sentimentality. “It is not because they
are English players. We don’t give presents.”
It nevertheless amounted to a day to remember for Harwood-Bellis.
The 17-year-old became the youngest Englishman to score for City
since Micah Richards, even if he knew little about his first senior
Vale will recall it more for the actions of a man twice his age and
with more than a century of goals to his name. Pope’s mischievous
tweet last summer that he would score 40 goals a season if he were
up against John Stones every week formed the backdrop. Guardiola set
up a duel by recalling the England defender. Pope, however, showed a
veteran’s nous by isolating himself against the rookie
Harwood-Bellis to meet David Amoo’s cross with a brilliant header,
angled beyond Claudio Bravo.
The City goalkeeper conceded to the opposition’s first attempt,
something that happens so frequently it almost constitutes his party
trick. Vale’s official Twitter account, perhaps not realising the
new year honours list has already been announced, called for Pope to
be given a knighthood.
He almost cemented a status as Stones’ unlikely nemesis, blocking
the defender’s casual pass for the substitute Tom Conlon to put a
diving header just past the far post. He gave their travelling
support of 8,000 much to enjoy. These clubs rubbed shoulders in the
second tier in 1999 and had not met since then as their paths have
diverged. Briefly, Pope brought parity.
His antics apart, however, City were predictably dominant. Vale
retained their shape well and the goalkeeper, Scott Brown, excelled,
with fine saves from Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva, whose
header he tipped on to a post.
City had 22 shots and ought to have scored more. David Silva has
been a byword for precision but was responsible for a terrible miss,
failing to convert an open goal after a centre from Ilkay Gündogan.
The German’s passing verged on the majestic as he sprayed the ball
around with elegant incision, but it took a stroke of fortune to
give City the lead.
Zinchenko let fly from 25 yards but his shot took a crucial
deflection off Leon Legge as it flew past Brown, coming off the Vale
captain’s leg. Minor milestones followed for one of Britain’s oldest
clubs; for the first time, a Vale game was affected by VAR
decisions. Two marginal decisions brought City’s second and third
Agüero bundled the ball in after Gündogan’s delightful chipped pass
and Foden’s volleyed centre, with the youngster ruled just onside.
Harwood-Bellis had been deemed offside when Stones’ shot diverted in
off his shin, but the decision was overruled after replays were
consulted. “It was a little bit of a weird goal,” said Guardiola,
concerned that celebrations were put on hold while technology was
consulted. “Two VAR goals and a deflected shot,” rued the Vale
manager John Askey.
The fourth was simpler and smoother, Foden slotting in Angeliño’s
cross. Come the final whistle, City invited the League Two players
into their dressing room. “They have had a bit of a laugh,
especially about Popey and John Stones,” added Askey. Not that the
Vale scorer managed to swap shirts with the target of his taunts. “I
managed to get Zinchenko’s,” he said. “The rest of them pied me
Man City (4-4-1-1): Bravo; Cancelo,
Harwood-Bellis, Stones, Zinchenko; Foden, Gundogan (Doyle 77), B
Silva (Mahrez 77), Angelino; D Silva; Aguero
Subs not used: Carson, Walker, Sterling, Jesus, Garcia
Port Vale (4-5-1): Brown; Gibbons, Legge, Smith,
Montano; Amoo, Joyce, Taylor (Atkinson 61), Burgess (Conlon 61),
Worrall; Pope (Cullen 79)
Subs not used: Maddison, Browne, Bennett, Brisley
Referee: Lee Mason 6.5 Attendance :
Manchester City 2 Everton 1
Wednesday 1st January 2020 : GYKO at the
Manchester City end the festive period with nine
points from their four games after two Gabriel Jesus strikes handed
Carlo Ancelotti a first defeat in charge of Everton via a
characteristically relentless display.
Pep Guardiola said: “We played top, I am so delighted about the
performance. Teams who have been champions and are far away from the
leaders can give up and finish seventh or eighth. Maybe we will but
not because we don’t try.”
City’s sole reverse of the Christmas programme came last Friday at
Wolves in a result that, surely, killed any hopes of catching
Liverpool. Instead, their FA Cup defence begins on Saturday, with
the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Manchester United on
Tuesday, then in February the restart of the Champions League; all
competitions on which City can now focus intently.
The notable name in the home lineup was Claudio Bravo, the hardly
reliable goalkeeper playing a second successive time because of
Ederson being ill following a one-match suspension. The last time
Bravo faced Everton – in January 2017 – he allowed four goals from
four shots and he added to the count here by being culpable for
Ancelotti initially made the same number of changes as his opposite
number before Bernard suffered a cut leg in the warm-up, so Tom
Davies was drafted in for the Brazilian.
The opening period proved low grade. An error from Ilkay Gündogan
had Guardiola muttering and Davies pouncing as Everton transformed
defence into an attack that ended with Gylfi Sigurdsson flipping the
ball to Séamus Coleman: his effort was tipped behind for a corner by
When Gündogan later tried his own chip into Riyad Mahrez, Jordan
Pickford was less sure: he dropped the ball and Everton were
relieved to clear.
João Cancelo has struggled for form since joining City yet he
appeared to have created an opener for Phil Foden only for VAR to
rule Mahrez offside. Ancelotti had a consoling word for Guardiola
who smiled and later agreed with the decision. “I think it was
offside,” said the Catalan.
VAR’s next involvement was confused as it checked for a possible
penalty despite Mahrez seeming to be flagged for offside or handball
or both. The spot-kick was not given but the contest had been
disrupted and, inevitably, the invective-filled anti‑VAR chants had
a second airing.
At this juncture both benches were unhappy regarding their
respective players’ output. For Guardiola it was Kevin De Bruyne and
Foden momentarily losing their deft touch; for Ancelotti it was his
men’s sluggish pace and an insistence on passing back to Pickford,
instead of looking forward and for the positive.
Better from City was a Mahrez swivel and shot, then a Gündogan
effort which also warmed Pickford’s fingers. Really, though, the
entertainment level was down, in a sign perhaps of the Christmas and
New Year slog. Another was found in the number of offsides committed
by tired players – Mahrez a particular perpetrator.
Still, City had dominated the ball and when they do they often
prosper. Foden had a snap-shot, gathered by Pickford, and as the
break neared Mahrez had two clearer chances but steered the first
wide and seemed surprised to receive the second.
The average fare continued after the interval. Benjamin Mendy sold
De Bruyne short so he had to stick a boot out and watch the ball
sail into no-man’s land, much to Guardiola’s chagrin. Next Bravo
punted possession straight out when Cancelo was the target.
Then, though, came a moment to remember. Gündogan slipped a pinpoint
pass into Jesus, who in an instant had beaten Pickford with a finish
that was the Brazilian’s 13th goal this season.
From the restart Everton claimed a corner – to Guardiola’s annoyance
– but despite a second one following when Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s
header deflected out there was no equaliser.
The contest had opened up. Suddenly Eric García was curving a ball
along the left to Mahrez as City upped pace and so opportunity. Soon
they had a second goal, with this one straight from the Guardiola
playbook. De Bruyne passed to Foden, who found Mahrez, who in turn
played in Jesus and he calmly finished low past Pickford.
City were coasting but then Bravo added to the catalogue of howlers
by passing direct to Richarlison. From here there was an
inevitability about how the No 7 would bundle home Theo Walcott’s
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Guardiola defended the Chilean. “It happens when you play that way
but thanks to him [continuing to pass out] you can make a buildup
At the close Calvert-Lewin upended Fernandinho. The managers
disagreed as to whether the booking the foul received was sufficient
punishment but it did not affect the outcome.
:Man City : Bravo, Joao Cancelo, Garcia,
Fernandinho, Mendy, Gundogan, Rodri, Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden, Jesus
Everton : Pickford, Coleman, Holgate, Mina, Digne,
Sidibe, Sigurdsson, Delph, Bernard, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin