Sergio Aguero was back to his scintillating best as he helped put Norwich City to the sword. The Argentinian has had a stop/start season due to injuries but was back to his breath taking best here as he scored one and set up another before being rested with twenty minutes to go.
Kevin De Bruyne came off the bench to seal a comfortable win for the Blues and send Norwich crashing out of the FA Cup in the third round for the third consecutive year.
Both sides made seven changes to their last Premier League line ups with Yaya Toure and David Silva not even involved in the visitors’ match day squad.
Alex Neil took the chance to rest Brady, Hoolahan, Redmond, Rudd, Mbokani and Tettey and give others in his squad a chance.
Norwich made a bright(ish) start but were guilty of overplaying when Bassong (again) took one chance too many, with Iheanacho forcing Ruddy into a decent save.
With just 16 minutes gone though, Aguero took the game by the scruff of the neck and charged at the Norwich defence after a sweet flick from Sterling. Aguero stormed past Bassong, side stepped Russell Martin and then evaded Martin Olsson’s sliding challenge to score past Ruddy. It was an astonishing run and finish as he made the Canaries defence look like pub team amateurs.
When I say ‘astonishing’ it was an example of what players at this level can do. I am a fan of Aguero and think he is currently on a par with Suarez and Lewandowski at the strikers top table. Before anyone asks ‘Where’s Lionel Messi?’ he sits alone looking down on everyone, Ronaldo included.
Norwich were stung into life and Dorrans tested Caballero with a drive from distance but Norwich struggled to gain any real time in possession.
With half an hour on the clock, a long hoof up field saw Aguero gain possession and the Norwich defence get mesmerised once again. As Aguero teased again, the City defence were drawn to him and he simply squard the ball for Iheanacho to double the lead.
The second half saw Jerome chip over Cabellero and into the net only for his nice effort to be ruled offside. It was a false dawn though as the visitors again dominated and Navas cracked a shot against the crossbar with Ruddy well beaten.
On the hour mark, Raheem Sterling (cost £48m) was replaced by Kevin De Bruyne (cost £50m) and it was he who would wrap up the win as he scored with twelve minutes remaining. He turned Martin one way and then the other before thumping a shot through Ruddy from a tight(ish) angle. It wasn’t a great piece of goal keeping from JR, but we’ve become used to that, haven’t we?
Alex Neil brought on O’Neil, Redmond and Lafferty (to a loud cheer) but nothing really changed. Lafferty did force Caballero to tip his late header over the bar, but that was about it.
It was a simple victory for Manchester City that a Blues supporting mate of mine described as a ‘practice match’ for his team.
I suppose that we can now ‘concentrate on the league’ as the old saying goes. It was a bit of a surrender from the Canaries and a weak afternoon’s work, coupled with a superstar striker at work that spelled defeat.
I know I’m banging on about Aguero being great but it was also made far too easy for the Manchester City players, especially on the flanks with Sterling and Navas.
The five man defence was poor but they received little protection from the midfield in front of them. Once again, City’s need for a new centre back or preferably two was woefully apparent.
The only real bright spot in the afternoon was the appearance of new right back, Ivo Pinto who was introduced to the crowd before kick off. I wonder what he made of what he saw? ‘I can do better than that,’ I should imagine.