The Ped Cup Report City 4-1 Burnley
In the absence of National League representation, the third round of this season's Emirates FA Cup was forced to look to the prospect of Manchester City getting knocked out, or the equally unlikely prospect of Everton beating Liverpool at Anfield.
Sue was delighted to see "her boys" sentence the Toffees to "concentrating on the league" and was orgasmic when Van Dijk scored the winner even though she was hiding under the bed at the time. The rest of the footballing world were awaiting the banana skin known as Burnley to upset the City apple cart.
Had they done so, this report might have taken on a different complexion as one win in three games would have constituted a virtual disaster in terms of the way Guardiola has managed his team this season, and at half-time with little offered in the attacking department, plus a defence that turned back the clock on the only real occasion that the Clarets created a threat, City really needed to rethink their strategy to get themselves out of a hole and into round four.
Guardiola, once again, rang in a sensible number of alterations to his starting eleven. Bravo got a rare nod, Walker wasn`t risked, therefore giving Danilo an opportunity to play on the right side. Stones was alongside Otamendi with Zinchenko replacing the rested Delph. You can`t really change Fernandinho, and Silva once again appeared despite his personal situation. Alongside him was Gundogan with the SAS up top.
The first half set off with possibilities, but it soon went into almost a slump mode. The visitors were forced to work hard against a lively City team. They crowded their penalty area in numbers, blocked everything in sight and then tried to play over the press to create things of their own.
Bravo is not as assured as Ederson in any goalkeeping respect, penalty-saving excepted, and Vokes and Hendrick effected a press of their own whenever Bravo had the ball at his feet. Their game is also about set-pieces and early on Bravo conceded a corner with poor footwork and former City player Ben Mee was unlucky not to convert the flag-kick.
With 7600 fans filling levels 2 & 3 at that end the noise from the Burnley fans was certainly part of the occasion. They got their reward courtesy of a comic cuts piece of defending by Stones. Pope hoofed a long ball into he centre circle which was headed on by Vokes. Stones misread the flight and his air shot sliced the ball towards the City penalty area, hardly a peaky blinder. Barnes was onto it quickly and drilled it straight past Bravo, giving him no chance. The South Stand took on the demeanour of delirium as East Lancashire began to expect.
City had hardly offered anything up front. Sane was having one of those days, Aguero was having a bad-body-language day, Sterling was finding little space as was Gundogan, even Silva was toiling. From one of the Magician`s best passes both Otamendi and Fernandinho fashioned chances but the ball ended up in the grades.
On another, both Aguero and Sterling were found in the same channel, on the wrong side of Long, when one of them should have gone in front and another effort went begging. Burnley seemingly eased their way to the break without feeling under threat from City and Sean Dyche`s boys must have felt they could provide the competition providers with the kind of shock they like.
You could see almost immediately the second half started that City probably got a Spanish flea in their ear at half time, but still Burnley looked resistant, clearly well-drilled in this style of play. But this City team, so far this season, has found a way to win. What was needed was something unexpected and Burnley assisted with this giving away a needless foul. While everyone was arguing with the referee and before Burnley could get themselves settled, a signal from Aguero directed Gundogan to take a quick one. He did as he was told and Sergigol was there in a flash to steer it past Pope.
Less than two minutes later Gundogan was the author of another piece of unexpectation. Aguero ran into space about twenty yards out. With not much on he played in Gundogan who was in traffic. The German effected a cheeky back-heel straight into the path of Sergigol who took it around Pope and flipped it into an empty net.
Sane had not been having one of his most stirring games. Indeed he missed one of the sitters of the season, lifting one over the bar when the goal was empty and begging after a sweeping move involving Fernandinho, Sterling and Danilo, but after 71 minutes, hopefully his confidence was restored.
It began with Danilo playing it into Aguero in midfield and Aguero back to Danilo. This time the Brazilian hit it cross-field to Sane, who shipped it to Silva. David pierced the Burnley back line with a return pass and Sane on his familiar diagonal run blasted the ball into the net for 3-1 and game over.
There didn`t look to be any way back for the Clarets and the prospect of City being sentenced to another match in their heavy schedule was starting to recede. Guardiola was in no mood to take the risk so in came Walker for Zinchenko, Bernardo for Aguero and De Bruyne for Gundogan.. Objective….more goals.
With ten minutes left another classic City goal put the match to bed. De Bruyne won a challenge in the City half, exchange passes with Fernandinho then without changing stride drove a pin-point pass into the path of Sane. Goalkeeper Pope hardly took on the persona of Ederson as he came out of his area to affect play and Sane skipped round him. With the defenders trying to get back to cover the goal line, Sane picked out Bernardo on the edge of the box and he drove home in style.
After a tepid first half, the second period was almost a sensation with four spectacular goals and in the end an easy passage to the fourth round.
Guardiola is busy telling us that four trophies is impossible. There will be more difficult matches in front of City in this competition, we know for sure the hot-ballers will have their Bunsen burners at full throttle on Monday evening trying to get us a visit to Anfield, Stamford Bridge, replay permitting, or the Emirates, while Exeter at home looks an excellent challenge for the Stretfords.