The Ped Cup Report Cardiff City 0-2 City
It was a case of "pass the parcel" as City, having despatched Bristol City out of the Carabao Cup took on Cardiff City on the South Coast of Wales.
Neil Warnock is not everyone's cup of tea, but his "never mind the ball get on with the game" approach ended their involvement in the Stretford Stagecoachers Cup and ended Leroy Sane's involvement in anything for anything up to a month. (Breaking news: Ankle ligament damage confirmed by MCFC. Return date unknown - Ed).
Guardiola rang a couple of changes. Aguero was destined for a day on the bench at least until the incident involving Sane. Stones and Ederson too had a day off as Kompany made yet another comeback - has he now got in more than Richard Burton and LizTaylor? Sterling, absent on midweek took over at centre forward interchanging with Bernardo Silva as his namesake was needed, once again in Valencia.
Cardiff did not come along for the ride. Devoid of anything one might call quality, their objective was simply to stay in the game by hook or by crook. In typical Warnock fashion they were not shy of taking City players out and for reasons unknown avoiding sanction.
But Man City were in no mood to mess around. Already in the final of the Carabao Cup, this eleven were trusted by Guardiola to present themselves in the draw for the next round and this was effectively achieved after only eight minutes when a Welsh combined harvester inflicted a poor foul on Gundogan at the edge of the box.
With the Taffys expecting De Bruyne to go "up and over", he duly slid a daisy cutter under the jumping wall to outwit Etheridge and put City ahead. KDB has done this before against Bournemouth and here he was once again to sparkle and provide something different and unexpected and at the same time effectively put to bed a game against opponents who frankly never looked like scoring.
I suppose that was until Cardiff played over the press and Hoilett tried from 35 yards catching Bravo in one of his typical messes. The second-phase recovery from the Chilean might have been referred to Hawkeye, but there was no danger of it crossing the line.
And so to the other end as City's superior possession was pinning the Bluebirds back, but their resilience inside or outside the laws of the game kept the Blues at bay. But after 25 minutes, one of the most mystifying decisions of the current era took place.
Bernardo Silva it was who ran from deep and slammed the ball home from outside the box. Sane had made a run from left to right and the linesman considered he had run offside and across the sightline of the net minder. Replays showed that his decision was a work of fiction and Bernardo, whose efforts deserved to be credited with a goal was left frustrated. The absence of VAR here did not help City as much as it should have helped Liverpool the night before, when one subscriber to another blog suggested it made more saves for Liverpool than Mignolet.
This was a huge disappointment, not only to the deprived scorer, but for City fans in general as it was a quite spectacular goal and BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson suggested that if Cardiff would have had six goalkeepers, they wouldn't have stopped that one going in.
We all know that City have to play twelve opponents almost every match these days and the performance of Lee Mason in this event did nothing at all to dispel the rumours.
Not only did Mason sanction the disallowance of a perfectly exceptional goal, but he was later going to allow Bennett to remain on the field after scything down Sane and pretty much fulfilling the wishes of the Pug (Paul Pogba) in as much as that another City player is looking at a long term injury, when the Blues have an exhausting schedule in front of them.
It was clear that City were incensed by the abject performance of an equally abject referee, so they continued to control the ball, frustrate the opposition and seek to add to the scoreline.
They duly did this after 37 minutes as Danilo pressed the ball, finding Sane down the left. His pinpoint cross found Sterling unattended in a central position and his header was unstoppable as he put himself between two Cardiff defenders.
Cardiff, game as they were, showed no signs of recovering from this deficit. They did show one or two signs of "having a go" much unlike half of the Premier League teams, but in fairness they didn't really threaten the City goal, despite one or two shaky moments introduced by Bravo.
After the scything foul by Bennett, Sane couldn't appear for the second half, so it was introduction time for Sergigol with his unprecedented record in this competition. His appetite for a goal showed no bounds, but it was not be his day today.
By the midpoint of the second half, it was clear that the Bluebirds were not going to make any indentation in City's lead, so the Manchester Blues eased themselves to the final whistle with their 2-0 lead intact and having saved Mr Warnock's charges from humiliation.
Kompany enjoyed a simple, challenge-free afternoon and will hopefully appear more as the business end of the season approaches, but it was Walker, normally at ease with any opposition who got his bearings wrong more than once. Cardiff, sadly for them, didn't have the necessary class to capitalise on whatever chances City were prepared to offer.
That said, Walker was assisted more than once by De Bruyne who, as he does in almost every match, demonstrated his versatility, setting up play from right back at times. It is instances like this that differentiate De Bruyne from other footballers in the Premier League. It is not for Hazard, Ozil or the Pug, but this Manchester City side has a simple desire to win and it doesn't matter what they have to do to achieve their results.
City eased their way to round five of the Emirates FA Cup effectively keeping the quadruple dream alive, although this was quickly dispensed with by Pep in his post-match interview.
So now we move on and back to the tribulations of the Premier League where next up is a resurgent West Bromwich Albion, fresh from their beating of Liverpool, who since they beat City have lost to the bottom two teams in the division. That used to be the type of form that had the "typical City" tag attached to it and Sue needs to go to IKEA to get some new pots and pans. Saturday night was like a Greek-themed tragedy in Crosby, the blue air not really contributing to a Blue Moon.
She is the now self-appointed Chairperson of the "Klopp out" campaign as she cannot see that there is any mirroring of what Pep has achieved at City in terms of player improvement, we suppose, Firmino excepted.
It doesn't look as though Jonny Evans is now on City's radar as attention as turned to Aymeric Laporte, a player who is right up the Calle de Guardiola. Fred may also be on the horizon, be it now or in the summer, but quite how City will match the euphoria of a Sanchez man-of-the-match performance against Yeovil, I can't imagine. No doubt if City expressed an interest in Andy Carroll, Daniel Sturridge or Troy Deeney, United would try to sign them first. How sad. At least it's good to see UEFA, forever the proponents of Financial Fair Play, and so keen to weight the scales in favour of the Real Madrids, Bayern Munichs, Barcelonas and Stretford Stagecoachers of this world, finally admit that the net debt at Sold Trafford is the biggest in world football. Maybe it's time that the sanctimonious asses that own and watch that despicable team took note. It is not City's fault that they are owned by pure wealth and can sign players within the UEFA Rules which are outside the European commerical guidelines.
Hopefully the Baggies will have shot their bolt at Anfield, where Liverpool must now concentrate on the Champions League, and will only offer a token "park-the-bus" persona at the Etihad. But no doubt Pardiola will have seen how Cardiff played and will detail his boys to give us a good kicking.
In the meantime I wonder which ex-Streftord will be given the responsibility of placing City away at Stanford Bridge while parking the Stretfords at home to either Millwall or Rochdale? Fingers Ferdinand certainly ensured they got the best draw in the last round, but now it`s getting more difficult. Whoever we get, once again it will be a professional presentation by Guardiola.
(City have been drawn away to Wigan - Ed)