Wednesday 24 January 2018

Aguero back in style as City hammer Blackburn

Manchester City 5 Blackburn Rvs 0

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring

Henry Winter

The Manchester City goal machine continues to accelerate -- they are now one short of a century of goals and it is only mid-January.

They took a while to get going against Gary Bowyer's spirited side in this FA Cup third-round replay, but were soon unstoppable, cruising into the fourth round where they host Watford. Blackburn's fans were marvellous, backing their team with even more passion -- and humour -- as the goals started flying into their net. They even threw in a cheeky Poznan when City's fifth went in.

They know Rovers are in good hands with Gary Bowyer, who they saluted loudly towards the end. But they were simply outclassed by the quality of Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko, who both scored twice, and Sergio Aguero, who returned from injury to score with his second touch. It was a night of many positives for City, with even a debut for Emyr Huws, the young Welshman coming on in central midfield.

For 44 minutes, City had laboured, failing to find a spark, failing to find a way through, but there is such quality in the team that a couple of moments of class gave them the lead. Negredo's powerful header from Fernandinho's perfect cross broke the Rovers resistance on the cusp of half-time. It was deeply frustrating for Bowyer, who had watched his side contain City so well. The frustration continued after the restart when Negredo made it 21 for the season for City.

The Spaniard has settled so smoothly at his new club. Strong physically and mentally, Negredo has shown he can play up on his own or with Aguero or with Dzeko. He works hard for the team, closing down opponents, helping out at corners. He is happy and hungry to start whoever the opposition, gilded Champions League or mid-table Championship. He creates as well as scores, a role model for younger City players.

Following the scare at Ewood Park in the original game, Pellegrini had showed complete respect to the visitors by starting Dzeko and Negredo in attack, with Aguero returning on the bench. The pair combined within 10 minutes, Negredo turning Fernandinho's pass into the path of Dzeko. The Bosnian took a touch and then shot over.

City had Jesus Navas and the captain James Milner providing the width, also encouraging Micah Richards and Gael Clichy to overlap, but they were thwarted for so long and it took a run and cross from Fernandinho to force the breakthrough.

Pellegrini felt that his group of players had developed during the season, showing with their resilience at a "hostile" St James' Park last weekend that they were now "much tougher" than back in August. Negredo embodies that spirit, constantly looking to impose himself on Rovers.

It took a while. City were immediately presented with a determined Rovers side well-organised by Bowyer. Jason Lowe and Lee Williamson sat in front of the back four. Bowyer had said "the young lads have no fear" and they certainly played like that for 44 minutes. Their main outlet was Tom Cairney.

Rovers were missing Scott Dann and Jordan Rhodes, but for 44 minutes, Bowyer's chosen ones were far from daunted at taking on such a stellar outfit without some of their better players.

Before Negredo scored, City looked all over for sources of inspiration, even unlikely ones. Javi Garcia tried his luck from 25 yards, his right-footed shot pushed away by Paul Robinson. "England's No 1," was the chant from the 4,000 Blackburn fans. The real No 1, Joe Hart, was on the City bench.

Rovers had come back from a goal down in the first game, but their hopes faded when Aleksandar Kolarov, who had replaced Fernandinho, played the ball across. Grant Hanley missed it and Negredo lifted the ball over Simon Eastwood, Robinson's half-time replacement. The tie was effectively over when Navas cut the ball back and Dzeko met it first-time, giving Eastwood no chance.

Any relief that Blackburn may have felt at Negredo going off ended when they saw who was coming on: Aguero. He scored with his second touch.

Blackburn's fans chanted: "we're going to win 5-4" and shouted: "Ole," during a brief passing move, but it got worse, Dzeko turning the ball at speed past Eastwood. Rovers supporters responded by doing a mass Poznan. Great support, but this was a real lesson in the art of finishing. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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