Thursday 22 March 2018

Aguero's party piece leaves son beaming


Henry Winter

LEEDS UNITED'S 6,000 fans, who were as noisy as their team were subdued, were quick to call for some perspective from the jubilant Manchester City supporters.

"You're nothing special – we lose every week," they chanted.

If not special, this was still a very good afternoon for City – and for Sergio Aguero and Roberto Mancini in particular.

It was particularly poignant for Aguero to score twice in front of his son Benjamin, who had flown in from Buenos Aires, and was looking on, proudly wearing a 'Kun Aguero' top.

Aguero's son, who will surely have a decent first touch – Diego Maradona is his grandfather and Lionel Messi his godfather – has moved back to Argentina with his mother.

It's a difficult situation about which Aguero has spoken movingly and he recorded his delight that his son was able to watch him. "Did Ben ask me to score for him again...?" Aguero tweeted. "Twice! I made good of it, esp. bc he's coming to spend his 4th bday with me. Love you, son!"

Ben was sitting with Adriana, Aguero's mother, in the smart seats and danced around when his father scored.

Along with goals from the excellent Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez, Aguero's brace and the vibrant nature of City's performance will have stilled the agitated talk about Mancini's future.

The fans are certainly behind the Italian. Retaining the title looks a distant dream, and speculation will continue about Mancini's job prospects, but this was an encouraging afternoon for the manager.

Mancini's day got even better when City avoided Premier League opposition in the draw for the quarter-finals and were instead pitted at home to Barnsley, managed by David Flitcroft, the brother of former City player Garry.

City reached the last eight with ease. Having been embarrassed at Southampton, they were a different force here. The tempo was excellent, the urgency more apparent, the fluidity and quality of passing delighting the fans.

As well as Aguero, Toure and Tevez, there were strong performances from David Silva, who stroked the ball around stylishly, and James Milner, who was typically tireless.

But Leeds were poor, lacking belief, adventure and a game plan. It said everything about Neil Warnock's cautious approach that he removed Michael Brown and Ross McCormack at the break to keep them fresh for the Championship game with Blackpool on Wednesday. Leeds were trailing 2-0, and admittedly looking incapable of getting back in the game, but it smacked of surrender.

Probably the period that Leeds kept the ball longest was when their fans refused to return it for about 30 seconds, flipping it around the away end like a mass game of volleyball and chanting "ole" at a rare stringing together of passes.

Their songs dripped with self-mockery, including wild celebrations when a player (David Norris) had a shot in the vicinity of Costel Pantilimon's goal.

At one point many started waving their shoes in the air and soon the gloves were off, too. "Warnock, Warnock, time to go," came the chant on two occasions in the second half and again at the final whistle.

Afterwards, Warnock sounded like a man expecting the P45 to arrive in the next post. He argued that there were issues behind the scenes at Elland Road that would handicap any manager, alluding to the assorted takeover travails and limited investment, and he had a point.

At £38m, Aguero cost not far off what Leeds were recently sold for.

English football is a world of haves and have-nots but Warnock could still have filled Leeds with more drive and direction yesterday.

Leeds have a great history, embodied by legends like Eddie Gray –commentating for radio here – and passionate support, but the team seem far off even reaching for the stars again.

Pity. Premier League grounds could do with some of the noise that Leeds bring.

"We're not famous any more," they sang. Even as the white shirts were being bypassed time and again, Leeds fans kept singing.

Their defence folded early. Toure charged forward, exchanging passes with Silva and then Tevez, whose flicked return was magnificent.

Toure rounded Jamie Ashdown and stroked the ball in. City were in control, soon adding a second, slightly controversially.

Running into the box, Aguero stopped after feeling Tom Lees' right hand on his shirt and then left hand on his arm. There was contact, albeit gentle.

Aguero is known among referees as a player who does not milk contact, and when he turned around in frustration, Mark Clattenburg pointed immediately to the spot. As Leeds complained loudly, Aguero sent Ashdown the wrong way.

Aguero darted through again after 52 minutes, playing a one-two with Silva, before dinking the ball across for Tevez to score from close range.

Toure was then denied by Ashdown while Jack Rodwell, who had replaced Javi Garcia, headed an effort against the bar.

Leeds fans started chanting against the management before, with 16 minutes remaining, Aguero raced on to Silva's pass to make it 4-0.

"We're going to win 5-4" came the chant from the visitors. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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