MANCHESTER City produced a polished performance to outclass Birmingham and reach the FA Cup fourth round.
The hosts were without striker Sergio Aguero, who was supposed to be making his first start since October, but has to isolate because he came into contact with someone who had Covid-19.
“Unfortunately he was in contact with a person who has tested positive [for coronavirus] and that’s why he must be isolated for a few days,” Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said afterwards.
“I don’t know exactly how long he will be missing because he has been tested, like all of us, six times in the past 10 or 15 days. He was negative and I think today he is negative too, but he was not able to play today.”
Aguero’s absence will not help Manchester City’s busy January schedule but it made little difference this time, as early goals by Bernardo Silva gave them full control and Phil Foden’s strike put the tie beyond doubt before half-time.
Guardiola’s side, who beat Manchester United on Wednesday to reach the Carabao Cup final, took things easier in the second half but still dominated possession and gave Bernardo enough chances to complete his hat-trick.
Birmingham were on the back foot from the start, and fell behind when they could only clear Joao Cancelo’s clipped pass into the path of Bernardo, who expertly steered the bouncing ball into the top corner with a fierce first-time shot.
Another superb passing move soon after gave Bernardo his second goal, this time with a tap-in from Kevin de Bruyne’s pull-back.
The Belgian was in majestic form and opened up the Birmingham defence time and time again before Riyad Mahrez fed Foden to make it 3-0 from the edge of the area.
That advantage was always going to be enough to see off a Birmingham side who are 18th in the Championship and had lost five of their previous six league games, failing to score in the past three.
Birmingham took until the 34th minute to test Zack Steffen through George Friend’s deflected shot, but almost got a late consolation when substitute Jeremie Bela blasted just over the bar from 25 yards out.
What next? Manchester City back at Etihad Stadium
Manchester City go into the draw for fourth and fifth rounds, taking place together on Monday, and will be back at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday to host Brighton (18:00 GMT), the first of three successive home Premier League games.
Birmingham are not in action again until Saturday, when they travel to face Middlesbrough, their manager Aitor Karanka’s former club (12:30).
- Watch all the goals from the FA Cup third round
- Follow all of the action and reaction from Sunday’s ties
- How to follow FA Cup third round on the BBC
Birmingham manager Aitor Karanka:
“We finished the game in the way we should have started it. In the first five or six minutes, we were brave on the pitch and then suddenly we started to defend almost in our own box.
“I said before the game that if we were going to defend for 90 minutes, then it would be impossible. We should have been more aggressive from the beginning.
“We approached the second half much, much better, and made the game more difficult for them.”
Bernardo at the double for the first time – stats of the day
- Bernardo Silva netted twice in a game for just the second time in his Manchester City career, with the previous instance coming in a hat-trick against Watford in September 2019.
- Phil Foden has been directly involved in 12 goals in all competitions this season (scoring seven and assisting five), the most of any Under-21 player for a Premier League side.
- Manchester City have won each of their past seven FA Cup home games, their best home winning run in the competition since January 1946 (14 in a row).
– Jan. 11, 2021 @ 08:21 GMT |