- Dillon Meehan
Review and Player Ratings from a Sunday night stroll into the next round – Man City 4-0 Chelsea
Riyad Mahrez netted a brace, and Phil Foden got himself back on the scoresheet as Manchester City strolled past Chelsea in a 4-0 rout to hand the London club their earliest FA Cup exit in 25 years.
City will face the winner of Oxford vs Arsenal, who compete tomorrow night.
For the second game in a row, Pep Guardiola made a slew of changes as he attempted to find a squad balance in a congested fixture list.
Stefan Ortega got the nod in goal, with Kyle Walker, Manuel Akanji, Aymeric Laporte and Sergio Gomez rounding out the defence. Rodri took his spot as the holding midfielder, while Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden joined him in midfield. Julian Alvarez got his first start since the World Cup, flanked by Cole Palmer to his left and Riyad Mahrez to his right.
Despite the rotation and an uninspired first-half performance earlier this week against the same opposition, it was apparent midway through the first half that this was going to be a different City performance.
Like most City matches, the opening few minutes were a fight to take control. Chelsea’s press and high line initially caused a few headaches. However, Guardiola quickly made a tactical shift; Gomez switched from an inverted fullback to a more traditional overlapping role, while Bernardo sat back alongside Rodri to offer more control.
From there, City took full control of the match.
After gaining control, Guardiola’s side began to exploit Chelsea’s high line. In the 19th minute, Palmer found acres of space behind the Chelsea defence; the 20-year-old carried the ball into the box and had Alvarez wide open to his right. However, Palmer elected to try and beat the keeper on his own and wasn’t able to convert.
Despite not being able to score, it was a sign of things to come for the remainder of the match.
In a subsequent attack, City were awarded a free quick just about 25 yards out on the right wing. It seemed just a tad far out for Mahrez. However, the Algerian’s effort was well-struck and beat a diving Kepa to give his side the lead, and they would never relinquish it.
A few minutes after the goal, City were awarded a penalty via VAR after Kai Havertz cleared an incoming corner kick with his fist.
Alvarez immediately grabbed the ball to take the penalty, and while Chelsea’s goalkeeper Kepa desperately tried to play mind games to distract the Argentinian, it was meaningless. Just moments later, Alvarez’s penalty beat a diving Kepa to double the lead.
After expanding their lead to two, City weren’t done. The Blues continued to attack, and just eight minutes after Alvarez’s penalty, they were able to grab their third.
It was a beautifully worked goal that saw Palmer and Gomez free up Rodri, who switched the play to Mahrez standing alone on the right wing. When the Algerian received the ball on the edge of the box, he immediately played Walker down the line. The 32-year-old played it first time and pulled the ball back to Foden making a late run for an easy tap-in.
Following the goal, Foden’s celebration looked like a release of frustration after barely playing since the World Cup.
After only scoring two goals over the past two games, City had now scored three goals in only 38 minutes.
The Blues carried their 3-0 lead into halftime.
Once the second half started, it was a typical City game killing. Just total control and few turnovers.
Less than ten minutes in, Rodri picked up a yellow card for a lazy tackle on Mason Mount and was quickly replaced by Kalvin Phillips, while Sergio Gomez was also replaced for Joao Cancelo at the same time.
It was a great cameo performance for Phillips, who has struggled with injuries and fitness during his first few months at City. The former Leeds midfielder looked like a regular first-teamer and was pinging balls all over the pitch.
In the closing minutes of the game, City worked the ball through Chelsea’s press and Bernardo found Foden making a run in behind Chelsea’s defence. The Portuguese’s well-placed ball gave Foden a perfect chance to score, but the 22-year-old was fouled from behind by Kalidou Koulibaly.
After the penalty was awarded, Mahrez quickly stepped up to take the ball. It was a surprising move considering Alvarez had already converted, and the Algerian had missed his previous two penalties. But Mahrez’s effort was well hit, and Kepa was sent the wrong way to give City a much-deserved 4-0 victory.
Following the penalty, Rico Lewis was brought on for Bernardo. It was a surprising show of confidence for the 18-year-old to be given midfield minutes by Guardiola.
Chelsea were unable to string together any form of attack in the closing minutes and the game finished 4-0.
Man of the Match
While he certainly was not playing his best prior to the World Cup, something has happened to Riyad Mahrez. For the third year in a row, the Algerian has become City’s most prolific goalscorer in the winter months. First, it was goals against Liverpool and Chelsea in the League Cup, and now it’s a brace in the FA Cup. A good sign with some key matches ahead.
Ortega - 7
Walker - 9
Akanji - 8
Laporte - 8
Gomez - 7
Rodri - 9
Bernardo - 7
Foden - 8
Palmer - 7
Alvarez - 8
Mahrez - 9
Subs: Phillips - 8, Cancelo - 7, Lewis - N/A
Written by: @IVIeehan
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