Date: 2nd March 2017 at 6:22pm
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Getting the business done were the key words as City lined up in almost full strength fashion against a Huddersfield Town side that had one eye on their weekend fixture against Championship leaders Newcastle United.

Overseas managers time and again get FA Cup football wrong believing they can use a fringe line-up and then get their big guns to come to their international rescue if needed. Time and again we see evidence that this does not work and that the solution is get your team in front before sending the stars to the dugout.

This was the formula for City in this match as with the exception of Caballero and Yaya this could have been a front-line side bearing in mind Gundogan, Jesus and, as usual, Kompany were keeping the physios busy.

With a back line of Zabaleta, Otamendi, Stones and Clichy there was an air of solidity about it, even though you got the impression they were constantly looking over their shoulders, not to see the comforting frame of Caballero, but the more, in a negative sense, frightening sight of Bravo.
In front sat Garcia, at last a youngster promoted from “over the bridge” with Fernandinho deputising for Yaya. Sterling and Sane provided the pace and power out wide with De Bruyne designed to fit in for Silva and the Mighty Atom himself lying in wait up top.

David Wagner didn’t parade all of his top men in view of their big match coming up but in among his line up was Harry Bunn an ex-City youth team player who was well-liked at the Etihad and who has an eye for goal.

City got onto the front foot immediately and should have gone ahead in pretty much their first attack when after five minutes the ball passed quickly from Sterling to De Bruyne and on to the overlapping Sane who hit a screamer against the foot of the post. Amazingly the ball returned into play where Fernandinho was caught in flat-footed admiration and unable to cash in with Coleman on the floor.

This looked ominous for Huddersfield who had been carved apart far too easily, but from a situation where they should have ended up 1-0 down they ended up 1-0 in front. Billing it was who moved the ball quickly in behind Zabaleta and into the path of Bunn who rapidly made space and fired straight through Bravo who once again surrendered a goal without anything resembling resistance and added to the woes of his statistics.

There was almost a collective groan around 3 sides of the Etihad but it couldn’t overshadow the sheer elation being felt by the 7500 visiting fans across the South Stand who were already starting to think, not of the upset of the 10-1 defeat this fixture once brought them, but an upset 2017-style and a trip to Tees-side.

It was times for the Blues not to scratch their wounds but to simply get on with the job and get into the game, but the Yorkshire Terriers had different ideas. It was backs-to-the-wall stuff for a while and based upon the number of their defenders seemingly allowed to use their hands at will you would have been forgiven for thinking they were playing “fly goalie”, I wonder how many of you remember that term!

Three times there were better than reasonable shouts for a penalty and three times Mr Tierney looked disinterested. Twice De Bruyne went close but he lacked any kind of sharpness. His first shot was easily saved by Coleman and his second turned into a cross that Sterling did not anticipate and once again the chances went begging.

For the next twenty minutes it looked like “one of them nights” as City created chance after chance and shot after shot but nothing looked as though it was going in until Sterling outstripped Dennis and crossed to the far post where Sane was waiting almost nonchalantly to tap in a deserved equaliser for City.

Now the shackles were off and although prompted and pushed by the excellent Billing in midfield, Huddersfield were finding themselves on the receiving end of almost everything and were so again five minutes later when a rapid-fire ball from Zabaleta found Otamendi who was up-ended by Stankovic and this time the referee had no option but to point to the spot.

In the absence of Yaya, up stepped Aguero and although there were some misgivings around the grades, this time he made no mistake slamming the ball past Coleman to introduce City to a lead they were not going to surrender tonight.

The adulation for Aguero, this week linked with moves all over the world, rang from the seating decks and suddenly there was an air of silence in the South Stand.

What seemed like seconds later City were threatening again with a team move that resembled a sky-blue avalanche. First off Aguero skinned the Huddersfield defence only for his shot to strike the same upright that denied Sane early on. In the next attack Aguero was at it again. He got open in his favourite inside right slot and brought a good save from Coleman. He was on to the rebound in a flash, took it wide around the goalkeeper and squared it up for Zabaleta who was backing-up around the six yard line. Zaba did the rest, scoring with a well-struck shot giving nobody a prayer.

It took Town pretty much the rest of the first half to re-group prompted as ever by Billing, a player in the sort of mini-Yaya mould who drives his team forward. I bet that with Mooy alongside him in the Championship this is a very productive pairing. In one such attack Bravo was able to redress his stats when Payne latched on to a ball from Billing, keeping it out at the second attempt to an ironic roar from the City fans.

Although City were sitting pretty at 3-1, Huddersfield started the second half meaning business and engineered a couple of early chances. They did however have to be aware of their back-door because such was Aguero’s mood tonight he looked as though he might score at a moment’s notice from anywhere at any time.

By now the Huddersfield fans were reduced to singing just about anything they could to keep themselves amused. One such song did not go down too well with dear Sue as the Yorkshiremen proclaimed that “David Wagner?he’s better than Klopp!”. Secretly, after her teams disaster on Monday night, I think she shares their view.

For the first half hour of the second half City went through the motions but always looked a threat. Much of the Huddersfield play was still arriving via Billing but nothing much was happening ahead of him. It was noticeable that almost as soon as he was withdrawn the scoreboard started rattling again. And when it did what a goal it was. It started with Fernandinho heading an awkward bouncing ball over Otamendi to Garcia who moved it on first time to Zaba, who moved it on first time to Sterling who moved it on first time with an incredible bending ball to Aguero who had stepped in front of his defenders and hit it first time into the net. Classic City, classic, text book, Aguero.

Make no mistake this was a goal of the highest quality and announced to the Premier League that Sergio is back. Four in two for probably the best goalscorer in the world. His work rate today will have endeared him once again to Guardiola and to top it off with two goals was more than the icing on the cake.

This goal effectively knocked the stuffing out of the Terriers and it was time to ring the late changes. Aguero went off, disappointed I suspect, to a standing ovation from his adoring faithful, Sane followed, with De Bruyne having already taken exit.

Iheanacho was now on, at last given some game time by Guardiola and as usual he didn’t let us down. Navas it was who sprinted down the right and for once his cross was productive as Iheanacho darted into the space to turn the ball home for a 5-1 scoreline which will have disappointed Wagner but in fairness it could have been any score City wanted. They could even have emulated the 10-1 from 1989.

So what did we see? We saw an awesome Aguero. This was as good a game as we have seen him play. He must have had a seminar with Pep because his appetite tonight was enormous. He linked play, chased down, ran back, tackled and scored twice. In the words of Chris Kamara?unbelievable!

We saw a very good and intelligent performance by Garcia. Not only did he win tackles, he covered both centre backs well and made a third man when Zaba or Clichy were raiding. We saw the continued improvement of Sterling who terrified the Terriers every time he was on the ball. We saw the same from Sane, who might have got himself in trouble with the ref when he pointed out that his goal was justice for the 3 penalties that had been turned down. The disaffected Stretfords on social media were saying he should have been sent off! And that from a team who contains Rooney who is often seen producing a mouthful of expletives to all of the officials every time he gets a game, some legend he is. And that from a team whose new tactics are to fall about squealing when they are not touched to milk free-kicks and penalties.

We still saw nothing to convince us that Bravo is the man between the sticks as once again he did not give us nor the defence confidence and we saw that the same defence can look shaky when they know he is there.

Sadly, we also saw that De Bruyne is not in a good moment. His passing tonight was awful and he failed with a couple of clear-cut chances. Rather than rest Silva and Yaya, maybe KDB’s time has come for a feet-up.

City now move on to a Sunday appointment with Sunderland and I hope they remember there are no easy matches in the Barclays Premier League. Now finding themselves a week behind a win is very necessary to keep intact whatever hope they still have that a couple of poor results at Chelsea could find them back in the hunt. We await the weekend with interest.

 
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