Manchester City overcame a spirited Sheffield Wednesday to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals and stay on course for a domestic and European cup treble.
Fresh from their Carabao Cup triumph at Wembley, holders City moved into the last eight of the FA Cup as Sergio Aguero’s 23rd goal of the season saw off their Championship opponents at Hillsborough.
Up until the Argentine found the net with a strong left-foot finish, City had been frustrated by a stubborn Wednesday defensive performance.
Nicolas Otamendi and Benjamin Mendy both hit the bar when the tie was goalless yet City, who dominated possession, had to wait 48 minutes before they managed a shot on target.
Wednesday have endured a wretched run of form and although City keeper Claudio Bravo did not have a save to make, they at least ensured they were not embarrassed.
Aguero, who scored in the 2-1 Carabao Cup final win over Aston Villa on Sunday, has now scored 20 FA Cup goals in 22 ties since joining City in 2011.
Hot on the heels of their domestic cup triumph at Wembley, City arrived in Sheffield looking to progress in another competition.
Liverpool may be galloping away with the Premier League but Pep Guardiola’s men still have more trophies in their sight after the Carabao Cup secured the Spaniard his sixth piece of major silverware since arriving in 2016.
Guardiola’s thirst for trophies was reflected in the strong team he fielded. Although there was no Kevin de Bruyne, who Guardiola revealed after the game was not fit, City still put out a side that boasted a combined 144 Premier League starts this season.
Although Gabriel Jesus started on the left of a front three, City ended the first half without managing an attempt on target – the first time Guardiola’s side have not forced a save in 45 minutes since they played Wednesday’s rivals Sheffield United in December.
It was not until the 33rd minute that they seriously threatened, Otamendi crashing a header against the bar after connecting with Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick following a foul on Bernardo Silva.
For a side that arrived for this tie having scored 109 goals in all competitions, City was strangely subdued in front of goal as John Stones headed a glorious chance over before Aguero forced Joe Wildman into his first save in the 48th minute.
City dominated the second half and once Aguero scored – soon after Mendy had rattled the bar with a ferocious attempt – there only looked to be one outcome.
Wednesday fans gave their team a standing ovation after the final whistle – something Hillsborough has not witnessed for some time.
While Sheffield United are flying in the Premier League and chasing a place in Europe, Wednesday’s season has fallen flat.
Third in the table in December, the Owls are treading water in mid-table after a dreadful run of form in 2020.
This was a chance for Garry Monk’s side to forget about their league troubles – a free hit against Premier League royalty – and for long spells, they acquitted themselves well as City were limited to a handful of chances in a largely uneventful first half.
They started strongly with Jacob Murphy showing confidence to get the game’s first shot away but Wednesday spent long periods penned inside their own half.
In the end, it was a valiant performance by the hosts and a good reaction after their poor run. Monk will hope they can now start to pick up in the league.
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Source – BBC