Fresh from winning the Carabao Cup, Manchester City faced Sheffield Wednesday away from home in the FA Cup, hoping to progress to the Quarter Finals.
Manchester City may have kicked off wearing their ‘lollipop’ kit but things were ….. insert pun here. City dominated possession from kick off, searching for an opportunity to open the scoring and Sheffield Wednesday were content to defend in numbers and try and nick a goal on the counter attack.
We were set up for a war of attrition and it felt as though City were most likely to grind the opposition down, through relentless passing and movement. The first major chance fell to Gabriel Jesus in the 20th minute when he narrowly glanced a header wide.
A couple of minutes later it was Riyad Mahrez’s turn to blaze over from the edge of the penalty area. Then Gabriel Jesus missed the ball entirely after being played through by Sergio Aguero. The pattern of wastefulness in front of goal had returned. If City had been focused they would have been out of sight after 25 minutes.
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On 30 minutes Nicolas Otamendi crashed a header from a free kick against the cross bar and still the Wednesday goal led a charmed life. The match flickered out and at half time, Wednesday would be happiest going into the break.
The second half spluttered into similar action. City carved open chances and then conspired to miss them. The intensity in the movement and the precision in the passing were both missing, but at least there was a little energy present which had been lacking in the first half.
Sergio Aguero opened the scoring with a lovely shot after a nice piece of build up play. In truth the goalkeeper should have done better and saw the strike curl over his body and slowly into the open goal.
City then entered a lengthy period where they were happy to keep the ball and pass it around without much intent or purpose. Mahrez had a few periodic shots on goal but none were well placed.
The City approach began inviting Wednesday on to try and take the tie into extra time. Their pressing started to improve and Wednesday were emboldened. City injected some pace by introducing Raheem Sterling for Sergio Aguero for the last 5 minutes, hoping to offset the changing tides in the game.
But Sterling just fluffed his chances too.
City emerged as winners in an easy performance which was never comfortable. Nobody even touched the high gears and the game was ultimately somewhat unconvincing. City did enough but no single player earned the right to go straight onto the team sheet in the next game.
Sterner tests await and we must hope that City can find their form quickly if we are to keep up our involvement in all competitions.