Manchester City moved through to the quarter-final of the FA Cup with a 4-1 victory over Newport County at Rodney Parade.
What happened On a pitch unlike any other we’ve played on this season, we found it difficult at times to impose our usual passing game. Rodney Parade, also home to Newport RFC and the Dragons, has hosted 61 matches this season, leaving the pitch full of divots and bereft of grass. City, usually so quick and slick, were stymied by the conditions, unable to string together sustained periods of possession. Fernandinho and Danilo went close with long-range efforts, and Leroy Sane clipped the top of the crossbar after a brilliant one-two with David Silva, but the first-half brought few clear chances for the Blues. Indeed, it was at the other end the more dangerous openings occurred. Pep Guardiola warned on Friday of Newport’s set-piece ability, and it proved prophetic. Their long-throw routine caused City problems, with Jamille Matt, a tall, powerful striker, flicking the ball on at the near post and allowing his teammates the chance to win second balls. On one such occasion, Tyreeq Bakinson’s close-range header looked a certain goal but for Ederson’s miraculous save, and moments later the same set play saw Joss Ladabie find himself in a great position, only for him to hook his effort over the bar. City could have had a penalty just before the break when Mark O’Brien appeared to stop Sane’s effort with his hand, but the referee, Andre Marriner, waved play on. But it didn’t take long for City to take the lead in the second half when Sane, one of our more dangerous players all afternoon, was played in by Gabriel Jesus before firing off a shot from a tight angle that was too hot for Day to handle. With City becoming increasingly dominant, Danilo struck the post, before Mahrez, twisting and turning, saw his effort blocked at the last. And City’s lead was doubled when Phil Foden offered the latest example of his precocious talent, weaving past Dan Butler before beating Day at his near post. But Newport managed a famous goal to halve the arrears with just two minutes remaining. A long ball caused havoc for Aymeric Laporte and Nicolas Otamendi, allowing Padraig Amond the chance to lob Ederson. It was a fine finish from the Irishman. Lesser teams may have retreated, with the threat of a long-ball siege weighing heavy on the mind. But City did nothing of the sort. Winning the ball high up the pitch, Sane took the ball away from one defender before slipping in Foden, who breezed past O'Brien before unleashing a devastating effort into the top corner. Brilliant. Mahrez added a fourth, collecting Stones' outstanding pass and cutting in from the left to lash it home, completing a frantic final period. Man of the Match: Phil Foden Two brilliant goals and constant bravery in possession. He's the real deal. And a special mention for Fernandinho, City’s Mr Consistent. Continually broke up attacks and drove City forward, much like he has done in every other game this season. City’s tricky schedule There are no prizes handed out in February but for City to have reached this stage of the season, with spring upon us, and remain in four competitions is worthy of praise. It’s now 42 matches played this season. The demands of such a gruelling schedule are clear for all to see, but Guardiola’s intelligent rotation means, thus far, we’ve handled it with aplomb. No matter what happens from this point on, we will play a minimum of 57 matches, and should we continue in the FA Cup and Champions League, we may play as many as 64. It doesn’t matter how deep a squad is, that kind of schedule takes its toll. A vital part of Guardiola’s job is to manage the situation as carefully as possible. Domestic bliss We’ve played eight games in the domestic cup competitions this season, winning all of them (albeit on penalties against Leicester) and scoring 32 goals. We’ve conceded just twice during that run.
Next up A big week lies ahead. City face Schalke on Wednesday in the first leg of our Champions League last-16 tie, before Sunday’s Carabao Cup final at Wembley against Chelsea. And don't forget, Monday's FA Cup draw will determine who we play in the next round. That game will take place on the weekend of 16 and 17 March.
Newport County (1): Day; Willmott, Poole, Demetriou, O’Brien, Butler; Bennett (Franks, 86’), Labadie (Dolan, 68’), Bakinson (Sheehan, 61’); Matt, Amond
Manchester City (4): Ederson; Danilo, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko; Fernandinho (Laporte, 78’), Foden, David Silva (Gündogan, 81’); Mahrez, Sané, Gabriel Jesus