Manchester City 5-1 Huddersfield Town
Manchester City cruised into the FA Cup quarter-finals after fighting back to beat much-changed Championship promotion hopefuls Huddersfield in their fifth-round replay.
After a 0-0 draw in the original tie, the visitors led when Harry Bunn’s shot went through Claudio Bravo’s legs.
But tap-ins from Leroy Sane and Pablo Zabaleta, with Sergio Aguero’s clinical penalty in between, turned the replay in City’s favour before half-time.
Aguero swept in Raheem Sterling’s cross at the near post for City’s fourth, before substitute Kelechi Iheanacho poked in with the last kick of the game.
City’s reward is a quarter-final trip to Premier League rivals Middlesbrough on Saturday, 11 March (12:15 GMT).
Pep on the trophy hunt
Pep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City last summer with the clear remit from owner Sheikh Mansour to take the club to “a new level”.
While that demand is largely thought to mean success in the Champions League, the City hierarchy will also want to see the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach deliver domestic trophies.
Winning the Premier League looks to be a uphill task with Chelsea 11 points clear, while Manchester United took the season’s first silverware by claiming the EFL Cup.
But they have moved into the last eight of the FA Cup for the first time in four seasons after overcoming an early scare against Huddersfield.
“Seeing their biggest rivals United bag the first trophy of the season means City will be thinking ‘we want a piece of that’,” said Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer.
“I think this is their best chance of silverware this season.”
Not a Bravo performance – or was it?
Despite the relative ease of extending their unbeaten run to eight matches, there were still some concerning sights for Guardiola. Namely more uncertain goalkeeping from the returning Bravo.
Guardiola reiterated his confidence in the former Barcelona keeper before the replay, despite trusting Willy Caballero instead in City’s past four Premier League matches and the Champions League last-16 win against Monaco.
However, he watched the Chilean make another error to gift the opening goal to former City youngster Bunn.
The 33-year-old stopper, who was dropped after conceding 16 goals from the previous 24 shots on target he had faced in the Premier League, let Bunn’s low strike through his legs in Huddersfield’s first effort on target.
That led to ironic applause from the home fans when Bravo blocked Huddersfield’s second shot at goal shortly before half-time.
Guardiola did not appear pleased, turning around to glare at the supporters behind him.
Afterwards the Spaniard described Bravo’s performance as “top”, adding “his performance with the foot helped us build up”.
All not lost for promotion-chasing Town
Huddersfield had lost only one of their previous 18 games in all competitions, putting them third in the Championship and in the thick of the promotion race.
Playing in the Premier League for the first time is clearly their priority.
Head coach David Wagner, sat in the stands after being given a two-match touchline ban, made nine changes to his regular team – but it hardly showed in the opening 20 minutes.
Bunn’s opener sent the 7,200 travelling fans into delirium and, although the Terriers could not sustain the same level as the game wore on, credit must be given for the way they continued to try to attack after the break.
Joe Lolley wasted an excellent chance for Town to get back in the game when he headed over the bar from close range, while away fans hopefully demanded a penalty when Collin Quaner fell in the box under the lightest of challenges from John Stones.
While the scoreline ended heavily in favour of their opponents, Huddersfield will return to their promotion challenge full of heart before what could be a memorable run-in.
Man of the match – Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Aguero’s future has been subject to much speculation after he was dropped by Guardiola last month, with leading European clubs said to be expected to bid for the Argentina international this summer.
Here he showed the City boss exactly what he can offer: movement, energy, tenacity – and goals. Guardiola was suitably impressed, praising the striker’s performance as “the best I’ve seen from him”.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola:
“Even in the moment (when we conceded) we were playing quite good, we made good things against a good team.
“We are happy because we’re in the quarter-finals. I was impressed with Huddersfield in both halves – they have good quality players. We missed a lot of the last passes. But OK – we knew how tough it could be and we play in a good performance.
“It’s the best Sergio Aguero ever. Today the performance was amazing. The runs were at the right moment and the right tempo. His performance was top – the same with Claudio Bravo, his performance with the foot helped us build up.”
Huddersfield Town head coach David Wagner:
“Of course the start was positive because we went in front but we were not at our best, performance-wise.
“We have shown too much respect, unfortunately, against a very strong Manchester City side.
“Congratulations to Pep. The result was fair. We made too many easy mistakes when we had the ball and when we defended we were not aggressive enough.
“When you play against Manchester City you have to be very aggressive.”
Both sides go back to the pursuit of the top two in their respective leagues.
City travel to relegation-threatened Sunderland on Sunday (16:00 GMT), while Huddersfield host leaders Newcastle in a promotion clash on Saturday (17:30 GMT).
- Possession: Home 67% Away 33%
- Shots: Home 16 Away 6
- Shots on Target: Home10 Away2
- Corners: Home5 Away2
- Fouls: Home8 Away12