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Monday 21 May 2018

Classy City go forth in mission to win the lot

Cardiff City 0-2 Manchester City

Kevin de Bruyne celebrates after opening the scoring for Manchester City in yesterday's FA Cup win at the Cardiff City Stadium
Kevin de Bruyne celebrates after opening the scoring for Manchester City in yesterday's FA Cup win at the Cardiff City Stadium

Manchester City eased into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 2-0 victory at Cardiff.

Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling scored on the day that a new attendance record of 32,339 was set for a club game at the Cardiff City Stadium.

De Bruyne's eighth-minute free-kick was a candidate for the cheekiest goal of the season as he sent the ball under the Cardiff wall, while Sterling's header gave City a two-goal cushion before half-time.

Cardiff were committed throughout - too much at times with defender Joe Bennett sent off in stoppage time - but the gap between the top of the Premier League and third in the Sky Bet Championship never looked like being bridged.

City booked their place in the final of the League Cup in midweek by beating Bristol City and hopes of an unprecedented quadruple remain very much alive after this impressive showing.

Omens

There was also the bonus of captain Vincent Kompany returning to action for the first time since limping off at Newcastle on December 27, and the Belgian defender completed 90 minutes for only the second time in two months.

The omens were positive for Cardiff as City had lost on their previous two visits to the Welsh capital.

Manuel Pellegrini's side were beaten here in a Premier League fixture in August 2013 and Nathan Blake had settled a fourth-round tie when the two sides last met in the FA Cup at the old Ninian Park in 1994.

Cardiff showed their intent when Nathaniel Mendez-Laing rounded Danilo and a more measured ball into the box might have led to a shooting opportunity.

But De Bruyne silenced the feverish home crowd after Ilkay Gundogan had tested Neil Etheridge in the Cardiff goal and then been crudely upended by Joe Ralls.

The Cardiff wall jumped as one, but De Bruyne took the low route and rolled the ball under the blue shirts to reach double figures for the season.

Cardiff remained unbowed from that setback and Junior Hoilett almost equalised when Claudio Bravo made a hash of his 30-yard volley. Bravo spilled the shot backwards but the Chilean held it at the second attempt just as it was about to cross the goal-line. Bennett instantly produced a peach of a cross which proved just too high for the unmarked Callum Paterson in the middle. There was a moment of high controversy after 25 minutes when De Bruyne fed Bernardo Silva and the Portuguese's ferocious 25-yard shot flew past Etheridge and in off the crossbar.

But Leroy Sane was adjudged to be standing in an offside position and blocking Etheridge's view of the shot.

Television replays suggested that Sane might actually have been onside, even if he was in Etheridge's eyeline.

But with the Video Assistant Referee system not in operation the goal was disallowed, much to the annoyance of City manager Pep Guardiola, who had hurled his scarf to the ground in disgust. But City did double their lead after 37 minutes when the unmarked Sterling headed home Silva's cross from six yards for his 19th goal of the season.

Cardiff were fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men in first-half stoppage time when Bennett scythed down Sane with a nasty-looking high tackle.

Sane did not reappear for the second half but the arrival of Sergio Aguero hardly limited City's attacking prowess.

Sterling was denied his second by Sean Morrison's last-gasp challenge but Cardiff kept going despite struggling to achieve a quarter of the game's possession.

Kenneth Zohore forced Bravo into a save and Hoilett's rising 20-yard effort just cleared the crossbar, before Cardiff were reduced to 10 men in the final seconds when Bennett saw a belated red for another poor tackle on City substitute Brahim Diaz.

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