FA Cup - City sweep past under-strength Villa

Wed, 02 Mar 21:38:00 2011

Manchester City brushed aside an experimental and ineffective Aston Villa side 3-0 in their FA Cup fifth round tie at the City of Manchester Stadium.

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It took just five minutes before City were ahead as Yaya Toure drilled a fierce strike beyond Brad Friedel, and from then onwards Roberto Mancini's side played with consummate ease.

Mario Balotelli unleashed a clinical and emphatic first-time finish to double the hosts' lead in the 25th minute, before David Silva added a third midway through the second half to seal a convincing win.

It is a manager's prerogative to pick a side of his choosing, but Villa fans may be understandably frustrated at the insipid display which followed Gerard Houllier's perplexing team selection which left City to cruise through to a quarter-final home tie with Reading.

Villa boss Gerard Houllier will undoubtedly come under fire for fielding a significantly weakened side with Marc Albrighton, Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, Nigel Reo-Coker, and Robert Pires confined to the substitutes' bench.

Within five minutes City were in front: Aleksandar Kolarov whipped over a testing corner which Patrick Vieira headed towards goal, only for Ciaran Clark to block the ball with his arm - but City didn't need to appeal for a penalty as Toure lashed the ball home from close range.

Three minutes later, Gabriel Agbonlahor could have restored parity after he skipped inside from the left at pace and curled a decent effort agonisingly wide of the far post as Joe Hart scrambled across his line frantically.

City dictated possession with 62 per cent of the ball in the first half, and the hosts doubled their lead in the 25th minute to compound the travelling supporters' misery.

City broke after Chris Herd lost the ball in the hosts' half, and Toure found Mario Balotelli with an incisive through ball, and the Italian stroked a quite stunning first-time finish beyond Brad Friedel with the utmost composure.

Villa mustered another fleeting foray into the City half in the 31st minute as Joe Hart was called into action: Emile Heskey powered down the left and drove a low shot on target, but the England keeper parried wide for a corner at full stretch.

Disenchanted Villa fans implored their manager to inject some fresh faces from his illustrious, talent-bloated bench at the break, but Houllier did not deem the situation worthy of a change.

Balotelli was booked for a reckless flying elbow on Chris Herd on the hour mark and, after a further explosive reaction to a Clark challenge, Mancini shrewdly withdrew the temperamental Italian with captain Carlos Tevez introduced at his expense.

The fierce resolve and application of Houllier's young Villa side could never have been faulted, but City were not unduly shaken from their stride as the hosts consolidated their two-goal advantage.

Just as Houllier was looking to make a string of belated substitutions, City made it three and effectively extinguished any lingering hope preserved by the visitors in the 70th minute.

Pablo Zabaleta lofted a high ball into the Villa box which Herd could only head to Silva on the edge of the box, and the Spaniard drilled a low, unerring effort beyond Friedel into the corner of the net.

Houllier promptly introduced Downing and Young seconds after the restart, and ironic cheers went up from the travelling Villa fans to mark the Frenchman's delayed reaction.

Former City captain and stalwart Richard Dunne was withdrawn to a standing ovation from the home fans late on, while the hosts simply kept possession and strolled through the final minutes without any resistance from their opponents.

It was a hugely disappointing display from both Villa and their coach, while City were left to coast through to the quarter-finals where they will encounter Championship opposition at home in the form of Reading on March 13.

Dan Quarrell / Eurosport

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