It would be nice to say this game wasn’t really a contest, but for the first twenty minutes or so, Huddersfield gave City reasons to be fearful of an upset. Overall however, Pep Guardiola’s side were triumphant against the Championship high flyers.
Pep learnt his lesson from fielding a weakened side in West Yorkshire in the original game, and reacted by putting out a very strong eleven, but also making space for a rare start for highly rated youngster Aleix Garcia in midfield.
Though the Blues would eventually gain full control over the tie, it was the away side who struck first, and who else to score but ex-City academy prospect Harry Bunn? The winger, who has been riddled with injuries since leaving City, drilled a low shot through Claudio Bravo’s legs. The Chilean keeper should’ve done better, despite a slight deflection, and 7,000 Huddersfield fans went wild.
The game was open, but the City fans started to grow in frustration. It was the Sané and Sterling double act that eventually pulled City level, following a number of chances. Roles were reversed for the wingers, with it being Sterling’s turn to put the ball on a plate for Sané, similar to the opening goal last Tuesday against Monaco.
That was the first of three goals in eight minutes for City to complete the turnaround, as Otamendi was fouled in the box and the referee pointed to the spot, after he had already turned down a couple of reasonable appeals. Aguero sent the keeper the wrong way, and City were ahead. Minutes later, the Argentine was in the action again, as he teed up Pablo Zabaleta for a rare goal. Although Pablo couldn’t miss, seeing his passion in celebration is a sight that every City fan will enjoy.
Realistically, Zaba’s goal put the game out of sight for Huddersfield, however the game could have been well and truly back on if Bravo didn’t make a smart stop to deny Quaner at the end of the first half. This save was subject to ironic cheers from his own fans, but he will be happy to keep City well in the driving seat going into the break.
In the second half, Huddersfield continued to ask questions of the City defence, with a penalty shout of their own turned down after John Stones caught Quaner’s trailing leg. Joe Lolley also missed a chance for the away side, but ultimately the second-string side ran out of energy and their attempts dwindled as City dominated the possession.
Kevin De Bruyne and Aleix Garcia dictated the tempo of the game for the majority of the 90 minutes, with the latter not really putting a foot wrong all night.
City had to be patient, but eventually Sergio Aguero doubled his tally for the night to make the scoreline sweeter, completing a well-worked passing move that started with Bravo. Sterling has improved under Pep most evidently with his ability to run at a defender and drive counter-attacks, but perhaps less mentioned is his crossing. This ball was put into an area that as Alan Shearer in the BBC studio pointed out – is a strikers dream. Sterling has been involved via means of scoring or assisting 21 times this season, which is definitely not bad for the winger so many, City fans included, had written off.
Iheanacho was stripped to come on, but Aguero was hungry for more goals, getting into some great positions again and chasing down loose ends. No hat-trick would come, but Sergio’s work-rate received a huge ovation from Pep Guardiola, which is a delight to see.
Perhaps a bit rusty since being demoted to third choice striker, Kelechi lost the ball a bit easy a few times, but he got his reward with virtually the last kick of the game, to prove to Pep he is still a weapon City can use with effect. The Nigerian latched on to the end of an inviting drilled cross from Navas to dust off a great evening for City.
Overall it was an excellent performance from the Blues, with De Bruyne, Aguero, Garcia and Sterling all putting in a display worthy of great credit. The young Spaniard in the middle, Garcia, is definitely knocking on the door of the first team and hopefully we will see more of him in seasons to come, as his ability to get on the ball and pick passes is comparable to a young Xabi Alonso.
City now go on to face Middlesbrough away in the next round, but the focus turns back to the Premier League, with the attacking players in lethal form, scoring ten goals in the last two games.