City booked their place in January’s Capital One Cup semi-final with a comfortable win over Championship side Hull on a cold Tuesday night at the Etihad Stadium.
Manuel Pellegrini showed his desire to win this competition for the second time in three seasons with a strong team selection and despite struggling to penetrate the visitors’ rearguard in the opening stages of the game, City went in front in the 12th minute when Wilfried Bony put the ball into an empty net after Kevin De Bruyne’s effort had rebounded back off the post.
Hull made City work hard for the victory and the result was far from secure until substitute Kelechi Iheanacho finished from close range with ten minutes to go. A late brace from De Bruyne put the game beyond any doubt and took the Blues’ goals tally in the competition up to 13 scored and three conceded in three matches, making them the team to fear when the draw for the semi-final is made.
Here’s how I rated Pellegrini’s players on the night.
13 Willy Caballero – 7/10
Wasn’t unduly troubled for most of the game but did well to rush off his line and make a decisive clearance in the second half. He’s got fewer clean sheets in a City shirt than a hotel with a broken washing machine and could really have done with one tonight, but Hull’s late consolation meant it sadly wasn’t to be.
3 Bacary Sagna – 7/10
Performed as dependably as he has done in most games this season with an unblemished defensive showing and some good play in the attacking third. No complaints with him whatsoever.
30 Nicolás Otamendi – 10/10
Again made a mockery of those who were writing him off after three games with an absolute masterclass in central defence. His positioning was consistently brilliant, he made some incredible tackles (including one which was so good I thought it had to be a foul on first viewing) and won all of his duels, including a couple of one-on-ones. He’ll face tougher opposition this season than Hull’s forward line, of course, but you can only beat what’s in front of you and this was the definition of domination.
20 Eliaquim Mangala – 6/10
Looked a lot more comfortable than he did last time he played, mainly because Hull’s forward players allowed him much more time on the ball than Liverpool’s did. His positional awareness/disclipline is still extremely suspect, however, and he picked up a silly booking on the stroke of half time for a challenge deep inside the opposition half which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a wrestling ring. Having a solid centre half like Otamendi or Vincent Kompany alongside him definitely helps, but there remain big question marks over his concentration, decision making and general suitability to English football.
22 Gaël Clichy – 7/10
Full-back is one of those positions where, if you don’t have anything bad to say about the player playing there, they’ve probably done alright. Clichy acquitted himself well on his second appearance of the season, defended solidly and used his pace to good effect going forward. It’s good to have the option of two different sets of attributes to choose from in the left-back position again. If he and Aleksandar Kolarov could somehow breed and create the perfect left-back between them it’d be even better.
25 Fernandinho – 7/10
Played his role in the most energetic two-man midfield we’ve seen at City for some time with plenty of high-pressing and some good interceptions. He was a little sloppy with possession at times but after the amount of football he’s played this season, fatigue possibly played a part.
18 Fabian Delph – 8/10
Put in another excellent midfield display and has already formed a good understanding with Fernandinho, both of them seeming to telepathically know exactly when to go forward and when to drop back and cover for their partner. Delph’s forays forward were a constant source of danger to Hull’s backline and a reminder of the fearless teenager who burst onto the scene at Leeds United a few years ago. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s really enjoying watching this guy play for City at the moment. Long may it continue.
15 Jesús Navas – 6/10
Hugged the touchline and helped stretch the pitch in the way he always does, but never really looked particularly threatening. Came as close to scoring as he has done for some time with a left-footed snap shot just before he was unsurprisingly substituted on the hour mark.
17 Kevin De Bruyne – 9/10
Many wondered whether the supposedly fatigued De Bruyne might have been rested for this one but the performance he put in showed he perhaps didn’t need one afterall. It was his excellent turn and strike which cannoned back off the post in the build-up to the opening goal and he drifted around the final third to dangerous effect all evening, linking up well with David Silva in particular and causing Hull’s defence all manner of problems. The Belgian then capped off a fine night’s work by pouncing on a mistake and prodding home his eighth goal of the season, before curling in a beautiful free kick for his ninth late on. What a waste of money.
21 David Silva – 8/10
A fine display from City’s captain fantastic on his first start since returning from injury which fully merited the standing ovation he received when he came off towards the end. The Spaniard found little pockets of space for himself everytime his team had possession and was able to masterfully pull the strings in attack. Seemed to tire a little in the second half but never stopped working and shouldn’t now be too far away from full match fitness. We’ve had to wait a long time to see what he and De Bruyne are capable of together and this game contained several little glimpses of what could well be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
14 Wilfried Bony – 7/10
Stuck his goal away well under fairly difficult circumstances and generally played a good hold-up game for those around him. His first touch lets him down far too often, however, and his finishing can often be very tame, as it was when he found himself more or less through on goal just before the interval.
7 Raheem Sterling – Came on too late to mark
Sterling really isn’t the sort of player you want to see coming off the bench for the last half an hour of a game if you’re a tired Hull City defender. Although his end product was a little disappointing at times, he did set-up the goal which clinched the victory for his team so you’d have to say it was mission accomplished.
72 Kelechi Iheanacho – Came on too late to mark
Put on a display in the last 20 minutes which belied his tender years and showed what a special talent he is. He linked up well with the players around him, had some intelligent touches and was the fox in the box his team was crying out for when the opportunity presented itself. Are you sure he can’t play as a number 9, Manuel?
26 Martín Demichelis – Came on too late to mark
Came on in the dying minutes and helped shore things up in midfield with the game pretty much won. Hopefully he won’t be asked to do anything much more taxing than that again this season.
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Written by Dan Burke