Chelsea put any fanciful notion of City claiming an unprecedented quadruple to bed by winning 5-1 in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday.
In protest at the FA’s scheduling of the game, coming as it did three days before City travel to Ukraine for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie, Manuel Pellegrini fielded a weakened side with an average age of just 23 at Stamford Bridge, seven of whom were making their full debuts for the club.
The junior Blues acquitted themselves well in the early stages of the match but it was Chelsea who struck first when Diego Costa headed home from close range after 35 minutes.
The lead only lasted 94 seconds, however. After some intricate inter-play with Manu García and Kelechi Iheanacho, the impressive David Faupala forced the ball into the roof of the Chelsea net to get his team deservedly back on level terms.
But City capitulated after the interval and Chelsea added four more goals to their tally in the second half (and missed a penalty) to seal a comfortably convincing win.
Here’s how I rated City’s mixture of youth and supposed experience on the day.
13 Willy Caballero – 3/10
If only one good thing comes of this defeat, let it be that Willy Caballero won’t play in the Capital One Cup final next Sunday. City’s cup keeper may have saved a penalty in this game but it did little to hide the fact that he had an absolute mare. He was at fault for the third (Gary Cahill’s shot went straight through him), fourth (he side-stepped Eden Hazard’s free-kick) and fifth (he thought the ball was going wide, instead it dropped into his net) goals and could probably have done better with the first two. In almost two seasons at the club he’s done hardly anything to merit even the occasional appearance here and there and if Pellegrini selects him for the final of the competition which increasingly looks like being City’s best chance of silverware this season and he plays like he did at Stamford Bridge, both player and manager will rightly be pilloried. Sorry Willy, I’m sure you’re a nice bloke and all, but please Manuel, for the love of God, #StartHart.
5 Pablo Zabaleta – 5/10
The Argentine was the obvious choice to play at right-back in this one given Bacary Sagna’s injury and he had the unenviable task of having to focus on his own game while also acting as educator to the inexperienced players around him. Since returning from injury at the turn of the year, he worryingly appears to have lost most of the pace and power which has made him such a great defender and attacker down the years and on Sunday, Eden Hazard was often given far too much space in which to cross or penetrate City’s back line. Difficult as it is to come to terms with, it seems the end of Zabba’s time in Manchester could well be nigh.
53 Tosin Adarabioyo – 8/10
This was a very impressive and encouraging senior debut from the 18-year-old Mancunian. He displayed confidence and composure which belied his tender years, made some well-read interceptions and decisive clearances when necessary and never once looked out of his depth against star-studded opposition. The suggestion that the young players in the team were all great while the experienced players were rubbish may be a little reductive, but Adarabioyo was undoubtedly City’s best defender in this match. We’d better all get practicing our pronunciation of his surname because we could be hearing quite a bit of it in the future.
26 Martín Demichelis – 3/10
If you didn’t know better you’d honestly have thought Demichelis was one of the untested rookies in the team on Sunday and not a 35-year-old international. His positioning, once his greatest strength, was abysmal, he didn’t even try and stop Chelsea’s first goal and clumsily conceded the free-kick from which Hazard scored his side’s fourth. In fairness, the back four had barely anything by way of protection from the players in front of them and this isn’t the first time this season Demichelis has looked, through little fault of his own, well past his sell-by date but we have every right to be disappointed with his performance in a game in which his experience was needed more than ever.
11 Aleksandar Kolarov – 4/10
Provided his usual level of tireless attacking support but was virtually non-existent at the other end which, for a left-back, simply isn’t good enough. Pedro in particular gave him a torrid afternoon and every time Chelsea went forward there seemed to be an acre of space between Kolarov and Demichelis, usually the result of a poorly coordinated offside trap. I don’t know about anyone else, but the Serbian features very highly on my list of potential summer departees.
6 Fernando – 5/10
Played as a defensive linchpin at the base of midfield and was reasonably good in the first half with some smart interceptions and recycling of possession. More or less disappeared after the break however, aside from assisting Gary Cahill with a pathetic clearance for the third Chelsea goal which effectively killed the game.
75 Aleix García – 7/10
A solid debut from the Catalan youngster in which he confidently imposed himself on the midfield, pressed the ball well and displayed a good range of passes. Regular watchers of the Elite Development Squad have been banging on about this guy for some time now and if Sunday’s evidence is anything to go on, he could have a very bright future indeed.
76 Manu García – 6/10
The 18-year-old who impressed in pre-season and scored his first senior goal in the Capital One Cup in October gave a good account of himself on his full debut, having a hand in his team’s goal and generally looking bright and energetic. If you had to criticise both Manu and Aleix García, you’d probably say they didn’t win the ball back often enough in midfield and perhaps could have done better in possession at times, but they both have a great deal of raw talent which, if nurtured correctly, will only improve with age.
59 Bersant Celina – 5/10
Not really a day to remember for the Kosovan-Norwegian who didn’t get many opportunities to show what he’s capable of before being substituted 53 minutes into his first start for the club. Hopefully he won’t be too disappointed because, as he showed when he came off the bench in the defeat to Leicester City a few weeks ago, he’s clearly got a lot of talent.
72 Kelechi Iheanacho – 7/10
Was one of four 19-year-olds in the squad but already looks as if he’s been playing top-level football for decades. His manager deployed him in the number 10 role and though he didn’t get on the scoresheet himself, he did get an assist and had many nice, intelligent touches throughout the match. That was his 22nd appearance of the season and he’s yet to let us down.
51 David Faupala – 8/10
The French youngster who’s yet to even establish himself in the EDS was without doubt the surprise package of the day. His early effort on goal in which he skinned two Chelsea defenders before forcing a save from Thibaut Courtois was very impressive, as was his role in the build-up to his goal. Leading the line at Stamford Bridge is considered a tough task for even the most established of strikers so for a young lad to do it as well as Faupala did in his first senior appearance and bag a goal in the process is extremely encouraging.
62 Brandon Barker – 6/10
His first three touches after coming on were brilliant but he faded out of the game as the second half wore on. The hype surrounding the young Mancunian threatened to reach fever pitch at times last season but a disappointing loan spell at Rotherham appears to have resulted in him falling down the pecking order somewhat. Hopefully he’ll keep working hard and progressing because a homegrown, City supporting, genuine winger helping the club win trophies in the future would be fantastic to see.
77 Cameron Humphreys – Came on too late to mark
Many expected Humphreys to start this one but despite how good he looked in pre-season, the 17-year-old is perhaps considered a little way behind Adarabioyo in terms of his development at the moment. City have some very promising central defenders coming through, let’s hope they’re managed a little bit better than Jason Denayer has been thus far.
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Written by Dan Burke