Fully of intensity, purpose and a collective desire, this was the perfect response to last weekend’s humiliating capitulation. Whilst that was embarrassing, this was entertaining: a return to the fluid football of last season that we’ve rarely seen during this campaign. Clinical in front of goal against a desperately poor visiting Leeds team, a place in the quarter-finals and a home tie with Barnsley awaits.
Thanks to a brace from Sergio Aguero and one apiece from Yaya Touré and Carlos Tévez, we’re through to the next round and just one game away from Wembley. The draw, on paper, is hugely favourable to us and should we show similar levels of intent and quality against Barnsley, it will be a relatively straightforward passage.
The opening twenty minutes yesterday was City at their best. Bristling with pace, there was a superb tempo, a willingness to press high up the pitch, force errors and impose our extra class on proceedings. Perhaps with the pressure of the title race off, there was a sense of freedom about our play, the neat interchanges between the attacking players reminiscent of the enthralling football from the early stages of last year. Led by the irrepressive quartet of Aguero, Yaya, Tévez and David Silva, a couple of early goals set the tone and made life very comfortable. Leeds were poor but we were far more impressive than in recent times and that bodes well for the rest of the season. The Premier League trophy may be out of our hands but it is imperative to show character and finish the campaign strongly. More performances like this and we’ll do just that.
We struggled against Southampton, and have done on numerous occasions this season, when sides have pressed us high, showing energy in midfield and closing us down well, yet Leeds didn’t do that. We’ve also had great difficulty at times when teams have sat deep, putting ten men behind the ball and placing the onus on us to break them down, but the visitors avoided that. Instead, they were open but lacked the players or the mobility to cause us any problems. Leaving huge spaces at the back, it played into the hands of Aguero, his pace down the channels a constant threat, and the supporting cast of Silva, Tévez, Milner and Yaya were more than content to bomb forward.
Finding the clinical touch that has often eluded us, we were simply too good for them. Many Premier League defences would have struggled to contain our livewire strikers but Leeds had no chance and there was the sense that the Blues could score at will, if so desired. It was a routine, fluent and professional display, and one that must be repeated with more regularity now. This could be the win that provides that momentum boost before the run-in, the result that injects confidence into a hitherto below-par season.