Soporific but successful. It may have been one of the most dire and instantly forgettable games of football in a long time, but that’s all secondary to the result and while City’s progression to the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup wasn’t exactly the most pulsating of encounters, the objective was achieved.
This competition is the lowest of our priorities this season and that was reflected, not just in the team selection, but also in the lethargic and insipid display, but two goals secured our place in the next round. Leicester await and while they’re flying high domestically in the Championship, the tie offers a very real chance of advancing to the semi-finals and that’s nothing to be sniffed at.
Up until David Silva’s introduction midway through the second half, last night’s fixture was drained of quality and control. The Spanish magician transformed what had been a painfully boring battle into a slightly more intriguing one, and it was no surprise that he was heavily involved in both goals. Whereas others were rusty and laboured, he was a class or two above, comfortable with the ball, orchestrating attacks and teasing Newcastle’s backline with his touch and vision.
At the back, Dedryck Boyata and Joleon Lescott both produced solid displays, coping well with the home side’s aerial bombardment. Their performances, those of natural defenders with natural defensive instincts, again begs the question as to why Manuel Pellegrini has opted to deploy Javi Garcia at centre-back this season. Boyata may have been forgotten a touch after a couple of poor loan moves, and Lescott may be left-footed and uncomfortable in possession, but they anticipate danger, are physically imposing and the overlooking of them remains confusing.
Behind them was the intimidating frame of Costel Pantilimon and with much attention focused on him, his was a reassuring and authoritative display. We’ll have to wait until Saturday to find out who the manager selects to face Norwich, but the Romanian couldn’t have done much more last night to enhance his claims. He saved well from Papiss Cissé in extra-time when the scores were level, his handling was safe throughout and he was a commanding presence in net. Joe Hart is clearly the better goalkeeper but at the moment, Pantilimon would seem to be the safer bet. It’s a tricky decision for Pellegrini.
As for our oft-criticised away form, last night’s triumph makes it three wins and a (self-inflicted) defeat from the past four matches, all on the road. It may not always be pretty but we’re just about getting the job done. And that’s a promising sign for when we do click.