Hopeful Mancini eyes cup reprieve
Man City 4 Leeds 0
The FA Cup, the competition which began Manchester City supporters’ love affair with Roberto Mancini, appears to remain the best hope of the Italian manager holding onto his job beyond the end of the season after his side reached the quarter-finals with the bare minimum of effort.
By Ian Whittell
City, led by two goals from Sergio Aguero, brushed mid-table opposition aside with contemptuous ease, carrying them to within three victories of regaining the trophy they won under Mancini in 2011.
That triumph ended City’s 35-year wait for silverware and, with the league title looking beyond the defending champions’ grasp this season, capturing the world’s most famous domestic club trophy in 2013 could be the difference between Mancini holding onto his job or not.
However, for the time being, Mancini is hoping the team’s cup form can inspire some minor footballing miracle in their quest to retain the league title.
“In Italy, you say a game like this is like brodino soup, a starter,” said Mancini. “I hope it can help us to start to win in the Premier League.
“We need our strikers to continue to score like today. If our strikers continue to score, or start to score, I think we can have other chances in the Premier League.
“But I am happy because it was important to win after losing to Southampton. If you score two goals in the first 20 minutes it’s easier but you know the FA Cup is a difficult competition and Arsenal yesterday, Everton, other teams who play in the Premier League, are out of this competition. If you don’t play with concentration it’s difficult. Every game in the FA Cup is difficult if you don’t have a good approach.”
A strong start, and a controversial decision by referee Mark Clattenburg, simply buried Leeds. After only five minutes, Yaya Toure exchanged the ball with both David Silva and Carlos Tevez in a flurry of passes before advancing into the area and comfortably beating Ashdown and an attempt by Lee Peltier to clear off his line.
It was the start of a half of almost unrelenting City dominance. After 14 minutes, Lees was harshly judged to have pulled back Aguero on one of his trademark snaking runs into the area. The Argentinian international took the spot kick himself, calmly converting past Ashdown.
“That second goal was the most important,” said Leeds manager Neil Warnock. “I know Mark sees it differently but he wouldn’t give that as a free-kick anywhere else on the pitch. It was never a penalty in a million years but big teams tend to get those decisions. He [Aguero] gave the ref a decision to make and he fell for the three-card trick.”
Aside from an El Hadji Diouf header which cleared the bar and a late first half free-kick from Ross McCormack which goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon punched away, the first half was reduced to a City procession towards the Leeds goal although it took until the 51st minute for City to claim a deserved third.
Aguero played a one-two with Silva before continuing a sprint towards the left-hand by-line from where his cross was met on the goal line by Tevez who forced the ball into the open net.
Substitute Jack Rodwell headed against the cross-bar with an open goal at his mercy before the afternoon turned even uglier for the mid-table Championship side after 73 minutes. Silva’s well-timed pass picked out Aguero’s beyond the Leeds defence and the Argentinian produced a confident finish past the advancing Ashdown.
For Warnock, a disappointing afternoon was compounded by Leeds supporters chanting for his dismissal. The veteran manager has long since talked of leaving in the summer, when his current contract expires, if he fails to mastermind the club’s promotion but Warnock admitted last night that he would step down sooner were the club’s new owners GFH Capital to request it.
“I have spoken to them and if they think it will help them, I’m not against it,” said Warnock. “Whatever it is best for Leeds United, really. I am bit long in the tooth for all that.”
MAN CITY (4-4-2): Pantilimon 6; Zabaleta 7, K Toure 6, Nastasic 6, Kolarov 6; Milner 7, Garcia 7 (Rodwell 60, 6), Y Toure 9, Silva 7; Tevez 7 (Maicon 63, 6), Aguero 8 (Dzeko 80).
Subs (not used): Hart, Lescott, Clichy, Nasri.
LEEDS (4-4-2): Ashdown 8; Byram 5, Lees 6, Peltier 7, Warnock 4; White 5, Austin 5 (Tonge 76, 5), Brown 6 (Norris 46, 6), Varney 6; McCormack 5 (Morison 46, 6), Diouf 6.
Subs (not used): Kenny, Pearce, Habibou, Hall.
Referee: M Clattenburg 5.
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