Match report as goals from Riyad Mahrez (2), Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden gave Manchester City a 4-0 win over Chelsea in the third round of the FA Cup; pressure mounting on Blues manager Graham Potter after six losses in last nine matches.
City were three up at half-time thanks to Riyad Mahrez’s magnificent free-kick, Julian Alvarez’s penalty and Phil Foden’s tremendous team goal. Mahrez added his second and City’s fourth from the spot late on to further underline the gulf between the two teams.
Pep Guardiola’s team can look forward to a tie at home to Arsenal if the Premier League leaders overcome Oxford United on Monday evening. As for Chelsea, it is the first time this century that the Blues find themselves not among the clubs in the fourth round.
The result adds to the pressure on Potter, who was only appointed in September. Chelsea have now lost six of their last nine matches in all competitions and have not tasted victory away from home since beating Red Bull Salzburg in October.
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Man City: Ortega (7), Walker (9), Akanji (8), Laporte (8), Gomez (7), Rodri (8), Bernardo (8), Palmer (7), Mahrez (9), Alvarez (8), Foden (9).
Subs: Phillips (6), Cancelo (6), Lewis (n/a).
Chelsea: Kepa (6), Chalobah (5), Humphreys (6), Koulibaly (5), Hall (6), Jorginho (6), Kovacic (5), Gallagher (6), Mount (5), Ziyech (6), Havertz (3).
Subs: Zakaria (6), Fofana (6), Azpilicueta (6), Hutchinson (6), Chukwuemeka.
Player of the match: Riyad Mahrez.
How Man City blew Chelsea away
It was Mahrez who scored the only goal of the game when these teams met in the Premier League on Thursday and he broke the deadlock again here. His curling free-kick from the right edge of the box arrowed into the top corner beyond Kepa Arrizabalaga’s dive.
If Chelsea could do little to stop that, the second was self-inflicted. Kai Havertz led with his hand when trying to clear a corner at the near post and the VAR could not miss it. Alvarez, starting for the first time since his World Cup win with Argentina, just about beat Kepa.
Pep Guardiola made seven changes to the Manchester City team from midweek. The four players to retain their places in the starting line-up were captain Kyle Walker, Rodri, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden. Aymeric Laporte made his return from injury.
Graham Potter made six changes to the Chelsea team that were beaten by the same opposition on Thursday evening. Bashir Humphreys was included in the starting line-up for the first time, while new signing Benoit Badiashile was named among the substitutes.
City had dropped points against Brentford and Everton in their last two Premier League games in front of their home supporters but they did not go two up then. With that advantage, the confidence grew and Guardiola’s side really started to purr.
What a goal their third of the first half was. Kyle Walker’s trickery got them moving, Foden and Rodri trading flicks, Mahrez found Walker’s overlapping run and there was Foden from close range to tap in. It was a goal typical of this City side at their absolute best.
Tributes to Vialli
The passing of former Chelsea striker Gianluca Vialli was marked by a minute of applause before kick-off with further chants from the away end in the ninth minute of the game as supporters held up signs in his honour.
Though the pace dropped thereafter, another good move brought the fourth goal when Kalidou Koulibaly clumsily bundled Foden to the ground and the referee had little choice but to point to the spot. Mahrez did the rest, lashing the ball high into the net.
There might even be an argument that City look more fluid with Alvarez making these unselfish runs up front than Erling Haaland, the team’s prolific striker, stood there banging them in himself. Either way, it is the sort of problem that Potter would love to have.
Throughout the second half, sections of the 8,000-strong travelling support chanted the name of his predecessor Thomas Tuchel, having earlier sang the name of the now departed owner Roman Abramovich. All is not well at Chelsea. The Man City machine rolls on.
Player of the match: Riyad Mahrez
Chelsea will be sick of the sight of Mahrez but Guardiola will be grateful for the games against them because they have been critical in reigniting the winger’s season. His goal against them in the Carabao Cup in November now looks to have been a turning point.
The City boss had been critical of Mahrez’s form earlier in the season – and he defended that assessment of the player’s contribution even when praising him after the game.
“He was not the same. I was completely fair. He was not playing at the level he is playing right now. Sometimes I have to let them see the mirror of who they are. It is not about the quality, you have to do more in football.
“But since the World Cup he is playing really well. A fantastic free-kick and he played an outstanding game, playing wider, playing narrow. A good game.”
Guardiola: ‘Incredible hunger’
“We made an incredibly intense game against a top side. Next round of the FA Cup. Happy to still be in there.
“I have a feeling that we have incredible human beings and players. When we have this incredible hunger, we don’t give them time to think about it. They did not have time. When that happens it is because we are alive.
“As a manager, you realise something is dropping when these actions we are not doing. It is easy for me as manager because I can show them the clips and say, ‘This is what you need to be doing.’ This is what we need to do.”
Guardiola’s FA Cup dream
Pep Guardiola’s programme notes:
“The FA Cup is a competition I love. It is recognised by everyone across the world as the most beautiful domestic tournament there is. I always remember watching the FA Cup final as a young boy in Catalonia and feeling the importance of the occasion. It was so special and something that has always stayed with me.
“When we won it in 2019, it was one of my best memories of my time here at City. We want to win it this season and, believe me, we will do everything we can to make our dream a reality.”
Potter: ‘First half was painful’
“I thought we were second best to a very, very good side. Obviously, we are not in a great moment ourselves and even though it was a cagey first 20 minutes we couldn’t attack the backline well enough, we couldn’t attack as well as we would like. I think Manchester City do really well in terms of stopping you doing that. At the same time, we struggled.
“It was a fantastic first goal in terms of a strike from a free-kick, and a strange penalty and you are caught in a position where it is 2-0 and you have to chase the ball against Manchester City. You are caught between trying to commit more men and not getting opened up.
“So the first half was painful and tough for us all. Second half, we had to respond and I thought there were some positives there in terms of the young players. I thought they gave everything and showed their quality but we are disappointed we went out of the competition. Congratulations to Man City. They deserved to win, of course.”