At half-time of today's FA Cup fourth round tie at home to Watford, Manchester City were staring at being on the wrong end of one of the biggest shocks (certainly in terms of the pre-match betting lines) for many a year.
2-0 down at home to Championship side Watford was unthinkable ahead of the game such was City's recent form and domination of sides at The Etihad Stadium. The fact that they were two goals in deficit was in part both to the attacking quality of Watford and a forty-five minute display from City that was flat and disjointed, particularly so in defence.
It was no surprise therefore that changes were made but the changes seen at the break certainly raised eyebrows. Needing a minimum of two goals to remain alive in the tie Manuel Pellegrini withdrew Micah Richards and Jack Rodwell in favour of Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany.
And how the change worked.
Post-game Pellegrini may have announced that he would have changed all eleven players if he could but the two changes he did make helped turn the tide and see City run out 4-2 winners.
Pellegrini opted to leave his attacking options on the bench, instead bringing on two defenders but the move was a completely sound one. Pellegrini was concerned to such an extent at how his defence (which featured plenty of changes) was struggling to cope with Watford that he needed to introduce Kompany and withdraw Jack Rodwell and preferring to put Martin Demichelis in midfield to solidify his side:
Pellegrini hinted throwing strikers on wasn't the answer because City couldn't start attacking until they sorted themselves out at the back.— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonMEN) January 25, 2014
Once done, this allowed City to retain and ultimately dominate possession, with Zabaleta combining with Jesus Navas to provide a greater attacking threat than Micah Richards offered. To bolster the attacking options, on then came Stevan Jovetic for Marcos Lopes. The changes ultimately paid off with a brace from Sergio Aguero rescuing City and seemingly setting up a replay at Vicarage Road before before Aleksandar Kolarov's late strike sent City to the fifth round with Aguero then completing his hat-trick in injury time.
Cruel luck for Watford who certainly deserved more from the game but on a rare day when City found themselves under pressure, they - and Pellegrini - showed an important ability to change approach and dig themselves out of a whole when needed.