Tomorrow, Manchester City start their defence the trophy they won convincingly against Arsenal at Wembley, but first they have to navigate past a tricky tie at League One Oxford. The blues are hot favourites to progress against their lower league opponents, but history has shown City to be sometimes susceptible to defeat at such stadiums. Let’s take a look at some infamous first hurdle difficulties.
1996 – Lincoln
City had been relegated from the Premier League, while Lincoln were a Division Three outfit when the two were drawn together in the League Cup. The first leg was at Sincil Bank and it’s a trip the blues would want to forget. Uwe Rosler scored in the first minute, but that was as good as it got for the blues. By half-time, Lincoln were 2-1 up and two further goals gave the home side a 4-1 win. In the return leg, the blues looked to overturn the three goal deficit, but instead lost 1-0 thanks to a 17th minute goal, and exited the competition at the first hurdle.
1997 - Blackpool
A year after that embarrassing defeat, the blues faced Blackpool, who were again from the third division. The first leg was at Bloomfield Road, where City fell to 73rd minute goal to lose 1-0. A one goal deficit should have been easy enough to overturn against their lower league opposition, but had to wait unto the 88th minute when Kevin Horlock made it 1-1 on aggregate. Extra time and penalties followed and City suffered the agony of a shoot-out defeat as the Seasiders progressed.
2002 – Crewe
In 2002, Crewe Alex arrived at Maine Road, looking to add to City’s woeful start in the Premier League. Rodney Jack scored in the first minute and the visitors held the lead until twenty minutes from time, when Eyal Berkovic levelled. A Richard Walker own goal gave the blues the lead in the 84th minute, only for Rob Hulse to level two minutes later. A Crewe looked to send the tie to extra time, Darren Huckerby scored with three minutes left to spare City’s blushes.
2005 – Doncaster
The blues visited Doncaster in what should have been a routine win for City, but the hoem side held out until extra time. The blues won a penalty in the 95th minute, which Darius Vassell tucked away to give City the lead. But City being City just couldn’t hold it and conceded a penalty with two minutes of extra time remaining. Michael McIndoe scored to send the match to penalties, and once more City failed, losing 3-0.
2006 – Chesterfield
The blues faced lower league opposition again the following year, this time at Chesterfield. City were eager to avoid a repeat of last season’s loss at Doncaster and were on course to banish that memory when Georgios Samaras scored five minutes before half time. But Chesterfield had other ideas and levelled six minutes after the break, before taking the lead on 67 minutes. It was a lead they wouldn’t surrender and again , the blues fell to lower league opposition.
2007 – Bristol City
City visited Bristol to try again and reach the next round at the expense of lower league opposition. Emile Mpenza gave the blues a 17th minute lead, but conceded an equaliser in the 69th minute. City fans would have been forgiven for thinking the worst, but this time, Rolando Bianchi scored the winner with nine minutes remaining.
2008 – Brighton
Another away game, another lower league opposition, but City showed they could do it the previous season. After a goalless first half, Gelson Fernandes put City in front on 64 minutes, and they looked like progressing until Brighton levelled with one minute of normal time remaining. In extra time, the home side took the lead, but Stephen Ireland levelled for the blues. 2-2 it finished and penalties ensued, which Brighton won 5-3 to send City packing.
On paper, the blues should beat Oxford on Tuesday, but with results that have happened in the past, they will need to be on top form again if they are to avoid a huge shock.