Phil Foden was the star of the show as Manchester City cruised into the fourth round of the League Cup at the expense of Oxford United. Goals from Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez and Foden secured the blues passage at a potentially tricky third round match at the League One strugglers.
The blues played their first match in the competition since winning the trophy against Arsenal in February, and showed signs that they are not prepared to relinquish their hold on the trophy. Manager Pep Guardiola made ten changes to the side that won 5-0 at Cardiff on Saturday, but it was still a very strong starting eleven, which would have been to the delight of the home fans.
In the past, top Premier League sides would have fielded youngsters in fixtures like this, but Guardiola sees this competition as an opportunity to field some youngsters such as Muric, Diaz and Foden alongside some of the more established names as Silva, Kompany and Mahrez. And in the case of Foden, it was a successful experiment as the young City fan from Stockport had a hand in all three goals.
But it took the blues until the 36th minute to grab the opening goal and it was Foden who started the move. His brilliant 40 yard pass picked out Diaz, and the youngster’s shot was deflected to Gabriel Jesus to nod home the easiest of chances to give City the lead. The Brazilian had already had one goal disallowed for offside, but there was no reprieve for Oxford this time. The home side had rallied before the goal, but rarely threatened debutant Muric’s goal, and their shoulders visibly dropped after the opener.
The home side picked up a little in the second half, and there was always some belief that they could muster an equaliser with the blues holding such a slender lead. But the threat was snuffed out completely with twelve minutes remaining and it was that man Foden who was again the architect. An Oxford attack broke down and City began a lightning counter. Picking the ball up in midfield, Foden raced into the Oxford half, before delivering a delicious left footed ball straight to the feet of Mahrez, who hammered home to make the game safe for the blues.
And Foden himself could have scored when his shot stung the palms of Jonathan Mitchell in the Oxford goal. But the lifelong blue was not to be denied, and his last minute, left foot drive nestled into the back of the Oxford goal to open his blues account and secure the win.