Manchester City qualified for the fourth round of the FA Cup by beating Birmingham at the Etihad Stadium. A Bernardo Silva brace after just fifteen minutes and a strike from Phil Foden was enough to see City though to the next round.
The blues made several changes to the team that beat United on Wednesday night, with Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus making their first appearances since testing positive for Covid-19, while Benjamin Mendy, Rodri and Bernardo Silva all came into the side. John Stones, Fernandinho, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ilkay Gundogan took a place on the bench, while Raheem Sterling was rested.
Goalkeer Ederson was also on the bench after his isolation period ended, but the biggest surprise was the omission of striker Sergio Aguero. Manager Pep Guardiola had said earlier in the week that the Argentine hitman would feature against Birmingham, however Aguero came into contact with a person who had Covid, and therefore had to isolate.
It will be another blow for the striker, and for the blues who want their all-time top scorer to be back in the team, and a match against a struggling Championship side would have been ideal, particularly with the way the team played in the first half.
As you would expect, the blues had the majority of possession and penned the visitors in their own half, and it was only a matter of time until they scored, and when they did, it was a real stunner from Silva.
Birmingham failed to clear Joao Cancelo’s cross and the ball fell into the path of Silva, who adjusted himself and hammered a volley into the back of the net, giving the keeper absolutely no chance. If the first was a spectacular individual effort, the second on 15 minutes was a superbly crafted team goal, which Bernardo was on hand to finish.
The blues worked the ball out on the right to Riyad Mahrez and the Algerian spotted the run of de Kevin de Bruyne and found him with a magnificent pass with the outside of his left foot. The Belgian played the ball across goal where Bernardo tapped home for 2-0.
The Belgian was in superb form and was splaying passes that split the Birmingham defence time and again, playing in Foden and Jesus who couldn’t capitalise as City continued to dominate. Guardiola wanted a bit more urgency to the blues game, such is his desire and passion for perfection, but City seemed content to keep passing the ball between them, stretching and probing the visitors waiting for a gap to appear.
The third goal came in the 33rd minute, with Mahrez involved again. The winger charged forward before feeding Foden, and the Stockport Iniesta took a touch and fired into the bottom corner for 3-0.
De Bruyne set Jesus through on goal but again, the Brazlian failed to take the chance on his return to the first team. The visitors had half a chance to pull a goal back, but Zack Steffen was equal to it as the blues went in 3-0 up at half time.
Guardiola rang the changes after the break, replacing de Bruyne, Cancelo and Dias with John Stones, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Felix Nmecha. Birmingham had a better second half with the departure of de Bruyne, but City still went forward looking for the fourth goal. It almost came shortly after the break, when a scramble in the six yard box almost resulted in a Silva hat-trick before the ball was hacked away.
Mahrez did have the ball in the goal, but it was ruled out for offside, and with a midweek home match against Brighton on Wednesday, the blues took their foot off the gas.
Fernandinho replaced Rodri and the visitors brought on Jeremie Bela, who tested Steffen with a long range effort, which the American number one spilt, but collected at the second attempt. Bela had another opportunity towards the end of the match but his rocket shot flew over the bar.
Rory Delap came on with fifteen minutes to go and had a chance with a header, but the youngster got too much on it and the ball went over the bar.
The first half goals proved to be enough for City to progress and go into Monday’s fourth and fifth round draw.
City reached the semi-final last season, losing 2-1 to eventual winners Arsenal after wining the trophy at a canter the season before, and Guardiola will no doubt want to add another cup to his collection.
Final Score: Manchester City 3-0 Birmingham City