MANCHESTER: Phil Foden scored twice as holders Manchester City cruised into the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 5-0 win over Huddersfield Town on Sunday, with playmaker Kevin De Bruyne making a welcome return after four months out with a hamstring injury.
Fielding a strong side, City suffered a setback when they lost defender Manuel Akanji to injury early in the first half, but Foden’s superb finishing and De Bruyne’s comeback gave coach Pep Guardiola plenty to be happy about.
Huddersfield, who are hovering just above the relegation zone in England’s second-tier Championship, fell behind in the 33rd minute when Foden rifled the ball into the net from a tight angle, and striker Julian Alvarez poked home a second four minutes later.
De Bruyne entered the fray in the 57th minute and City added their third a minute later as Norwegian winger Oscar Bobb tried to pick out the Belgian at the far post, only to see his deflected cross loop into the net to make it 3-0.
Foden added his second with a precise shot from the edge of the area in the 65th minute, and nine minutes later De Bruyne teed up fellow substitute Jeremy Doku to complete the rout.
“We are incredibly delighted to have him back, because Kevin helps to win games. It is so important to have him back after a long injury,” Guardiola told the BBC.
“He will help us with his talent but I don’t want to put all the pressure on Kevin’s shoulders because it is not fair to him […] he had a really good assist for the Jeremy Doku goal,” he added.
Goalscorer Foden gave credit to Huddersfield for making it difficult, but ultimately City’s class told.
“We seem to come against a low block quite often – we know what to expect, we just need to be patient, find the spaces and keep switching and hopefully theyll open up and get tired,” he said.
Elsewhere, City’s Premier League rivals struggled as the lower-tier clubs made their presence felt in the cup competition to force some potentially lucrative replays.
Premier League strugglers Luton Town were held 0-0 by third tier Bolton Wanderers at Kenilworth Road.
In their first top-flight campaign since 1992, Luton’s primary goal is survival and a draining replay was the last thing Hatters boss Rob Edwards needed.
Nottingham Forest were also given a scare by League One opponents as Nuno Espirito Santo’s men recovered from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Blackpool.
Blackpool beat Forest in the third round last year when the Seasiders were in the Championship and almost repeated the trick at the City Ground.
Forest academy graduate Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel netted against his old club with a spectacular diving header in the 25th minute Albie Morgan doubled Blackpool’s lead in the 27th minute, coolly converting C.J. Hamilton’s cross at the far post.
But Nicolas Dominguez finished off Gonzalo Montiel’s cross in the 39th minute and Morgan Gibbs-White equalised from 18 yards in the 56th minute.
West Ham United were held to a 1-1 draw against second tier Bristol City at the London Stadium.
Jarrod Bowen ran onto Lucas Paqueta’s lofted pass and slotted home in the fifth minute.
But influential playmaker Paqueta was forced off with an injury midway through the first half in a major blow.
And Tommy Conway sent 9,000 travelling Bristol fans wild in the 61st minute when he fired the equaliser past Lukasz Fabianski.
Leeds United had no such problems as striker Patrick Bamford netted a brilliant volley in a 3-0 hammering of Peterborough United, and West Bromwich Albion cruised to a 4-1 win at home to Aldershot Town.
On Saturday, Aston Villa went through to the fourth round for the first time in eight years with a 1-0 victory away at Middlesbrough thanks to a last-gasp goal by Matty Cash, while Armando Broja set Chelsea on their way to a 4-0 home win over Championship side Preston North End.
Premier League Bournemouth found themselves 2-0 down at second-tier Queens Park Rangers but hit back to win 3-2 at Loftus Road while there were also wins for top-flight sides Brighton and Hove Albion and Sheffield United.
Villa, who are second in the crowded Premier League title race, and Middlesbrough appeared destined for a replay until Cash broke the deadlock in the 87th minute with a powerful shot from just outside the 18-yard box that deflected in off Emmanuel Latte Lath.
“A goal is a goal, so I am buzzing with it,” the defender told the BBC. “I have worked on it in training outside the box to finish, we have worked on having three around the edge and my instinct was to shoot.”
At Stamford Bridge, inconsistent Chelsea dismissed Preston with three goals in 11 second half minutes.
Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino has urged his players to use the FA Cup as a route into Europe given their dismal form in the Premier League.
Heeding that message, Broja headed home to break Preston’s resistance in the 58th minute before Thiago Silva, just off the bench, powered in a header from a Cole Palmer corner in the 66th.
Raheem Sterling curled in a free kick and five minutes from time Enzo Fernandez turned the ball into an empty net to complete the rout.
“We started so sloppy. I told the players at half-time we needed to increase the energy and match that of Preston. The second half was a completely different game,” Pochettino said.
Two goals in quick succession by Sinclair Armstrong and Lyndon Dykes had Championship strugglers QPR in charge against in-form Bournemouth but the visitors found another gear in the second half with substitute Justin Kluivert firing the winner after Marcus Tavernier and Kieffer Moore had levelled it up.
Inspired by Joao Pedro’s double, Brighton won 4-2 at Championship outfit Stoke City despite falling behind early on.
Sheffield, bottom of the Premier League, cruised to a 4-0 victory at fourth tier Gillingham with William Osula and James McAtee both scoring twice in a 4-0 victory.
Coventry City thrashed Oxford United 6-2 to reach the fourth round for the first time in five years.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2024