The Carabao Cup is safely back at the Etihad and who’s to say the FA Cup won’t be sat alongside it again by the time Manchester City are finished in May?
The Premier League title may be slipping from their grasp, but City’s grip on the domestic cup competitions is proving a little harder to break.
Three days after beating Aston Villa at Wembley, the FA Cup holders set up a trip to Newcastle in the quarter-finals with a thoroughly deserved win at Hillsborough on Wednesday night.
Sergio Aguero stepped up to be counted as his goal ensured Manchester City reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup
The Argentine manufactured some space early in the second half and he fired low towards the Sheffield Wednesday goal
His strike was parried into the air by the goalkeeper but luck was on City’s side as the ball looped into the back of the net
City’s players knew the importance of the first goal given how tight the game was and they celebrated with their own fans
It wasn’t vintage City. Having scored 14 goals in their last three games in this competition, they had to make do with just the one here.
The winner came off the left boot of Sergio Aguero, his 254th for the club. It represents another milestone in the Argentine’s remarkable career in England as he became the highest scorer in history for the two Manchester clubs, eclipsing Wayne Rooney’s record of 253 for United.
City had already hit the bar through Nicolas Otamendi and Benjamin Mendy when Aguero found a way past Sheffield Wednesday’s third-choice goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith in the 53rd minute.
He took one touch to control Mendy’s pass into the box and then took aim, firing a shot through the lunging Dominic Iorfa. Wildsmith got a hand to the ball but it wasn’t a strong one, and the momentum on Aguero’s shot was enough to take it in.
Was City’s No.10 marginally offside? There was no VAR so no need to worry.
Pep Guardiola (right) was the more animated of the managers in the technical areas as his side toiled away at Hillsborough
Wednesday looked to go direct and challenge City’s defenders having seen them falter at times during the 2019-20 season
David Silva was once again impressive in the centre of midfield for City as he looked to try and dictate the tempo of the game
It was a pity for Wildsmith who produced a series of impressive saves to stop City winning by a much wider margin, but the 24-year-old Sheffield-born keeper could be forgiven for a little ring rust. After all, this was his first appearance of the season having last played in August 2018.
If manager Garry Monk was looking to make a statement with his team selection, it wasn’t a particularly positive one. After a run of just one win in eight Championship games since beating QPR in the fourth round of the FA Cup, Monk’s priorities seemed clear enough.
So too were his tactics, looking to sit back and absorb City’s pressure. Who could blame him?
It meant that Pep Guardiola’s side had 80 per cent of possession and 20 shots to Wednesday’s one. Even that was off target as Claudio Bravo remained largely untested.
It’s two years since City lost in this competition at the same stage against Wigan Athletic of League One and a repeat was never really on the cards, even when Wednesday opened up in search of an equaliser towards the end.
Their Premier League opponents should have been comfortably ahead by then. Otamendi hit the woodwork in the 32nd minute, rising ahead of Julian Borner to meet a free kick from Riyad Mahrez and rattle the bar with Wildsmith rooted to the spot.
Wednesday midfielder Jacob Murphy found himself in space for a header but he could only send his effort high over the bar
Joao Cancelo got a rare start and he was put under pressure and hurried into a clearance by an onrushing Wednesday player
Mendy followed suit early in the second half when Aguero and David Silva worked the ball out to the left for the Frenchman to let fly with a 20-yard shot that Wildsmith touched against the bar.
In the first half, Aguero and Gabriel Jesus both failed to make contact with the ball in front of goal with only the keeper to beat. Mahrez blazed over from Liam Palmer’s fluffed clearance and then supplied the cross for John Stones to somehow direct a downward header into the turf and over the bar moments before half-time.
City were notably slicker after the break and it produced a breakthrough eight minutes after the restart.
It was particularly unfortunate for Wildsmith who had just produced a fine save to keep out Bernardo Silva’s low effort. He made amends with an excellent double save from Stones and Aguero shortly afterwards, and another one at point-blank range from substitute Raheem Sterling at the death.
Wednesday failed to make the most of what few opportunities they had but sensed an unlikely equaliser. It so nearly came when Steven Fletcher stretched to meet Alex Hunt’s low cross 80th minute and was inches away from turning it in at the far post.
City survived and go through to the quarters again. They will not relinquish their hold on this trophy easily.
The Championship side were not disgraced and they sensed they had an opportunity against the Premier League champions
Gabriel Jesus passed up a close-range opportunity to get himself a goal but City managed to hold on for the 1-0 victory