Outrageous free kick keeps City on track for history
EVEN though Pep Guardiola won't admit it, Manchester City has an increasingly serious chance of completing the quadruple this season.
Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling scored as City advanced to the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win over Championship team Cardiff on Monday morning AEDT.
It was the second time this week that City had beaten a second-tier opponent. The runaway Premier League leader saw off Bristol City in the semifinals of the League Cup to clinch its first final under Guardiola.
With a commanding 12-point lead in the Premier League and a favorable draw in the form of Swiss side Basel in the Champions League round of 16, every victory from here on will increase talk of an unprecedented quadruple for City. When asked if City could achieve the quadruple, Guardiola made his feelings clear.
"No. They asked me if we would be invincible in the Premier League and I said no," Guardiola told the BBC. "I do not have enough players, I have players out injured. It is impossible."
Chelsea will join City in Monday's draw after Michy Batshuayi's double paved the way to a comfortable 3-0 fourth-round victory over Newcastle. De Bruyne's clever free kick gave City an early lead before Sterling doubled the lead shortly before halftime. But City was dealt a blow when Leroy Sane was forced off injured at the break.
Having been put through on goal in first-half stoppage time, Sane was scythed down by Cardiff midfielder Joe Bennett, who was fortunate to receive just a yellow card.
"Referees have to protect the players and not just my players, all players. Where there is fault, there is fault and when it is dangerous, it is dangerous. You are not more brave for kicking," Guardiola said.
"Sane will be out, I am not sure how long for, I am not a doctor."
Bennett was eventually sent off as he received a second yellow card for another poor challenge on City youngster Brahim Diaz in the closing stages.
DE BRUYNE MAGIC
It took just eight minutes for Cardiff to join a growing club of teams made to look foolish by De Bruyne this season.
With City's chief creator standing over a free kick 25 yards (meters) out, Cardiff expected him to attempt to find the top corner. Instead, the Belgium midfielder cheekily rolled his free kick under the jumping wall and into the net.
"They tell us before the game, we know all the details," De Bruyne said. "The wall was not on nine meters for me, so they were very close, so I thought it was easier to put it under than over."
Bernardo Silva had a thunderous strike harshly ruled out with the linesman appearing to adjudge Leroy Sane offside and interfering with Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge's line of vision.
But City soon doubled its lead when Sterling continued his prolific season, converting Silva's cross with a precise headed finish eight minutes before halftime.
After exiting the League Cup midweek at the hands of Arsenal, Chelsea ensured it reached the fifth round of the FA Cup for the 18th time in the last 20 seasons. Marcos Alonso scored a stunning free kick to seal the victory after out-of-favor Batshuayi had given Chelsea a scarcely deserved 2-0 halftime lead against Newcastle.
It was only a second win - inside 90 minutes - in eight games for Chelsea in what has been a testing January. Various reports have suggested the club is looking to recruit a new striker, but it was the sparingly used Batshuayi who delivered on this occasion.
"For sure the performance for the press (media) depends a lot if a striker score or not score," said Conte of his striker, who has scored 10 goals this season and also been linked with a loan move away from Stamford Bridge.
"For me it's important to score because it means that you have a probability to win, but at the same time it's very important that the striker has to work very well for the team."