MANCHESTER // In the season of the underdog in the cup competitions, the shock at the Etihad Stadium was that there was no shock. This was as simple a home win as there can be.
Manchester City avoided the fate of Everton, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur and defeated Leeds United, just as they ensured they did not emulate Newcastle, Liverpool and Arsenal, all eliminated from the FA Cup by lower-division opponents. Instead, their progress to the quarter-finals was as smooth as it was swift.
Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez scored the goals, a sign that City's attacking talents performed. Their defenders were scarcely tested in a comprehensive victory that could have been bigger.
Along the way, City silenced some of their critics, even if only temporarily. The loud choruses of Roberto Mancini's' name illustrated the support he still commands among the City support. The nonsensical suggestions of former City defender Danny Mills that the Italian could be sacked this week can be dismissed. Instead, his aim of securing silverware every season remains possible in a competition where Manchester United, Chelsea and Everton appear the only other potential winners.
"The FA Cup is difficult," Mancini said. "Arsenal showed this yesterday." Not for City, however, who hope it can spark a revival in their title challenge. "I hope it can help us to start to win in the Premier League," Mancini added.
After the collective underachievement at St Mary's, City began with a point to prove. Mancini had argued his players should take responsibility for the setback at Southampton. They took the onus against Leeds. "We started very well," said the Italian. So well that the match was ended as a contest after a quarter of an hour.
Toure's opener was quintessential City, fashioned by slick, quick passing. His first one-two was with David Silva, the second with Tevez, the Argentine supplying a delightful return pass with the outside of his foot. In behind the Leeds defence, Toure kept his composure, skipped past Jamie Ashdown and slotted his shot into the unguarded net.
Victory was soon sealed. Aguero had embarked on a trademark, slaloming solo run when Tom Lees attempted to tug him back. It was a rather half-hearted effort but referee Mark Clattenburg nonetheless pointed to the spot and Aguero took his 12th goal of the season. "I was disappointed with the penalty," said Neil Warnock. "Crikey, I don't think it is a foul anywhere else on the pitch."
Scorer then, Aguero was the supplier of the third, darting infield from the touchline, linking up with Silva and chipping the most inviting of crosses. Tevez was left with the simple task of bundling it over the line, something he accomplished.
Aguero's brace was completed following Silva's defence-splitting pass, the striker scoring with a first-time finish. With son Benjamin the mascot, it was a pleasing occasion in a stop-start season. "I hope Sergio will be like this from now until the end [of the season]," Mancini said. "If our strikers continue to score from now, the championship is not finished.
It was not just the strikers who had the chances. Jack Rodwell hit the bar; Tevez, Toure, Aleksandar Kolarov and Edin Dzeko came close to other goals while at the other end Costel Pantilimon, in for the rested Joe Hart, was scarcely tested.
While the game was over long before the final whistle, a managerial career that began 33 years ago may soon be ending. "If we don't go up, I won't be there," added Warnock, whose side are eight points off the play-offs and who faced chants of "time to go" from the Leeds fans. "I don't think I deserve that," said Warnock, whose contract expires in the summer. He could go before then if owners GFH Capital want a change. "It's their prerogative," said Warnock. "If they think it will help them then I am not against it." Mancini, in contrast, is staying put..
FA Cup quarter-final draw
Oldham Athletic/Everton v Wigan Athletic
Manchester City v Barnsley
Manchester United/Reading v Middlesbrough/Chelsea
Millwall v Blackburn Rovers
Ties to be played on the weekend of March 9 and 10.
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