City’s FA Cup dream is over for this season after a 5-1 defeat at Chelsea.
True to his word, Manuel Pellegrini brought in several youngsters and rested some of his more established stars and he will have been pleased by what he saw, despite the loss.
And a team that started with six teenagers – and brought two more on from the bench – held Chelsea until the break with David Faupala capping his first start with an equaliser within two minutes of City falling behind.
Manu Garcia, Aleix Garcia, Tosin Adarabioyo, Bersant Celina and Faupala all made their full senior debuts while Chelsea, without a Champions League fixture next week, fielded a full strength side
It’s fair to say most people had written off City’s chances before the game even began, but the opening few minutes suggested this was not perhaps going to be quite as one-sided as many perhaps thought.
Indeed, Faupala drew the first real save of the game just five minutes in as he turned the Ivanovic and Cahill inside out before firing a powerful drive that Courtois did well to beat out.
City held firm in the opening stages but were lucky to escape when Pedro burst on to a Fabregas pass before poking the ball past Willy Caballero and onto the post.
The hosts dominated the majority of the half and continually got in behind the Blues’ defence and on 35 minutes, they finally broke the deadlock.
Fabregas played the ball to Hazard who raced into the box and lobbed the ball back into the centre where Costa was waiting to nod the ball home.
City’s response was instant and within 94 seconds, the scores were level as Kelechi Iheanacho drew Courtois off his line before slipping the ball across the face of goal and Faupala read Azpilicueta’s mind and forced the ball home.
It was the perfect riposte, but minutes later Fabregas and Pedro came close to restoring Chelsea’s lead – a reminder that there was still plenty of hard work ahead for Pellegrini’s young troops.
Sadly, two quick-fire goals for Chelsea after the break effectively ended the contest as first Willian and then Cahill scored to make an already difficult task all-but impossible.
With only 53 minutes played, keeping the score respectable became the Blues’ main focus, but a fairly simple free-kick from Hazard on 67 minutes put an end to any lingering hopes of an unlikely comeback.
A questionable penalty was awarded on 75 minutes for Chelsea after Martin Demichelis was adjudged to have fouled Traore in the box but Caballero saved Oscar’s spot-kick with the best save of the match.
Iheanacho, Aleks Kolarov and Manu Garcia all went close in the latter stages before Traore nodded home a fifth a minute from time
Brandon Barker and Cameron Humphreys came on for late cameos and while the score-line suggests a comfortable afternoon for the current Premier League champions, there was much to admire about the application of this very young City side, with all of the debutantes coming out of this difficult fixture with plenty of credit.
The Blues will now turn their thoughts to a huge week ahead with the Champions League Round of 16 on Wednesday and the Capital One Cup final next Sunday.