Manchester City came into their Carabao Cup tie against Leicester needing to rotate players. They’ve had plenty of injuries and are in the middle of the vital Christmas stretch. Therefore, a much-changed City visited the King Power stadium on Tuesday night and thanks to some standout performances from young players they went away penalty shootout winners.
Manchester City dispatch Leicester on Penalties
Despite all the rotation, this was still a very strong Manchester City side. Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero returned from injury and Riyad Mahrez made his return to the King Power. The biggest surprise was 17 year old Eric Garcia in at center back with John Stones sitting in the holding midfield role directly in front of him.
The first half starring role goes to Kevin De Bruyne. He played a lovely bit of skill just outside the Leicester box before rifling a shot just inside the near post. It had so much pace that goalkeeper, Danny Ward, really had no chance to save it. But other than that shot it was a pretty quiet first half from City who controlled possession and moved Leicester around.
The second half was much more of the same. City continued to control the possession as they always do, but were unable to string the final pass together in almost any of their attacking moves. Brahim Diaz, one of the young players starting, showed his immaturity through his decision making, having a few chances to put the strikers through on goal, the youngster opted to shoot instead.
Eventually City were pegged back by Leicester. Marc Albrighton came off the bench and smashed a volley in after Oleksandr Zinchenko lost concentration on a ball player over the backline. It was a game devoid of real scoring chances outside of the two that were taken. But the 1-1 score meant that at full-time, penalties would be used to separate the two sides.
In a game brimming with footballing talent, the penaly shootout was underwhelming. Four out of the eight penalties were missed and it seems like nerves got the best of many of the players. Christian Fuchs hit one that might’ve gone out of the stadium, and Raheem Sterling’s attempted panenka inexplicably went over the bar. But in the end it was Manchester City backup goalkeeper, Arijanet Muric, that helped City advance to the next round.
Although the penalties saved by Muric were subpar, he deserves credit for guessing the right way both times. Muric also played quite well with his feet in this game, showing that City have a capable backup for Ederson.
The Standout Performers
Besides the great job by Arijanet Muric there were a couple City stars that stood out from this game. The play of young Eric Garcia in central defense was exceptional. The Spanish youth international is a product of La Masia and his calmness and control on the ball was admirable. He was strong defensively as well, making a few vital interventions throughout the game.
It was good to see Kevin De Bruyne back controlling the strings offensively for City. The Belgian played a strong 70 minutes on his way back to full fitness and scored the opening goal too. He linked up nicely with Phil Foden in the middle of the park. The 18-year-old played the full 90 for City and looked very much in control. He’s very skilled at moving the play quickly, keeping the defense on the back foot, and reacting instead of waiting.
Foden and Garcia really look like great talents and it would be easy to expect their roles to increase as the season goes on. With all the games that City will have over these next few months, those two will have a large part to play. Garcia’s case is interesting as it was initially thought he would play in midfield during this game, however, his display in the backline gives manager, Pep Guardiola, an alternative.
There isn’t a natural replacement for Fernandinho in this squad. Ilkay Gundogan, John Stones, Zinchenko, Fabian Delph and Garcia can all play there; but only Garcia is a natural midfielder. It seems like Guardiola played Stones in there because of his experience and control he brought to the game.
But after his play in this game, Garcia displayed the control and calm it takes to play in that position. His play will be something to watch as Pep always prefers youth team squad players over low money investments.
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