Ci­ti­zens pip Boro to land FA Cup semis berth

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Manch­ester City strolled into the semi­fi­nal stage of the FA Cup after a com­fort­able 2-0 vic­tory over Pre­mier League ri­vals Mid­dles­brough at the River­side Sta­dium in Mid­dles­brough yes­ter­day.

The first quar­ter­fi­nal of the week­end be­tween Ai­tor Karanka’s strug­gling side and Pep Guardi­ola’s at­tack­ing out­fit was al­ways likely to pro­duce an in­ter­est­ing en­counter, with the free-scor­ing Ci­ti­zens up against a Boro side who sim­ply can’t buy a goal at the mo­ment.

And if they were hop­ing to rely on their usu­ally solid de­fen­sive struc­ture, the Teesiders found them­selves up against it after be­ing breached within three min­utes.

In­flu­en­tial play­maker David Silva slot­ted home past Brad Guzan, but it could have been any one of three City play­ers lin­ing up for the tap-in.

It was a calami­tous mo­ment from the home side’s back four as Pablo Za­baleta was al­lowed too much space on the flank. His volleyed cross into the area evaded Ra­heem Ster­ling and fell into the path of the diminu­tive Spa­niard, who fired home from five me­tres.

Guardi­ola’s side went on to dom­i­nate pos­ses­sion in their usual fash­ion, with Yaya Touré set­ting the tempo in front, while Ser­gio Agüero was sup­ported by Ster­ling, Silva, Leroy Sané and Kevin De Bruyne.

Mid­way through the half, Sané showed why he has been re­ceiv­ing wide­spread ac­claim for his re­cent dis­plays by skin­ning his marker, An­to­nio Bar­ragán, for pace – but, in two minds about whether to square for Agüero or go for glory, the Ger­many in­ter­na­tional fluffed his chance.

That in­de­ci­sion nearly back­fired when Rudy Gest­ede, who earned a rare start ahead of Ál­varo Ne­gredo, nearly prof­ited from er­ror-prone goal­keeper Clau­dio Bravo as he flapped at a rou­tine cor­ner de­liv­ery. How­ever, Za­baleta was at hand to spare the Chilean’s blushes with a goal line clear­ance.

That proved to be the last ac­tion for the tow­er­ing striker as a lower-back in­jury cur­tailed his af­ter­noon pre­ma­turely and on stepped Ne­gredo.

Karanka’s side lived dan­ger­ously un­til the break, with Silva, Ster­ling and Touré all guilty of fail­ing to con­vert their half-chances and dou­ble their ad­van­tage.

In the sec­ond 45 min­utes, it was more of the same, and, 20 min­utes in, Guardi­ola would have been won­der­ing how the score­line was still 1-0.

Ster­ling and Agüero com­bined well for the umpteenth time, only to see Guzan get a slight touch to de­flect Agüero’s flick onto the post and out of play.

Nev­er­the­less, the per­sis­tent Ar­gen­tine wasn’t to be de­nied as he opened his ac­count for the af­ter­noon and made the game safe for a semi­fi­nal pro­gres­sion when Sane’s pin­point de­liv­ery into the area was steered home for Agüero’s 24th goal of the sea­son.

The home side had rarely threat­ened or made City un­com­fort­able as Guardi­ola, who had re­cently claimed that fail­ing to se­cure some sil­ver­ware this sea­son would be a “dis­as­ter”, taught his com­pa­triot Karanka a foot­balling les­son.

With the high ex­pec­ta­tions at the Eti­had, their hard- to-please Qatari own­ers will no doubt be sat­is­fied as City marched into their first semi­fi­nal in four sea­sons.


PER­SIS­TENT Ser­gio Agüero of Manch­ester City scored his 24th goal of the sea­son to help his side reach the semis of the FA Cup

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