Manchester City defeated League One side Burton Albion 1-0 in the EFL Cup semi-final second-leg, securing their place in the final next month.
City won the first-leg 9-0 meaning that their advancement was never in doubt but tonight’s performance was a professional one from Pep Guardiola’s side who defeated their lower league opposition 10-0 across two legs.
Guardiola made a number of changes this evening, allowing a few fringe players an opportunity to showcase their abilities in a cup semi-final.
However, it was three of City’s experienced players who linked up to score City’s opening goal of the match. Kevin De Bruyne played an accurate ball through to Riyad Mahrez, who was patient enough to pick out the club’s all-time top scorer Sergio Aguero.
Aguero struck from close range to put City 1-0 up after 26 minutes, making sure his side would finish with double digits across the two matches.
Burton did well to make the game a little more competitive, certainly in comparison to the first leg, coming close on one or two occasions to getting themselves on the scoresheet.
However, referee Kevin Friend blew the full-time whistle and City were officially in the final, where they will face either Tottenham Hotspur or fellow London and Premier League side Chelsea.
Here are some of the Manchester City fringe players who impressed and some who didn’t in the club’s 1-0 victory over Burton Albion this evening.
Impressed – Phil Foden
The youngster seems to be one of Guardiola’s pet projects at the Etihad, with the former Barcelona coach regularly championing Foden’s abilities.
Last month, Guardiola – referencing Foden’s potential at City – was quoted as saying: “He’s special, he has had minutes and, in the future will have a lot of them.”
This evening Foden looked lively and always seemed to make himself available for a pass with his constant movement making him almost impossible to keep track of unless specifically man-marked.
Foden made a run that allowed him the opportunity to cross the ball across the penalty area to Aguero, who really should have scored from close-range to give Foden an assist for the evening.
All in all, a truly professional performance from Foden, whose stock has considerably risen across the past 12 months.
Unimpressed – Oleksandr Zinchenko
The 22-year-old has had a decent taste of first-team action this season, appearing in Premier League, EFL Cup and Champions League fixtures.
Slotting in at left-back, City’s defence was rarely put under any real pressure with most of the action taking place in the middle of the park or further afield.
However, the majority of times the young Ukrainian was tested, he looked extremely nervous and rash on the ball, often gifting the ball to the opposition and finding himself having to recover from a mistake.
Although he didn’t do anything too terrible to note, his performance was quite simply not good enough when you consider his experience and the opposition he came up against this evening.
23y 323d – The average age of @ManCity‘s starting XI tonight is 23 years and 323 days, their youngest in any competition since 29th October 2008 against Middlesbrough in the Premier League (23y 318d). Opportunity. #CarabaoCup pic.twitter.com/4nEHUWdRBP
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 23, 2019
Impressed – Philippe Sandler
The young Dutchman had only made one appearance for the Manchester City first-team, in their 7-0 victory over Rotherham in the FA Cup.
Just 23 minutes of action for the 21-year-old before tonight, Guardiola handed the young defender an opportunity to impress against Burton this evening.
Sandler genuinely looked comfortable in City’s ranks. When Burton put pressure on the City backline, Sandler had the patience and calmness to ensure he didn’t just clear the ball into touch, an attribute that would have impressed his manager.
There were a number of times Burton managed to get the ball in the box but it seemed Sandler was always there to get in the way.
This evening has done no damage to Sandler’s chances of emerging into the first team squad.
Unimpressed – Fabian Delph
Perhaps a little harsh to consider Delph a fringe player at Manchester City but he has found himself out of the side since his sending off in City’s defeat away to Leicester City last month.
Prior to tonight’s fixture, Delph hadn’t played 90 minutes of football since December 15th due to suspension and Guardiola opting for other choices.
The England international was pushed further forward compared to his now more established defensive role in the City ranks but failed to provide any cutting edge moments as Guardiola’s side went hunting for goals.
Like Zinchenko, Delph seemed to be a little off the pace and at one moment he lost the ball easily in his own half, before hacking down the on-rushing Burton attacker with the desperation of a man who hasn’t the experience of the former Aston Villa man.
He missed a great opportunity in the second half to grab City’s second goal of the match in what was an average night for Delph.
Impressed – Eric Garcia
City’s number 50 was making just his third appearance for the club after playing the full 90 minutes against Burton in the reverse fixture.
In two games, Garcia’s presence has ensured that his side went 180 minutes without conceding, which is an achievement no matter who your opposition is.
But Burton didn’t just sit and wait to be officially out of the competition. Nigel Clough’s side pushed forward in the second half, trying to get themselves at least on the scoresheet before the semi-final was through.
But Garcia’s partnership at the back with Sandler was key to City’s defensive organisation, with the young Spaniard knowing his positioning on the pitch, providing his teammates with someone to pass to at the back and ensuring that any Burton forwards knew they were in for a game.
A great defensive clearance off the line personified Garcia’s effectiveness this evening and highlighted his importance to the City cause.