Pellegrini’s merciless holistic army made it 18 games unbeaten tonight with an easy win over West Ham in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi final.
City were never in any danger of losing their 6-0 lead, but Pellegrini named a fairly strong side with Aguero and Negredo up front, while West Ham were close to full strength from what they had available.
City’s team did have an element of youth about it with 18-year-old Marcos Lopes starting and Boyata returning at right-back. Both had fine games, but it was the performance of Lopes that really stood out tonight.
Lopes was a menace to West Ham’s experienced defence (average age: 30), especially in the first half, his pace and low centre of gravity causing them problems.
Just 3 minutes had passed when a perfect Lopes cross found the unmarked Negredo who added yet another goal to his collection with a header.
20 minutes later and Lopes went on a mazy run, taking several West Ham defenders out of the game before giving the ball to Aguero, who skillfully scored his 22nd goal of the season.
City were finding it all too easy but what was impressive was that they were still working hard, Lopes for example tracking back and completing 5 successful tackles, an amazing feat for an attacking midfielder.
What also stood out about Lopes’ performance was his maturity. Rather than playing like the usual kid who looks overawed and meek, “Rony” was fully involved in the team and his team-mates looked like they trusted him, often giving him the ball.
Many youth players don’t grasp the chance when they’re given it, but Lopes did. Pellegrini said after the game that Lopes has a “great future” and this performance may give the manager reason to use him more often.
The second half was little different to the first. West Ham huffed and puffed, having a couple of penalty shouts that would have been soft if given, but were outclassed by the well oiled City machine.
The race between Kun and Negredo for top scorer continued as Negredo used his incredible strength to shrug off West Ham defenders and score from a tight angle.
This was Negredo’s 23rd goal of the season, again making him the club’s top scorer. What an amazing signing he has been at £16.4m!
Besides another fine performance and win, the big news was the long awaited return of Stevan Jovetic, who replaced Aguero for 25 minutes. He showed a few nice touches and flicks, but the most important thing was that he got through the game unscathed.
Jack Rodwell also returned from another injury and was good after coming on for Garcia, completing 100% of his passes and using the ball well.
City could have had more and threatened to make it a 10-0 aggregate score, but Chris Foy took pity on the Hammers, adding just 1 minute of stoppage time when there probably should have been about 4 minutes.
So it’s back to Wembley, a stadium we’ve become very familiar with in recent years after forgetting what the place looked like! The only question remaining is, United or Sunderland? We’ll find out tomorrow.
West Ham: Jaaskelainan, Taylor, Johnson, Tomkins, Rat, Diarra, Diame, Nolan, Morrison, J. Cole (Downing 47), Carroll (C. Cole 46)
Subs not used: Adrian, Chambers, Jarvis, Collison, Noble
Manchester City: Pantilimon, Boyata, Lescott, Nastasic, Clichy, Navas (Kolarov 78), Garcia (Rodwell 63), Fernandinho, Lopes, Negredo, Aguero (Jovetic 65)
Subs not used: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Dzeko
Goals: Negredo 3 + 59, Aguero 24
TKA Man of the Match: Marcos Lopes
Stats courtesy of WhoScored: