Manchester City ease by second-string Hull outfit

Steve Bruce’s team hit for four as they make Championship promotion the priority

Kelechi Iheanacho celebrates scoring the second goal for Manchester City. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Kelechi Iheanacho celebrates scoring the second goal for Manchester City. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

 

Manchester City 4 Hull City 1

This was the first time Hull City had appeared in the quarter-finals of this competition and it was strange, perhaps, that the team who had knocked out Leicester City in the last round, backed by more than 5,000 fans, chose to make seven changes and field what was largely a reserve side. Steve Bruce was clearly making Hull’s promotion campaign a priority and, specifically, Saturday’s game at Leeds United, but it was a shame in some ways the fourth-placed team in the Championship were not more emboldened to go for a place in the semi-finals.

It was a relatively stress-free evening for Manchester City even if it took a long time before they turned their early lead, courtesy of Wilfried Bony’s fifth goal in his last eight starts, into a much more resounding scoreline, with three late strikes in the space of seven minutes before a stoppage-time consolation for Hull’s Andrew Robertson. Kevin De Bruyne scored two of them after the substitute Kelechi Iheanacho had made it 2-0 as Hull collapsed defensively, in keeping with their record of having not recorded an away win against these opponents since 1930.

This time, at least they fared a little better than their now infamous visit here on Boxing Day 2008, when they were 4-0 down at half-time and Phil Brown dispensed with convention by giving his players a half-time lecture on the pitch. Yet it took City only 12 minutes to take the lead, after De Bruyne’s shot had come back off the upright and fallen kindly for Bony, and the buildup to the goal was a reminder of the accident-prone nature that led to Hull’s relegation in May.

Hull had the ball inside their own half when Chuba Akpom and Ryan Taylor confused one another and each left it to the other man. Akpom sprinted one way while Taylor headed another direction, leaving Fernandinho to collect the loose ball and turn it into De Bruyne’s path. His shot was struck with his left foot, low and hard, and came back off Eldin Jakupovic’s post as the goalkeeper dived to his left. The ball came back to Bony at speed but from that position all he needed to do was control his shot and make sure he did not rush the chance. He made it look simple, turning the ball into an open net.

By half-time it was slightly surprising Manuel Pellegrini’s side, with David Silva making his first start in almost two months, had not built on that goal. The manager had also made a number of changes and finally seems to have learned that Yaya Touré, at the age of 32, deserves the occasional night off. Sergio Agüero was also left out, resting a sore foot for Saturday’s game at Stoke, and perhaps scoring so early gave the home side the sense the tie could be won without playing at full pelt.

Despite their obvious superiority, City struggled to create another clear opportunity and towards the end of the first half there were the first signs from Hull they may cause a few problems of their own.

Bruce could point out he made 10 changes in the previous round when Hull eliminated Leicester on penalties and, overall, he was entitled to think they acquitted themselves reasonably well for an hour. What they needed, however, was greater impetus in front of goal, and perhaps a touch more ambition to examine Willy Caballero’s sometimes fragile goalkeeping. Their supporters had the most vertiginous seats in the newly enlarged South Stand and, high up in the skies, there was not an awful lot to persuade them to turn up the noise.

The home crowd did not always sound greatly enthused either. The Premier League leaders plodded through much of the game, not demonstrating a great deal of urgency, and Hull defended robustly when the ball reached the edge of their penalty area. Bruce had lined up his team in a 3-5-2 formation but the wing-backs, Ahmed Elmohamady and Robertson, seldom strayed too far forward. Their midfielders stayed tight and compact and there were times when Akpom and his strike partner, Sone Aluko, felt slightly isolated from the rest of the team.

As long as there was only one goal between the teams, however, the home crowd could not relax. Jesús Navas was prominently involved before Raheem Sterling replaced him just after the hour but these really should be the kind of fixtures when the Spaniard has a much more decisive influence. Instead, it was Silva and De Bruyne who represented the home team’s best chance of creating a second goal.

Iheanacho stabbed in the second goal after darting between two defenders to turn in Sterling’s left-wing delivery and the most disappointing part for Bruce was that from that point onwards his team disintegrated. De Bruyne’s first came from Robertson leaving a header short for his own goalkeeper and when the Belgian curled in a free-kick four minutes later Jakupovic and Elmohamady simply left it to one another on the goalline. Robertson clipped in Hull’s consolation but by that stage it was too little too late.

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