The extent to which Manchester City’s scoring power is compromised by Sergio Aguero’s injury will not be known until his absence over Christmas and New Year can be evaluated but, in the relatively undemanding arena of a Capital One Cup quarter-final against Championship opponents, City’s remarkable average of three goals per game this season was easily maintained, as Edin Dzeko’s pair ensured that Leicester City did not disturb their progress.
After Aleksandar Kolarov’s wonderful free-kick set the ball rolling, the Bosnian striker fulfilled his responsibilities in an attack from which Alvaro Negredo was also absent by scoring just before and just after half-time to ease his side into the last four.
Given Manchester City’s extraordinary recent form, the last thing Leicester needed was to concede an early goal. As it was, they went behind to a free-kick that would have secured their opponents the lead in any company, curled out of the reach of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel from 30 yards by Kolarov after Anthony Knockaert had committed an eighth-minute foul.
Kolarov had come into the City side as one of eight changes from the line-up that started the 6-3 romp against Arsenal. Only captain Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and David Silva kept their places. Even so, there was around £125m worth of talent in Manuel Pellegrini’s line-up.
Leicester’s league form has stuttered lately, while their opponents arrived on the back of a run of six wins in seven, scoring 26 goals in the process. After Kolarov’s goal, Nigel Pearson’s side did not exactly mount a threatening response, although they worried Manchester City enough to draw Jesus Navas and the substitute Dedryck Boyata into cautionable fouls, and a couple of saves from Schmeichel, notably at close range from Dzeko, restricted the away side’s lead to a single goal until the 41st minute.
But then a cross by James Milner was nodded in by Dzeko to give them a comfortable advantage at half-time.
Joe Hart, recalled (at least for this match) in place of Costel Pantilimon, did not have many opportunities to demonstrate his well-being, and when Leicester at last created a clear-cut chance six minutes into the second half, Andy King’s shot did not have enough width to test the England goalkeeper.
Schmeichel, on the other hand, was kept perpetually on his toes. Moments before King’s chance, he pulled off a fine save from Dzeko, who was in the mood to make full use of his chance to shine. A couple of minutes later, Dzeko scored his second of the night with a crisply executed shot from a Milner cutback, effectively ending any prospect of an upset.
Milner was excellent throughout – unfussy, unflashy as ever, but causing problems wherever he went with his intelligent running and his eye for an incisive pass. Given that Sam Bailey, Leicester’s winner of The X-Factor, provided a song or two by way of half-time entertainment, it would be tempting to use that term to sum up Milner’s influence, although Pellegrini’s side were hardly in need of any special ingredient.
Bailey’s powerful vocals might have provided the best moment of the night for the home crowd but they had a goal to cheer 13 minutes from time, when Lloyd Dyer’s shot from a tight angle on the left took a deflection to beat Hart. Leicester’s impressive record of scoring in League Cup games now stands at 30 since they last drew a blank, which was some consolation.
Man of the match Dzeko.
Match rating 6/10.
Referee R East (Wiltshire).