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Sorry Chelsea slide to unwanted FA Cup history as Manchester City secure thumping win

Man City 4-0 Chelsea: Mahrez scores a stunning free-kick and a penalty as City booked a potential fourth-round tie with Arsenal

Richard Jolly
at the Etihad Stadium
Sunday 08 January 2023 18:59 GMT
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Riyad Mahrez scored twice as Man City outclassed Chelsea
Riyad Mahrez scored twice as Man City outclassed Chelsea (PA)

Sometimes making history is not a by-product of achievement but a sign of failure. As Chelsea lost to Manchester City for the second time in four days they exited the FA Cup at the first hurdle for the first time in a quarter of a century. They had not gone out of both domestic cups before 9 January since the 1980s and, to all intents and purposes, they were eliminated before half-time. They may have beaten City in a Champions League final 19 months ago but, after five defeats in seven games, that feels like another era.

Runners-up last year, Chelsea have a habit of losing FA Cup finals, but not third-round matches. The previous time they went out at this stage, the late, lamented Gianluca Vialli scored twice. There was no such potency here.

In the context of Graham Potter’s increasingly dismal reign, Chelsea’s tame exit felt altogether unsurprising and it was sealed by three goals in 16 minutes, courtesy of a combination of a needless error and City brilliance. Some of their fans left at half-time; those who stayed displayed their dissent against the new regime. Meanwhile, City cruised into the fourth round where Arsenal could await. They should provide a rather stiffer test than Chelsea did.

If Potter may feel himself luckless, and getting drawn away at City in both cups certainly makes silverware harder to secure, Pep Guardiola might have done him a favour when the teamsheets were submitted. But if Potter was relieved Erling Haaland and Kevin de Bruyne were rested, Riyad Mahrez, who is assuming a role as the scourge of Chelsea, instead scored twice. Julian Alvarez doubled the lead on his first start since the World Cup final. Phil Foden also struck in an excellent performance. In the second half, City only extended their lead with a Mahrez spot kick. Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea lost 6-0 here and, had Guardiola and his charges wanted, a similar scoreline seemed feasible.

Instead, they conserved energy, confident a Chelsea team this bland, this lacking in any of the characteristics of a top team, would not mount a comeback. Since that Champions League final, Chelsea have not scored in their five matches against City. They did not even muster a shot until Mason Mount’s deflected 55th-minute effort, which Stefan Ortega tipped past the post. When the substitute Omari Hutchinson directed a later effort wide, the Chelsea fans resorted to singing: “We have had a shot.”

Potter had tried a 4-2-2-2 formation, with Hakim Ziyech tried as a striker, but it would be hard to brand either gambit a success. City made more changes, seven to Chelsea’s six, but injuries are less of a factor at the Etihad Stadium and there was a patched-up look to Chelsea. There was a debut for the 19-year-old centre-back Bashir Humphreys, who replaced a man twice his age, in Thiago Silva. He was spared a trial by Haaland and largely blameless but, with the possible exception of Hutchinson, it was difficult to argue anyone in a dark blue shirt played well,

Many in light blue did. City had won at Stamford Bridge on Thursday even after Guardiola got his team selection wrong and after a mediocre first-half display. A weaker team nonetheless made a stronger start. Cole Palmer perhaps should have broken the deadlock, though it mattered not that his effort lacked conviction.

Mahrez curled home a sumptuous first-half free-kick (PA)

Because, having scored against Chelsea from two yards on Thursday, Mahrez found the net from 25. If Chelsea were aggrieved at the award of the free kick, for Lewis Hall’s challenge on the Algerian, the execution brooked no debate as it was curled into the top corner. It maintained Mahrez’s 100 per cent record: he has struck in each of City’s meetings with Chelsea this season.

Go back to 2021 and Kai Havertz scored a Champions League final winner against City. His next contribution to a goal in their meetings was more ignominious as he handled to stop Aymeric Laporte meeting Foden’s corner. Referee Robert Jones was advised to check it on the pitchside monitor. While Kepa Arrizabalaga got a hand to Alvarez’s penalty, he scored against Chelsea, just as he had on his previous start for City, eight weeks and one World Cup ago.

Then, completing a glorious team move, the stand-in skipper Kyle Walker surged forward to meet Mahrez’s pass and supply the cutback and Foden sidefooted in from six yards. Ineffectual against Chelsea three days earlier, he was more influential and a scorer in the rematch. Playing as a midfielder, a position he is expected to occupy more frequently in the future, Foden suggested he could have a fine future in the middle.

Thereafter, Mahrez might have extended the lead when he whipped a shot just wide and did from the penalty spot after the clumsy Kalidou Koulibaly bundled Foden over.

Meanwhile, Potter rang the changes, switching to a back three, giving a debut to David Datro Fofana, one of Chelsea’s three signings in a month that is only eight days old. The former Molde forward did not get a chance as, for the first time since they were a second division club, they did not score a goal in an FA Cup campaign. And, such has been their slide, it was scarcely a shock.

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