FA Cup verdict: Scunthorpe United 2 Manchester City 4
Goals: Hayes 29, Byrne 68 for Scunthorpe. Petrov 3, Onuoha 45, Sylvinho 56, Robinho 84 for City.
Roberto Mancini rang the changes but kept the balance right to see City avoid a potential upset thanks to four sumptuous goals. Sylvinho outshone his compratiot with a stunning strike, though Robinho managed to put all the speculation aside and displayed his skills in a good performance. Just don’t expect the press pack to acknowledge it.
With the upcoming trip to Old Trafford, it wasn’t a surprise to see a much changed line-up from Mancini. Stuart Taylor got a start in goal and had a much better game than last time out in Abu Dhabi.
Nedum Onuoha got his first start under Mancini at right-back. It was interesting to see the manager stick with Boyata and Kompany in central defence, possibly to help improve their understanding. Sylvinho came in at left-back and appeared to be targetted by Scunthorpe during the first half.
The 35-year-old coped well enough, though really came into his own during the second period when moved into midfield. Freed from concerns about his lack of pace, it was possible to admire his passing and professionalism.
Elsewhere in midfield there was a solid debut for Somali-born Norwegian youngster Abdi Ibrahim. At 6′ 2″ the 18-year-old wasn’t likely to be intimidated and looked very comfortable in the first team. There were some good touches to go alongside a couple of crunching challenges.
Nigel de Jong gave defensive cover in the first half, while Petrov, Robinho and Ireland provided creative support to Benjani. The fluidity in attack brought immediate dividends with a Petrov goal.
Neat passing resulted in Robinho demonstrating his step-overs infield. He slid the ball through to Petrov who went past the full-back and lashed a near-post shot into the top corner. It’s not a place that Murphy in the Scunthorpe goal would expect to be beaten, but he had no chance.
Petrov gave us his ‘name on shirt’ celebration as a pointer to the manager. It’s reasonable to assume the Bulgarian hadn’t been happy with a place on the bench during the United game.
As is the way with Mancini’s City, we were happy with the opposition to knock the ball round and looked to hit them on the counter. A quick Scunthorpe corner resulted in them missing a glorious chance with a free header, followed seconds later by a dangerous ball into our box.
As a result, the equaliser wasn’t entirely a surprise, though the defence could be exonarated as Hayes was clearly offside. Ireland started to come into the game as we sought to re-assert our authority.
A nicely chipped pass from the Irishman played in Onouha. Showing a much calmer head than the onrushing goalkeeper, Nedum gently slid the ball into the net. 2-1 at half-time was a relief following the equaliser, and the best was yet to come.
Cunningham came on at left-back, requiring Sylvinho to move into the midfield in place of de Jong. Taking off the Dutchman appeared a bit of a gamble as we were hardly cruising. Cunningham picked up an unfortunate booking and looked nervous on his debut with passes going astray.
Fortunately, Sylvinho was doing better in the middle of the park and scored with a 30-yard screamer that it’s reasonable to assume de Jong wouldn’t have managed. The ball moved slightly in the air before dipping into the net, leaving the goalkeeper clutching air.
“Sylvinho is a great player to have in your squad, he sets an example to everyone and deserved his goal. It’s good to have someone like him that can change position if we need, and he had to in the second half. It was a fantastic strike by him.”
Now we did appear to be cruising. Petrov, Robinho and Ireland took turns to show their skills on the break, and we nearly added another with three attempts from one corner. All the while Scunthorpe kept pressing and eventually got a second when a shot deflected off Boyata.
The crowd sensed an equaliser, but City kept their composure. This resiliance has been a feature under Mancini, and we continued to look dangerous on the break. As the home side tired, we were enjoying greater space in attack and another neat passing move saw Petrov play in Robinho. The Brazilian hammered home his first goal of the season and celebrated with the crowd before making way for Craig Bellamy.
If we had to wave goodbye to anyone after this match, then I’d much rather it was Benjani than Robinho. The Zimbabwean wasn’t strong enough in holding the ball up, and never offered a goal threat.
It was interesting to hear Kevin Keegan’s comments on Robinho. The former City manager is often sympathetic to quality players and pointed out that they need a run of games to get back up to speed following injury – which Robinho hasn’t had.
With confidence clearly lacking, the Brazilian’s shooting was desperate at times, bringing back memories of Tevez’s early season attempts on goal. Looking at the Argentine now he’s fully up to speed, it’s tempting to wonder if the same could happen with Robinho. Unfortunately it may be another team that gets to find out.
“Our young players did very well, they have shown me what they can do in training and I had no problem in picking them today. They have the right mentality and this was a big test for them.”
As with the game at Middlesbrough in the previous round, Mancini found the right balance of resting players and giving youngsters a chance. In this regard it was impressive stuff, even if we didn’t fully dominate the game. The quality of our goals was the abiding memory, and they wouldn’t look out of place flying past Van der Sar on Wednesday.