Norwich City 0, Manchester City 3
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Norwich City slipped tamely out of the FA Cup after a routine 3-0 third round win for Manchester City at Carrow Road.
The Canaries had no answer to Argentine striker Sergio Aguero, who burst past four Norwich City players to open the scoring then set-up Kelechi Iheanacho to put Manuel Pellegrini’s men in total control prior to the interval.
Kevin de Bruyne wrapped up the win with a late, angled finish with Alex Neil’s men carrying only a sporadic threat in between.
Neil made six changes from the team that beat Southampton 1-0 in the Premier League. John Ruddy returned to the line up for his first outing since the 1-1 home league draw against Arsenal on November 29.
The City chief opted for the same back three set-up that frustrated Manchester City at the Etihad in October’s 2-1 defeat with Andre Wisdom and Martin Olsson offering width in wing back roles. Graham Dorrans and Youssouf Mulumbu were included in central midfield and Vadis Odjidja’s impressive cameo against the Saints earned him a start in support Cameron Jerome.
Kyle Lafferty was included on the bench after a week of speculation linking him with Leeds United but there was no place again for Lewis Grabban in the matchday squad. Tony Andreu was included on the bench after returning from his loan at Rotherham.
Pellegrini shuffled his pack with Raheem Sterling returning to the Citizens’ line up after a watching brief for the Sky Blues’ midweek Capital One Cup semi-final, first leg 2-1 defeat at Everton.
Jerome powered away from Fernando but was felled by Fabian Delph inside the opening two minutes - Dorrans thumping the free kick well over Willy Caballero’s bar.
Jonny Howson then hammered a rising long range shot over in a bright start from Neil’s men after clever play from Odjidja and Seb Bassong.
Ruddy was pressed into action in the ninth minute when Bassong was robbed by Aguero but Iheanacho’s lifted finish was pushed over the bar.
The City keeper then produced an even better stop to go full length to parry Aleksandar Kolarov’s vicious low strike from range.
Sterling’s ambitious attempt from the angle of the penalty area sailed over Ruddy’s bar but the visitors were unquestionably on top and it was little surprise Aguero opened the scoring in the 16th minute with a sublime individual finish.
The Argentine international collected Sterling’s back heel before bursting past Dorrans and Bassong in central midfield and cutting back inside the sliding challenge of Martin to poke beyond Ruddy from 10 yards.
Norwich probed for a swift response but Martin’s free kick thudded against the Manchester City wall after Jerome was chopped down again by Delph.
The Norwich frontman was the stand out home performer in the opening 25 minutes and another direct burst fashioned a chance for Dorrans, who unleashed a rising shot parried by Caballero.
Aguero linked with Sterling at the other end before unleashing an instinctive hooked shot that had Ruddy scrambling across his line to clear.
Norwich fell further behind in the 30th minute and master marksman Aguero was again heavily involved, cutting inside Martin and Bennett to roll in strike partner Iheanacho who guided a low finish into Ruddy’s bottom left-hand corner.
Howson conjured an inviting cross in a rare moment of alarm for the Sky Blues in the 37th minute but Odjidja was unable to get a touch seven yards out.
The Belgian then led the break-out and linked with Howson but Fernando was out sharply to smother his shot before Kolarov headed Olsson’s cross behind.
Martin was booked three minutes after the restart for a crude attempt to halt Iheancho. The Nigerian frontman then clipped a shot at Ruddy before Jerome was penalised for a foul on Nicolas Otamendi from Howson’s cross.
Jerome did roll the ball home in the 57th minute but the striker was adjudged to be offside from Howson’s slip pass.
Manchester City were now content to settle for containment and hit on the break and from a Norwich turnover Bennett produced a last-ditch block to foil Iheanacho from Jesus Navas’ cross.
The visitors’ enviable resources were underlined graphically in the 61st minute when £55m signing de Bruyne replaced Sterling.
Neil responded with Gary O’Neil and Nathan Redmond replacing Howson and Mulumbu respectively but the sterile pattern remained largely unaltered. Aguero was the next to depart for Gael Clichy with the Argentine’s display earning applause from sections of the home support.
Lafferty was the final home change with Neil opting to give Bassong a rest for the final quarter, but it was the visitors who continued to carry that attacking threat with Navas unleashing a thunderous shot that slammed Ruddy’s woodwork and came back into play before the keeper dropped on de Bruyne’s follow up.
Bennett then cut out Navas’ cross destined for Iheanacho.
De Bruyne rifled a 25 yard free kick straight at Ruddy before Redmond swerved past Clichy but Olsson clubbed the cross into the terraces.
The Belgian sealed Manchester City’s place in the fourth round when he twisted and turned Bennett back into his own box before lashing a low angled finish through Ruddy’s legs.
Dorrans forced Caballero to push his long range effort behind for a home corner before the back-up visiting keeper tipped over Lafferty’s flick header. Ruddy parried from Bersant Celina in the 89th minute with the visitors now toying with Neil’s men and Jerome’s miscued wayward finish in stoppage time summed up the hosts’ miserable afternoon before Odjidja slammed a half-volley into the side netting.
• Norwich City: Ruddy, Bennett, Martin, Bassong (Lafferty 72), Wisdom, Dorrans, Mulumbu (O’Neil 64), Olsson, Howson (Redmond 63), Odjidja, Jerome. Subs (not used): Rudd, Whittaker, Mbokani, Andreu.
• Bookings: Martin (foul on Iheancho, 48); Dorrans (foul on Kolarov, 84)
• Manchester City: Caballero, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernando, Delph, Navas, Sterling (De Bruyne 61), Iheanacho (Celina 85), Aguero (Clichy 69). Subs (not used): Hart, Sagna, Humphreys, Horsfield.
• Goals: Aguero (16), Iheanacho (31), de Bruyne (78)
• Added on time: 1 minute / 3 minutes
• Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
• Attendance: 24,507