Man City will face Wigan in the FA Cup fifth round with an authoritative win away against Championship side Cardiff City.
A record crowd for Bluebirds games at the Cardiff City Stadium was dumbfounded into silence as Kevin de Bruyne cheekily rolled a free-kick under the jumping wall to give the visitors a lead, which Raheem Sterling doubled with a header before half-time.
5 – Man City now have five players to have scored at least 10 goals in all competitions this season, more than any other English league side (Aguero, Sterling, Sané, Jesus and De Bruyne). Mix. #CARMCI
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 28, 2018
Those goals bookended an excellent Bernardo Silva strike which was incorrectly disallowed for offside, which had little bearing on the result but might have been awarded had the video assistant referee (VAR) system been in use at the match.
Manchester City missed chances to extend their lead in the second half – notably Sterling being denied by a fine covering tackle by Sean Morrison – but they were seldom troubled by Cardiff, who ended the game with 10 men after Joe Bennett’s late red card.
This was a fixture which produced a memorable upset in 1994, as Nathan Blake’s spectacular curling effort gave Cardiff – then struggling in the third tier – a 1-0 win over top-flight City at Ninian Park.
But there was never the prospect of a shock result on this occasion, with runaway Premier League leaders Man City progressing to keep alive their hopes of completing an unprecedented quadruple of the Premier League, Champions League, League Cup and FA Cup trophies.
The difference between the teams mirrored an intriguing clash of styles in the dugout, with Cardiff manager Neil Warnock – renowned for building ruggedly effective Championship sides – taking on Guardiola, the architect of some of the most aesthetically pleasing teams in recent football history.
Warnock described City as the best team in Europe in the build-up to this match and joked that his players had been preparing for the game – and City’s inevitable dominance – by training without a ball.
It proved to be a prescient quip, as the home side had to toil for long periods, struggling to lay a glove on their stylish opponents.
Cardiff did have a handful of chances – Junior Hoilett seeing a powerfully-struck volley almost fumbled over his own line by Claudio Bravo and then fizzing another effort narrowly over – but they could not truly trouble City.