Manchester City 4 Hull City 1: Late salvo puts unfair slant on Hull’s display

SPORT has shown its capacity for the unexpected in 2015 with few predicting at the start of this year that Great Britain would win the Davis Cup or that Tyson Fury would lift the world heavyweight boxing title.

Manchester City's David Silva (right) and Hull City's Alex Bruce battle for the ball at the Etihad Stadium. Picture: PA.
Manchester City's David Silva (right) and Hull City's Alex Bruce battle for the ball at the Etihad Stadium. Picture: PA.

Prior to last night, the Capital One Cup had also been a competition that had kept on giving to the footballing underdog, with the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea all falling by the wayside in shock losses which had been lapped up by the neutral.

But the natural order remained intact at the Etihad, at least, as the Premier League leaders and competition favourites negotiated a comprehensive passage past Hull on the visitors’ first appearance in the quarter-finals of the competition in its 55-year history.

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The wait for a rare Hull win on the blue side of Manchester also continued, with the East Yorkshiremen without a success at City since 1930.

Not that the hosts’ progress was particularly serene until a triple blast in the final 11 minutes put a positive and flattering sheen on a stuttering night that had been somewhat frustrating for the home faithful up until then.

But ultimately money talked for a club whose City Football Group parent company have this week brokered a staggering £265m investment deal with a Chinese consortium for a 13 per cent stake.

Speaking of finances, it took a telling assist from a £49m winger in substitute Raheem Sterling to set up the hosts’ game-breaking second 11 minutes from time before two goals from £54m man Kevin De Bruyne applied the gloss.

The Capital One Cup may be at the bottom of Manchester City’s list of priorities, but do not let it be said that Manuel Pellegrini does not care about it, with the Chilean’s Wembley success over Sunderland in 2014 being his first trophy as manager at the Etihad.

His intention was evident in a team selection that saw just five changes from the weekend, in comparison to the seven made by Hull.

Yet for the bulk of proceedings, City’s powerhouse swagger which had floored Crystal Palace and Sunderland to the tune of a combined tally of nine goals in the previous two rounds was palpably missing.

But it tellingly made an appearance in the final quarter when Hull were increasingly stretched and fatigued – with the margin of defeat a touch cruel on the visitors, who were backed by a brigade of 5,000 raucous followers.

In the first period, the action was somewhat more low-key in a half in which the hosts dined out on a fair serving of territory, without particularly doing too much with it.

It took a miscommunication in the Tigers’ midfield to help contrive the opener, with Fernandinho seizing on a loose ball 12 minutes in before playing in De Bruyne and after the celebrated Belgian’s fiercely-struck low shot rattled a post from distance, Wilfried Bony followed up to tuck the ball into the empty net.

A concession to such exalted hosts so early threatened to ravage the visitors’ game plan – which was clearly based on containment and utilising the counter-attack – but the hosts failed to kick on and string together purposeful chances.

City’s other opportunity of note came from another Tigers error with Jake Livermore’s pass intercepted by Fernandinho, who played in Bony again, but his shot was gathered routinely by Eldin Jakupovic.

As the half wore on, Hull started to noticeably gain in confidence, with their best chance coming when Hayden slipped in Chuba Akpom, but his low angled strike lacked power and was comfortably held by Willy Caballero.

On the restart, the chances came at a more regular rate for City, but Hull dug in without contriving a real meaningful chance before the floodgates opened late on.

David Silva, Jesus Navas, De Bruyne and Fabian Delph had missed chances before substitute Kelechi Iheanacho showed a predatory instinct lacking up to this point by burying Sterling’s centre low past Jakuopovic 11 minutes from time.

Three minutes on, De Bruyne seized upon Andrew Robertson’s meek header to slot the ball home before the Belgian saw his free-kick evade a poorly-constructed wall and the stationary Ahmed Elmohamady on the line to make it 4-0 as the floodgates belatedly opened.

The Tigers claimed a late consolation when Robertson fired home after finishing off a neat one-two with substitute Abel Hernandez.

Manchester City: Caballero; Sagna, Otamendi, Mangala, Clichy; Delph, Fernandinho; Navas (Sterling 62), Silva (Demichelis 83), De Bruyne; Bony (Iheanacho 71). Unused substitutes: Wright, Humphreys, Kolarov, M Garcia.

Hull City: Jakupović; Odubajo, Bruce, Maguire, Robertson; Elmohamady, Livermore, Hayden, Taylor (Diame 58); Akpom (Hernandez 68), Aluko (Snodgrass 73). Unused substitutes: McGregor, Huddlestone, Clucas, Maloney.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Preston).