Manchester City away is the most difficult cup draw you could be faced with. They have now won 19 consecutive domestic cup matches since losing to Wigan Athletic in February 2018, along with scoring 29 goals in six home FA Cup ties under Pep Guardiola. Up steps Tim Ream…
He was the oldest member of the starting 11 aged 32 and was captain of the squad. The American lasted all of six minutes due to making the decision to deliberately haul down Gabriel Jesus when he was clean through on goal. Giving referee Keven Friend absolutely no choice but to brandish the red card and award a penalty to the home side. The game was effectively over after that. To rub salt in the wound, German central midfielder Ilkay Gundogan stepped up and calmly slotted the spot-kick into the bottom left-hand corner.
Any sort of game plan we did have coming into the match has gone out the window. This was now going to be a long and painful afternoon for the remaining ten who were left out to dry by their captain on the day. It looked as though City were going to have a field day when Bernado Silva displayed wonderful close control in the box beating a few of our defenders, before firing on his preferred left into the bottom right. Marek Rodak was annoyed with himself because he managed to get a glove on the shot but couldn’t prevent the home side doubling their advantage after just 19 minutes. I feared the worse at this point and I think everybody braced themselves for a cricket score; especially with the attacking talent on display. We actually managed to keep the scoreline to just 2-0 for a long period of the game. City had to wait until minute 72 before making it 3-0 through Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus who headed home; he was on the borderline of being offside, but VAR decided that the goal was fair. Much like a London commuter having to endure a long wait for a bus and then two come along at once, just three minutes after his first Jesus had the ball in the back of our net again making it 4-0.
For all of City’s attacking brilliance and creativity, their goals primarily came from our own wrongdoing. Scott Parker is a young manager and I respect him trying to play with a philosophy so that we have an identity. We like to play out from the back and break through the lines with clever and intricate passing. Away at one of the best clubs in Europe and down to ten men may not be the best place to repeatedly play out from the back. City do not need a helping hand in the slightest, and to be honest for the entire game we insisted on going short and they latched onto that pressing us high up the pitch. I understand it was difficult for the boys, obviously, Mitrovic is out injured so we don’t have a target man at striker who we can look to hit and get us out of trouble. But we have to mix up our game in parts where we are under pressure, look to Bobby Reid or Ivan Cavaleiro to spin in the channel and stretch their defence. This is more for future games in the Championship coming up, the game on Sunday was dead and buried within six minutes. But if we are away from home and struggling, I feel like we should go long a few times and play in their half, this will release some pressure from the back four also.
With every dark cloud, there is a silver lining. Terence Kongolo made his Fulham debut and I thought overall, he had a decent game. The highlight being that beautifully timed last-ditch tackle when Jesus looked destined to score. Tim Ream has been a good servant to the club, however with him being aged 32, I feel like Kongolo may slot in at centre back next to the thus far very impressive Michael Hector. We had kept three clean sheets in a row before Sunday, and if Hector and Kongolo can form a cohesive partnership at the back, I think we can expect many more clean sheets for the rest of the season.
Looking ahead to our next league fixture, we have a home game against struggling Huddersfield Town. This is a game we will be expected to win but they certainly won’t make it easy for us. I expect them to come to the Cottage and sit with many players behind the ball in a bid to frustrate us. It will be down to us to try and break them down by moving the ball quickly and effectively.