Neil Humphreys: Blame Pellegrini for FA Cup disaster
City humiliated as Pellegrini's decision to field weakened team backfires
(Diego Costa 35, Willian 48, Gary Cahill 53, Eden Hazard 67, Bertrand Traore 89)
MAN CITY 1
(David Faupala 37)
Manuel Pellegrini handed Chelsea a bye into the FA Cup quarter-finals.
The Manchester City manager sent out boys to face men and got exactly what he deserved, a humiliating 5-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge this morning (Singapore time).
His youngsters deserved better. They acquitted themselves well under the trying circumstances, but they were lambs to the slaughter, victims of a manager's petulance.
Pellegrini promised to play the kids, but this was ridiculous.
His City line-up was genuinely shocking, showing indifference for the tournament and contempt for the supporters who made the 700km round trip to London.
The Chilean made no secret of his frustration concerning the English Football Association's decision to move the FA Cup's most glamorous tie forward one day to maximise its global TV potential.
City face Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League in midweek. But that's Dynamo Kiev, not Bayern Munich or Barcelona. The Ukrainian side haven't played a competitive fixture since December.
And then there's Liverpool at Wembley in the League Cup final next Monday morning (Singapore time).
City must win both now. Anything less than convincing victories in both matches and Pellegrini will stand accused of throwing away a winnable FA Cup tie, treating the tournament with utter disrespect.
Chelsea kicked off with an unchanged side. Manager Guus Hiddink retains warm memories of the 2009 FA Cup triumph. He should send the DVD to Pellegrini.
City's jaw-dropping first 11 were short of experience, maturity, and Adam's apples. There were five full debuts, six teenagers and shirt numbers adding up to 447.
Tosin Adarabioyo, 18, trotted out in defence and David Faupala, 19, led the attack alongside Kelechi Iheanacho, still only 19 himself.
Bersant Celina, 19, Manu Garcia, 18, and Aleix Garcia, 19, joined Fernando in central midfield.
Asking Fernando to babysit a toddling trio seemed masochistic on the part of his manager.
Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Fernandinho and Yaya Toure were deemed too precious to sit on the bench.
To compound matters, Pellegrini had seemingly picked his formation from an old Christmas cracker, opting for an unorthodox 4-4-2, leaving the inexperienced strikers looking like a couple of kindergarten kids in desperate need of a toilet.
Chelsea was gifted midfield domination, allowing Cesc Fabregas and Pedro Rodriguez to indulge in nostalgic Barcelona-like interplay before the latter cracked a shot against the post.
It wasn't surprising when the hosts went ahead, only that their lead was so brief.
Fabregas flicked a cheeky ball towards Eden Hazard in the 35th minute. The Belgian hooked a sharp cross behind a static back four, allowing Diego Costa to send a smart header into the far corner.
The old Chelsea, blessed with title-winning automatons, would have imposed a stranglehold upon the game and squeezed their opponents. But the new Chelsea are still guilty of a mid-game snooze.
After a neat exchange of City passes, Faupala, the young French striker, spun on the edge of the box and released Iheanacho, whose cross triggered the clumsiest of goalmouth scrambles.
In trying to clear, Cesar Azpilicueta looked like a man in roller-skates standing on a carpet of marbles. His effort struck Faupala and hit the top of the net.
The goals were less than two minutes apart.
Despite the best efforts of City's youngsters, however, their stiff backline saw them fall behind again within three minutes of the restart.
Hazard broke free on the right and found Willian with a simple, angled delivery. The Brazilian slipped through City's high line to drag a shot past Willy Caballero.
Five minutes later, Chelsea made it 3-1 and made a mockery of Pellegrini's misguided selections.
Hazard's cross was actually poorly directed, but Fernando mishit his clearance towards Gary Cahill. The defender hammered a terrific volley that, fortunately for City, was straight at Caballero.
Unfortunately for City, the volley went straight through Caballero.
Joe Hart would have saved it, but he was shivering on the bench.
In all probability, England's goalkeeper might have got a tad closer to Chelsea's fourth goal in the 66th minute, when Hazard placed a perfect free-kick into the far corner, Caballero's corner.
The goalkeeper went walkabout on his goal-line. The goal was practically gift-wrapped.
Cabellero partially redeemed himself in the 74th minute, saving Oscar's penalty, but then completely missed Bertrand Traore's header in the 89th minute.
Pellegrini's determination to go out in a blaze of European glory threatens to backfire spectacularly.
He's already thrown away one tournament. If he doesn't make amends in another, he won't be particularly missed by the City faithful.
They gave their full support at Stamford Bridge. It's a disgrace that their manager couldn't do the same.
FA CUP Q-FINAL DRAW
- Reading v Crystal Palace
- Everton v Chelsea
- Arsenal/Hull v Watford
- Shrewsbury/Man United v West Ham