City overcame an initially stubborn Blackburn to cruise into the FA Cup fourth round with yet another thumping home victory.
The Blues are simply too hot to handle at the Etihad Stadium where Rovers were thrashed 5-0 – and that after holding City 0-0 until the 45th minute!
The blossoming partnership of Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko bagged another two goals each and Sergio Aguero applied the icing on the cake as he scored within seconds of coming on as the Blues made it 99 goals in all competitions.
City couldn’t have come into the game in much better form having won 13 of the previous 15 matches, plundering defences up and down the land in the process. Manuel Pellegrini again named a strong team with Micah Richards returning from a five-week lay-off and James Milner captaining the team for the first time.
The creative genius of Messrs Silva, Toure and Nasri was absent due to a mixture of rest and injury, but there was the welcome sight of Sergio Aguero on the bench for the first time since damaging his calf against Arsenal in December.
With a fourth round tie against Watford the reward for the winners, there was a healthy crowd inside the Etihad which included 4,200 travelling Rovers fans, making for a more than decent atmosphere under the floodlights.
Blackburn, who beat Arsenal on their own ground in last season’s FA Cup, were clearly buoyed from the first clash at Ewood Park and looked determined to enjoy the night come what may – the chance to forget the problems that have plagued the club over the past few years clearly too good to miss.
The first 30 minutes passed without any incident of note with the Blues’ passing wayward and build-up play disjointed and Rovers often putting ten men behind the ball in a bid to frustrate and spoil which was only to be expected, but there was a lack of craft to City’s early forays forward.
The Dzeko-Negredo partnership that had yielded 11 goals in the previous six games was largely ineffective as the break beckoned for much of the half and the visitors’ confidence grew as each minute ticked by, perhaps sniffing something more than the heavy loss the stats suggested they were likely to get.
Just as it appeared the visitors had reached the halfway mark on level terms and their game-plan intact, the Blues finally broke the deadlock in first-half injury time.
A threatening Rovers free-kick was cleared way and City broke at speed, the ball eventually finding its way to Jesus Navas who in turn found Fernandinho on the right wing and his cross was nodded home powerfully by Negredo – who else - for his 20th of the season.
Within two minutes of the re-start, The Beast had made it 21 from just 20 starts when he raced on to Aleksandar Kolarov’s superb pass to deftly chip Simon Eastwood and end the game as a contest – how quickly a match can change!
Rovers did come out of their shell thereafter with Joshua King forcing a fine save from Pantilimon just past the hour that might have made the last half-hour interesting for the travelling fans, but when Navas again found his way into the Blackburn box, his pinpoint cross was superbly dispatched by Dzeko via the crossbar, it was officially game over.
The biggest cheer of the night was saved for returning crowd idol Aguero replaced Negredo and there was an even bigger roar within a minute of the Argentine running on as he increased the Blues’ lead to four, spinning in the box to stab a low drive past Eastwood to follow the script perfectly.
Dzeko bagged his second of the night – and the Blues’ 99th of this goal-laden campaign – on 79 minutes from yet another Navas assist and City finally declared at five.
Watford now await in round four as the Pellegrini express continues to surge forward at breakneck speed.