Manchester City 4-1 Port Vale: Holders prevail after Pope enjoys his FA Cup moment

By Sports Desk January 04, 2020

Port Vale's Tom Pope had the FA Cup impact he promised before holders Manchester City ran out 4-1 winners at the Etihad Stadium.

Pope, whose disparaging Twitter post about City defender John Stones came to light following the third-round draw, nodded in a superb 35th-minute equaliser after Oleksandr Zinchenko's deflected opener.

However, Sergio Aguero ensured the hosts went in ahead at half-time before youngsters Taylor Harwood-Bellis – inadvertently scoring his first senior goal after Stones thought he had City's third – and Phil Foden sealed the Premier League champions' progress.

Nathan Smith scrambled an eighth-minute effort from Foden out of the goalmouth but fellow Vale centre-back Leon Legge was not so effective with his own last-ditch attempt – turning Zinchenko's speculative 20th-minute strike past Scott Brown.

David Silva inexplicably scuffed Ilkay Gundogan's low cross into the turf and against the crossbar with the goal at his mercy and City would rue that miss.

On a rare Vale attack, David Amoo raided down the right and Pope found space off the back of Harwood-Bellis to dispatch a fine header.

Another player who would certainly fall under Pope's self-applied label of "bagsman" is Aguero, and City's all-time record goalscorer restored his team's lead after Foden stayed just onside to steer Gundogan's chipped pass across goal.

Brown made superb early second-half saves to deny Bernardo Silva and Foden, yet City had the breathing space they desired before the hour.

Stones looked to have levelled the personal duel with Pope – insofar as there was one – but a VAR check showed his close-range shot clipped Harwood-Bellis on the line.

A wretched clearance from Stones, half-blocked by Pope, meant Vale substitute Tom Conlon almost reduced the deficit with a diving header, while David Silva's frustrating outing in front of goal continued as he dragged wide.

But Foden got the goal his efforts deserved from a drilled Angelino cross, allowing attentions to turn towards a blockbuster midweek derby.

What does it mean? Guardiola's Cup kings march on

Pep Guardiola selected a team with one eye on the forthcoming first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final against Manchester United and City were far from their fluent best. Still, City have now prevailed in 22 of their past 23 domestic cup ties, with a 2018 FA Cup fifth-round defeat to Wigan Athletic the only blot in the past three seasons.

Pope walks the walk

Vale's veteran striker arguably set himself up for a fall seven months before this tie with a tweet claiming he would "get 40 a season" playing against Stones. Pope's bravado was duly unearthed after the draw and, although the visitors' goal had nothing to do with any short-comings on Stones' part, he relished backing up his bold words.

City understudies come up short

Angelino and Claudio Bravo should probably thank Pope for targeting Stones on social media, because their parts in the goal might be overlooked. The left-back's lacklustre efforts when it came to stopping Amoo's cross left City in trouble. It was a fine finish but, not for the first time in his City career, Bravo appeared awfully flat footed, meaning his chances of pulling off the save were limited to begin with.

What's next

City resume their other domestic cup defence with the first of a Manchester derby double-header at Old Trafford on Tuesday, while there is a Manchester United-flavour to Vale's midweek assignment as they travel to Salford City in the EFL Trophy on the same day.

Related items

  • Garcia returns as City face up to full-strength champions Garcia returns as City face up to full-strength champions

    Eric Garcia is back in the Manchester City starting line-up for the visit of newly crowned Premier League champions Liverpool.

    Teenage centre-back Garcia is making his first appearance since suffering concussion in a collision with goalkeeper Ederson during City's 3-0 win over Arsenal two weeks ago.

    Pep Guardiola's men have since ceded their title to Liverpool, who are at full strength for the behind-closed doors encounter at the Etihad Stadium as they look to burnish a glorious campaign with further entries into the record books.

    Garcia and central defensive partner Aymeric Laporte will have to contend with the Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah forward line.

    In Sergio Aguero's ongoing injury absence, Phil Foden and ex-Red Raheem Sterling line-up alongside Gabriel Jesus in the hosts' attack.

    Liverpool are 23 points better off than City at kick-off, but have won only one of their previous 10 Premier League outings at the Etihad.

  • De Ligt feeling 'in a much better place mentally' after slow start to Juventus career De Ligt feeling 'in a much better place mentally' after slow start to Juventus career

    Matthijs de Ligt says he is "feeling much better physically and mentally" after recovering from a slow start to his Juventus career.

    The Netherlands international rejected interest from elsewhere to join Juventus in a €75million transfer from Ajax last July and has made 32 appearances for the Serie A giants.

    He has come in for heavy criticism at times in his debut campaign in Turin but has started all five of Juve's matches since last month's restart, helping to keep four clean sheets.

    "I feel much better physically now and mentally I am in a much, much better place," he told Sky Sport Italia ahead of Saturday's Derby della Mole with Torino.

    "In Serie A there are many different strikers. There's [Romelu] Lukaku, for example, who's very strong and quick but also [Ciro] Immobile, who's very good with his back to goal.

    "Every team have great forwards, different from one another, and every match is very difficult. The bar is very high.

    "I try to study them thoroughly before each game in order to be prepared for any outcome."

    De Ligt scored the only goal of the game when Juve last met rivals Torino eight months ago and believes that match-winning strike was a turning point in his Bianconeri career.

    "It's a special game - both teams want to win for the city and their fans," he said. "We must do our best, above all in defence, and not give away any chances.

    "Obviously the first derby is a beautiful memory for me because I scored my first goal for the Bianconeri. It also gave us a very important victory.

    "It wasn't an easy time for me, I received a lot of criticism and I was under pressure. That goal raised my spirits and made me and my team-mates happy.

    "Thanks to that goal, I became the footballer I am today."

    Juve hold a four-point lead over Lazio with nine games of the resumed campaign to play, while Inter are a further four points behind.

    However, De Ligt is refusing to take anything for granted and insists his side cannot afford to take their eye off the ball in pursuit of a ninth successive Scudetto.

    "Lazio and Inter are both still in the running," he said. "Inter are a great team and are not far behind.

    "We have to be very careful with these teams, there are still nine games to play and each one will be a final from here until week 38. We must not slow down now."

  • Ibrahimovic makes you grow as a player and a man – Menez Ibrahimovic makes you grow as a player and a man – Menez

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic's ability only has a positive impact on team-mates, according to former Paris Saint-Germain attacker Jeremy Menez.

    Ex-France international Menez spent three years at the Parc des Princes, two of those alongside Ibrahimovic, before joining Milan in 2014.

    The 33-year-old built up a good connection with Ibrahimovic on the field in his early days at PSG but a change in system saw him lose his place in the side.

    And Menez, now plying his trade in Serie B after joining Reggina last week, is grateful for the advice given to him by the striker during their time in the French capital

    "I always got along well with him and his words motivate you to give your all, train at your best," he told Stats Perform News 

    "I never had any problem with him. Such a player pushes you to improve all the time. He always wants to win. He goes out every day to train well and win it all. 

    "I thank him because playing with players like him makes you grow as a professional and as a man."

    Ibrahimovic scored 156 goals in 180 appearances for PSG and referred to himself as "God" in the dressing room.

    Menez says the Milan striker has more than justified the hype on the field by scoring goals wherever he has played.

    "It is a joke because he is like that. I smile at that because this is Ibra. It represents his career," Menez said. 

    "He is like that. Despite all the words he can say, he then proves it on the pitch. What can you say against him? He always made his clubs win, wherever he went. 

    "What can you say against him? I leave him be and say all he wants."

    Menez has spent time in France, Turkey and Mexico since leaving Milan, but insists he is fully motivated after joining Reggina.

    "I am the same Jeremy as six years ago, though this Jeremy has slept for two or three years and felt a bit out of phase. But now I am super motivated and the quality is still here," Menez said. 

    "But I know I am not an easy guy to deal with myself, it's not easy to be with me every day, but we grow up, mature and get better day by day."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.