Manchester City cruised into the FA Cup fourth round with a routine victory over a desperately poor Chelsea at Etihad Stadium.
This was a far cry from what has traditionally been a hugely competitive meeting between two Premier League giants as City wrapped up a tie with either Oxford United or Arsenal in the next round by the interval.
City’s win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Thursday was hard-fought but this was a stroll, Riyad Mahrez setting them on their way with a brilliant 23rd-minute free-kick before World Cup winner Julian Alvarez scored a second from the spot seven minutes later following Kai Havertz’s handball.
Phil Foden scored City’s third after 38 minutes, turning in Kyle Walker’s cross after he had been played in by Thursday’s match-winner Mahrez, who got his second from the spot late on after Kalidou Koulibaly clumsily bundled Foden to the floor.
It was a chastening day for Chelsea, boss Graham Potter and their travelling support, who chanted the name of Thomas Tuchel, the Champions League-winning manager sacked by new owner Todd Boehly in September.
Chelsea’s supporters gave their team a sympathetic reception at the end of Thursday’s narrow Premier League defeat by City at Stamford Bridge but this was not the case here.
Potter’s team were roundly booed at half-time and again by those who stayed until the end, with the manager hearing the uncomfortable sound of his own fans singing the name of his popular predecessor Tuchel.
Chelsea’s lack of threat was also reflected in ironic shouts of “shoot” every time they got near goal and chants of “we’ve had a shot” on the rare occasions they did. This may be a club in transition once again but this display was abject under any circumstances.
Manager Potter is wrestling with an injury crisis but there was no excuse for this dreadful performance. Chelsea’s side contained plenty of experience with players such as Mateo Kovacic, Koulibaly, Havertz, Mason Mount, Jorginho, Hakim Ziyech and keeper Kepa.
Chelsea lacked fight, quality and belief, an alarming sight for a manager so early in his reign and given the spending lavished on this season, admittedly in a somewhat scattergun fashion, by owner Boehly since his arrival.
They have now been knocked out of both domestic cups by City and stand 10 points off the Champions League places in the Premier League. Chelsea face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last-16 and if they perform like this they will also be knocked out there. Troubled times for Chelsea and manager Potter.
Manchester City strolled through the second half barely breaking sweat after smoothly putting Chelsea away in the first 45 minutes, underlining the gulf in class between the teams.
Pep Guardiola was able to rest goal machine Erling Haaland but replaced him with Argentina World Cup hero Alvarez, while Foden got his chance to remind everyone once again what a huge part he will play in Manchester City’s future.
City’s third goal was passing and movement perfection, Foden rounding off the link between Mahrez and Walker, the fist pumps and smile of delight from Guardiola confirming this is exactly how he likes to see his side playing.
This has been a satisfying few days for Manchester City as they closed the gap on leaders Arsenal in the league to five points – and they may face the Gunners again in the FA Cup fourth round unless League One Oxford United can spring a surprise at the Kassam Stadium on Monday.