FA Cup verdict: Manchester City 5 Notts County 0

After a poor start City eventually cruised to victory and looked able to score at will by the final whistle. As much as the victory, the confidence boost of scoring a few goals was particularly timely after a difficult week.

The final score was harsh on County who had looked like taking the lead initially. City made arguably their slowest start to a game this season, with a spectacular shot by Karl Hawley rebounding off Joe Hart’s post being required to stir us.

Captain Kolo Toure and Joe Hart were particularly culpable for the sluggish opening. The central midfield pairing of Vieira and Yaya was as slow to close down opponents as might have been feared. It looked like being a painful afternoon.

In the opening period Dzeko continued to toil while Balotelli saw precious little of the ball. When he did, the Italian looked dangerous. Sadly his game deteriorated as his mood darkened, this time following a perceived failure of the referee to award him a penalty. His later foul, which earnt a booking was almost comical, and there remained the danger of another red card.

As a consequence the clash of heads that saw his departure was almost a relief. Yet with Kolarov once again demonstrating his limitations on the left wing, we need a good run of performances from our Italian protegy. He has a directness that can be lacking in our play, and this could make all the difference in games where we otherwise get frustrated.

Mancini on Balotelli:

“We want to ease Mario back into action. He knew he would not play the full game.

“His knee is ok. We want him to play for the next two months which is why we had the plan to ease him back into the game.”

For all our technically adept players, it was a good impression of Stoke that set us on the path to the fifth round. Loading County’s penalty area with tall muscular players and allowing Kolarov to whip balls in from set pieces gave Vieira the first two goals, and Micah Richards the last.

This was the kind of harsh lesson about the need to defend set-pieces which the English game specialises in. At the other end our defending improved as the game wore on, with Joe Hart putting his early wobbles to one side and pulling off a spectacular tip over in the second half to ensure another clean sheet.

Lescott looked the more reliable deputy for Kompany than Kolo, while in front of the defence the lack of a replacement for de Jong was again apparent. Dzeko’s afternoon took a turn for the better following the introduction of Tevez.

They both managed to create a goal for the other and this gives welcome encouragement to the idea that they can form a partnership. However it should be borne in mind that County were tiring by this point and deflated by the second goal.

As the game drew to a close we were creating chances and scoring at will. Dzeko ought to have had a second when clean through. This should have ensured a happy dressing room after the match and given the squad a welcome confidence boost.

Edin Dzeko:

“I have to be stronger physically for the English league.

“People expect goals and I am not happy with two in seven or eight games. But I am trying to work for the team and make assists too.

“It is harder than the Bundesliga and I will get used to it.”

City play Villa next and possibly Everton in the Sixth Round. Although they are at home, both would be demanding ties that will require a strong line-up. The further we go in the cup competitions, the greater the danger of them affecting our push for a Champions League place. Mancini definitely doesn’t want any more replays.

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FA Cup player ratings: Manchester City v Notts County
Europa League preview: Manchester City v Aris Salonika

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