Despite an early scare, Manchester City booked their place in the FA Cup fourth round with a convincing 4-1 win over Port Vale at the Etihad Stadium.
After Oleksandr Zinchenko opened the scoring for City it seemed like it was going to be a routine afternoon for the Blues, however a shock equaliser from Tom Pope showed their was still some FA Cup magic in this David and Goliath tie.
In spite of the scare, City saw off their spirited opponents with a strike from Sergio Aguero, and goals from academy products, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Phil Foden.
With their 8,000 fans behind them, it was Vale that started the quicker as they came close to a shock opener inside the first minute. Pope found space on the left side of the City box and pulled it back to Scott Burgess, whose deflected effort from the edge of the box fell just wide.
As the game got going the reigning FA Cup champions began to find their feet and nearly broke the deadlock just before the ten-minute mark. A low ball from David Silva found Phil Foden, however his effort from close range was superbly blocked by Nathan Smith.
10 minutes later and the Silva-Foden combination came close to finding an opener once again. A great team move from the Blues fell to Silva, whose dinked ball found Foden, who headed straight at Scott Brown from 10 yards.
Five minutes later however City finally found what they were searching as Zinchenko netted his second ever goal in a blue shirt to open the scoring. The Ukrainian found space 20 yards from goal and hit a fierce low effort, that deflected off Leon Legge into the bottom corner, giving Brown no chance.
With just 20 minutes gone there was no sign of City settling on their opener, and they came agonisingly close to doubling their lead five minutes after their first. A quick corner caught the visitors napping, but when a low ball from Ilkay Gundogan found David Silva the unmarked Spaniard somehow missed an open goal from two yards out.
Despite all of City’s dominance the moment those 8,000 away fans had dreamt of the night before came true 10 minutes before they break, as from no where they drew themselves level. A David Amoo cross from the right was met by the rising Pope, whose header beat Claudio Bravo and found the bottom corner, sending the away section of the Etihad Stadium into pure delirium.
Sadly for the League Two side their euphoria was short lived as despite a scare from City’s old nemesis VAR, Pep Guardiola’s side regained the lead just before the half time whistle. A chipped ball from Gundogan found the on running Foden who set up Aguero for an easy tap in from close range to put City in front at the break.
Into the second half and as expected it was more City dominance, as Aguero fired over from the edge of the box within a minute of the restart.
The Blues didn't stop there as Bernardo Silva saw a header from close range fall just wide, before Phil Foden hit a fierce volley straight at Brown in the Port Vale goal.
Guardiola's side's second half dominance finally paid off on the hour mark as lifelong City fan Harwood-Bellis ticked one off the bucket list to make it 3-1. A header from John Stones struck the calf of Harwood-Bellis, and this touch proved just enough to guide the ball into the Port Vale net for City's third.
The 17-year-old's dreams however looked to be shattered as a delayed flag from the assistant deemed the goal offside, fortunately for Harwood-Bellis VAR over-ruled the decision, giving the young blue his first goal for his boyhood club.
It seemed to be an evening for Manchester City's own as 15 minutes after Harwood-Bellis found the net, his Stockport counterpart, Phil Foden netted City's fourth.
A piercing, low ball from Angelino found the 19-year-old, and after a game of missed chances Foden slotted passed Brown to extend his side's lead.
That proved to be that at the Etihad with City making sure their name is in the hat for Monday's fourth round draw.
Takeaways From the Game
Positive day for City Academy
In a squad full of overseas stars, one positive Guardiola will take from the win is the impressive performances of his academy products, most notably Foden and Harwood-Bellis who managed to get themselves on the scoresheet.
Vale can hold their heads high
In spite of the result Port Vale can be proud of their efforts, especially their equaliser through Pope, which will no doubt live on in the memories of the travelling Vale fans for many years to come.