SERGIO Aguero struck twice as Manchester City kept their season alive by breezing into the FA Cup quarter-finals at the expense of Leeds.
Scorers: Manchester City - Y Toure (5), Aguero (15pen, 74), Tevez (52)
Referee: M Clattenburg
The Championship side were no match for the Barclays Premier League champions, who responded to last week’s title setback with a dominant display at the Etihad Stadium.
Yaya Toure began the procession early on before Aguero added a penalty and a fine finish either side of a close-range Carlos Tevez effort.
It was just the fillip manager Roberto Mancini needed, with City 12 points behind Manchester United in the title race and amid fresh speculation over his position. Leeds offered little and their fans’ disillusionment with their manager Neil Warnock and their predicament, as they struggle to launch a play-off push, was evident.
Mancini said: “It was important to win this game, clearly if you score two goals in the first 20 minutes it is easier.
“The FA Cup is a difficult competition. Arsenal yesterday, Everton, other teams that play in the Premier League that went out of the competition… if you don’t play with full concentration it is difficult.
“We started well with good intensity, we were concentrated on this target and after that we scored four goals.”
Angered by last week’s dismal and costly loss at Southampton, Mancini kept his word and made changes.
The Italian made six in all, although the absence of goalkeeper Joe Hart and midfielder Gareth Barry had nothing to do with their high-profile errors at St Mary’s.
Hart was rested in keeping with previous cup ties, allowing deputy Costel Pantilimon an opportunity, while Barry had a knock.
Kolo Toure and Matija Nastasic returned at the heart of defence and Aleksandar Kolarov featured at left-back but Leeds left them largely untested.
England midfielder James Milner came in to face the hometown club that launched his career while Tevez was restored in attack alongside Aguero.
Warnock also made a goalkeeping change, replacing Paddy Kenny with Jamie Ashdown, and brought back El-Hadji Diouf, Rodolph Austin and Aidan White, but to no effect.
Tevez and Aguero caused constant problems up front while Yaya Toure dictated midfield and Milner gave the team he still supports little respite.
The only Leeds player to make his mark on the hosts early on was former City midfielder Michael Brown, who was constantly at the heels of his opponents and looking to irritate.
Such was City’s clear superiority it came as no surprise when they opened the scoring with just under five minutes gone. David Silva was involved in a neat move before Yaya Toure exchanged passes with Tevez on the edge of the box and then went through on goal and expertly took the ball round Ashdown.
Brown caught up with Yaya Toure three minutes later, tangling with the City talisman near the halfway line, but referee Mark Clattenburg stepped in. City went back on the attack, cutting Leeds open with ease as Pablo Zabaleta released Aguero, and Tevez fired narrowly wide.
It seemed the Leeds defence could not cope with Aguero and Tom Lees gave him the opportunity to double the lead when he pulled him back in the area. Aguero finished emphatically from the spot and City, comfortable, began to stroke the ball around with even greater confidence.
Leeds showed little bite and, when they did, it came some while later after Brown clipped Tevez.
Kolarov’s free-kick was deflected into the side-netting and Javi Garcia got forward to glance a header across goal from a corner.
Leeds tested Pantilimon when Ross McCormack forced the Romanian to palm away a free-kick in the last minute of the first half. Brown was removed at half-time by Warnock, depriving the Leeds fans of one figure they love to hate but they turned their sarcasm on their unpopular manager.
They were soon doing that from a position of 3-0 down as Aguero combined with Silva and raced into the box before clipping a ball across goal for Tevez to volley in from close range.
There was little to entertain in most of the second half, although the Leeds supporters maintained their humour by cheering anything forward-thinking their side did – such as Austin shooting well wide – as if they had scored.
Despite that, their message was clear: they want Warnock out and they are unhappy with the team’s inconsistency and the club’s unclear off-field picture.
Jack Rodwell came off the City bench and almost made an immediate impact as he headed onto the crossbar after Ashdown had parried a Yaya Toure shot.
The fourth City goal came after 74 minutes as Silva split the Leeds defence with a superb pass and Aguero turned and waited for the optimum moment to curl past Ashdown.
Another City substitute, Edin Dzeko, brought a good low save out of Ashdown as City cantered to victory.
Leeds boss Warnock admitted his side were second best but felt aggrieved by the award of the spot-kick. “I know Mark [Clattenburg] sees it differently and he’s had a good game today but he wouldn’t give a foul anywhere else on the pitch,” said Warnock. “The lad is clever the way he appeals but it’s such a soft penalty. And so we’re 2-0 down after 14 minutes. You think the worst but I think they’ve done really well.
“We have had great cup runs this season but I think in the first ten minutes the young lads were a little bit overawed. But we hung in there and I was quite pleased they didn’t fold. The second goal is vital when they’re desperate to get a result but it’s never a penalty in a million years.
“Let’s be fair, they were still better than us but it made it easier for them.”
Mancini did not feel the awarding of the penalty was relevant in such a one-sided game. He added: “The game has finished 4-0 and I don’t think we conceded a lot of chances. I think the result is correct but I don’t know if it was a penalty.”