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Cheltenham Town 1-3 Man City: Six-time winners avoid FA Cup shock

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Cheltenham Town 1-3 Man City: Six-time winners avoid FA Cup shock 2

Cheltenham Town came within nine minutes of one of the biggest shocks in recent FA Cup history before Manchester City staged a dramatic late rally to crush the dreams of the gallant League Two side.

The Robins, 72 places below City who sit second in the Premier League, threatened huge embarrassment for Pep Guardiola’s side after Alfie May put Cheltenham ahead on the hour after a trademark long throw from captain Ben Tozer caused chaos in the area.

City, who made ten changes to the team that beat Aston Villa in the Premier League on Wednesday, spared their embarrassment when Phil Foden, the game’s outstanding player, arrived at the far post to turn in substitute Joao Cancelo’s long cross in the 81st minute.

And the turnaround was complete three minutes later when a rare moment of slackness in the outstanding Cheltenham defence, with goalkeeper Josh Griffiths superb, switched off and Gabriel Jesus scored from Fernandinho’s delivery.

Ferran Torres scored Manchester City’s third with the last kick of the game to give the scoreline a cruel reflection on Cheltenham’s heroic efforts.

It was so cruel on manager Michael Duff and his players, who now go back the battle for promotion from League Two, while City will be away at Swansea in the fifth round.

“I’m incredibly proud,” the Robins boss said of his side’s display. “The players they brought on from the bench and they way they celebrated the goals tells you something. They know they’ve been in a game. They’ve done that to better teams than us.”

The pride of Cheltenham

The sight of Manchester City manager Guardiola disputing where Cheltenham could take a throw-in said everything about the way the League Two underdogs gave their mighty opponents a serious fright.

Tozer’s throw-ins were causing all manner of problems and led to Cheltenham’s goal but there was so much more to their performance than that set-piece weapon, a threat any manager in the game would utilise.

Cheltenham tried to play football when they got the chance, with goalscorer May, who has done the hard yards in non-league before playing for Doncaster and now Cheltenham, a leading light.

Robins keeper Griffiths, who suffered the ignominy of being beaten from 71 yards by his Newport County opposite number Tom King in midweek, was in defiant form as he saved well from Riyad Mahrez and Torres, showing command throughout. Tozer’s headed goalline clearance from Benjamin Mendy in the first half was also symbolic of their ‘they shall not pass’ approach.

There may have been no fans inside this compact stadium but there was still a real sense of occasion, the game being halted in the first half because of a firework display nearby.

In the end this will be a bitter disappointment to Cheltenham but they can be rightly proud and take huge confidence into their League Two promotion battle.

Duff highlighted how financially important the cup run was for his club.

“It’s essential,” he added. “Every pound coming in is probably worth a tenner in normal times.

“These games don’t come around very often. It’s a shame because [with fans] the place would’ve been bouncing. Would that have seen us through in the last 10 minutes? I’m not so sure – but the key is to enjoy it.”

Foden City’s shining light

Guardiola made 10 changes to his line-up to give Manchester City’s shadow squad a chance to impress.

Some, like the erratic Mendy, did not take that opportunity and it was someone establishing himself in City’s side that spared the blushes of this expensively assembled squad.

Foden was magnificent, so light on his feet with glorious ball control, endless creativity and the man pulling the strings for City even when they were struggling to break down resilient Cheltenham.

The 20-year-old was head and shoulders above his City team-mates. He was the one who was going to pull them out of their grim predicament if anyone was, and so it proved when he popped up with the crucial late equaliser that lifted Guardiola’s team and deflated Cheltenham.

Foden had already carved out chances for Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus that were not taken so it was a case of ‘do it yourself’ when he was the player on target.

The fact Guardiola was forced to use three subs in Ruben Dias, Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Cancelo once Cheltenham went ahead proved how worried the Premier League giants were.

This was an unimpressive, scratchy display from City’s much-changed team, with Guardiola resting so many of the players who are giving them such an ominous look in the Premier League – luckily they had the brilliance of Foden to pull them out of a deep hole.

Guardiola praised the England attacking midfielder for his impressive performance.

“Foden is in a great moment and with great confidence,” he said.

“He is clinical in front of goal and he had a similar chance to the goal we scored at [Chelsea’s] Stamford Bridge – he is playing really well.”

The City manager suggested he was confident in the players he put out on the pitch.

“I didn’t have regrets even when we were 1-0 down, we had clear chances from the first minute,” he added.

“When they take advantage it gets complicated, but we got it to 1-1 and it was tight. We came here with humility and had the quality to make the difference.”

City concede after 509 minutes – the stats

  • Cheltenham have lost all nine of their competitive meetings with Premier League sides, by an aggregate score of 6-23.
  • City have won 10 consecutive games in all competitions for the first time since a run of 11 from August to October 2017.
  • May’s opener for Cheltenham was the first goal City had conceded in 509 minutes of action in all competitions, since Callum Hudson-Odoi’s strike for Chelsea at the start of the month.
  • Foden is City’s top scorer in all competitions this season with nine goals in 25 appearances, one more than he netted in 38 games last season.
  • Jesus has been involved in 12 goals in 13 FA Cup appearances for City, scoring eight and assisting four.
  • May has scored four goals in his four FA Cup games for Cheltenham, with each of his eight goals in total in the competition coming in home games.

Player of the match

TozerBen Tozer

Cheltenham Town

  1. Squad number4Player nameTozer

  2. Squad number10Player nameMay

  3. Squad number18Player nameAzaz

  4. Squad number17Player nameFreestone

  5. Squad number8Player nameClements

  6. Squad number11Player nameBlair

  7. Squad number19Player nameLloyd

  8. Squad number15Player nameBoyle

  9. Squad number7Player nameThomas

  10. Squad number5Player nameRaglan

  11. Squad number20Player nameGriffiths

  12. Squad number14Player nameWilliams

  13. Squad number2Player nameLong

  14. Squad number16Player nameAddai

Line-ups

Cheltenham

Formation 5-4-1

  • 20Griffiths
  • 11Blair
  • 5RaglanBooked at 48mins
  • 4TozerBooked at 84mins
  • 15BoyleBooked at 24mins
  • 17Freestone
  • 18AzazSubstituted forWilliamsat 81′minutes
  • 8ClementsSubstituted forAddaiat 89′minutes
  • 10May
  • 7Thomas
  • 19LloydSubstituted forLongat 69′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Flinders
  • 2Long
  • 6Bowry
  • 14Williams
  • 16Addai
  • 22Harris
  • 30Ebanks

Man City

Formation 4-4-2

  • 13Steffen
  • 78Harwood-BellisSubstituted forRúben Diasat 68′minutes
  • 50García
  • 14LaporteBooked at 60mins
  • 22MendySubstituted forCanceloat 77′minutes
  • 26Mahrez
  • 69DoyleSubstituted forGündoganat 68′minutes
  • 25Fernandinho
  • 47Foden
  • 21Torres
  • 9Gabriel Jesus

Substitutes

  • 3Rúben Dias
  • 7Sterling
  • 8Gündogan
  • 11Zinchenko
  • 16Rodri
  • 20Bernardo Silva
  • 27Cancelo
  • 31Ederson
  • 82Bernabé

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