Manchester City finally prevailed against Chelsea in relative comfort in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Thursday night, Riyad Mahrez and Julian Alvarez both scoring at the Etihad Stadium and goalkeeper Stefan Ortega putting in a heroic display at the other end.
City started brightly at both ends, although it was Chelsea who had the clearest sight of goal in the early stages. With Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Hakim Ziyech attacking down the right, the ball in the box eventually fell to City youngster Rico Lewis and it took Ortega to clear.
Alke Gundogan soon brushed the top of the net with a chipped free-kick after Jack Grealish was cut down by Kalidou Koulibaly on the edge of the box.
City created another chance when Lewis advanced down the right and fired a dangerous ball across the face of goal. Only Erling Holland was missing at the end, with the Norwegian sitting on the bench and not needed on the night.
But despite City’s overall dominance, Chelsea should have taken the lead just before half-time. Blues teenager Lewis Hall was fed by Christian Pulisic and Lewis did everything right to cut inside, but Ortega couldn’t beat him from close range as the City goalkeeper threw a leg out to stop the finish.
Early in the second half, Mark Cucorella had to get a tackle on the advancing Mahrez spot-on to avoid giving away a penalty – and he almost did, denying a certain goal. Edward Mendy also saved twice from the impressive Jack Grealish, but Chelsea’s resistance could not be sustained.
Less than 10 minutes into the second half, Mahrez hit a free kick into the back of the net. Mendy didn’t even have time to move but questions would be asked of Koulibaly, who didn’t jump the wall and see the ball flash past his head.
Mahrez was also involved when Alvarez made it two moments later. It was actually Alvarez who played the ball out wide to the Algerian, whose shot was saved by Mendy after cutting in from the right, only for Alvarez to follow up on the rebound.
It was a strong Mendy hand that denied Cole Palmer who immediately made it 3-0.
Ortega, already with two key saves under his belt, then made another great stop. Once again, it was Hall who had the chance for Chelsea, unable to beat the inspired City goalkeeper after Hakeem Zech was found in the middle of the box.
Chelsea tried to make it a panic for City and almost did when the ball went into substitute Nathan Ake’s net. Ortega’s first error of the night saw a cross slip from his grasp, resulting in a bit of penalty area pinball that saw the ball hit the post.
Stefan Ortega had a good night in goal / Lindsey Parnaby / Getty Images
GK: Stefan Ortega – 9/10 – Made two big saves in the first half and then another in the second, all at crucial times.
RB: Rico Lewis – 6/10 – Struggled defensively at times but stepped up.
CB: Ruben Dias – 7/10 – Handled Chelsea’s threats well and seemed to enjoy the physical battle with Bruja.
CB: Aymeric Laporte – 7/10 – Did everything asked of him on a relatively quiet night.
LB: Sergio Gomez – 6/10 – A comfortable display overall, though he wanted to offer Guardiola more to think about.
CM: Cole Palmer – 7/10 – Saw the ball zipping at home and playing in tight spaces.
CM: Rhodri – 5/10 – Only five minutes were played in the second half.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan (c) – 5/10 – It did not make its usual impact.
RW: Riyad Mahrez – 8/10 – Took City into the lead and was involved in the second goal when his header was blocked by Alvarez.
ST: Julian Alvarez – 8/10 – Finding Mahrez in space made his goal possible in the first place, then expected to react to the rebound.
LW: Jack Grealish – 8/10 – Looked dangerous when he got a chance to run with the ball at pace.
SUB: Bernardo Silva (50′ for Gundogan) – 7/10
Sub: Calvin Phillips (50′ for Rhodri) – 6/10
SUB: Nathan Ake (81′ for Laporte) – 6/10
Manager: Pep Guardiola – 7/10 – Wasted no time in making changes just five minutes into the second half. Unconventional so soon after the half-time break, but it worked.
Youngster Lewis Hall was bright and airy for Chelsea/Lewis Story/Getty Images.
GK: Edward Mandy – 7/10 – Made many saves even though he was beaten. The deficit could have been higher without him.
CB: Tiruva Chalobah – 5/10 – Not the best night for Chalobah, who are losing their cool after going unbeaten for so long.
CB: Kalidou Koulibaly – 5/10 – Forced to carry a yellow card for a long time. Should have done more to prevent the early goal.
CB: Marc Cucurella – 6/10 – Played with good energy in both directions and made some key tackles.
RM: Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 6/10 – Good drive in the first half but not enough of that sort of thing.
CM: Mateo Kovacic – 5/10 – Only a fraction of his passes went forward in the final third. Very safe.
CM: Dennis Zachariah – 4/10 – Maybe still lacking match fitness. Saw little of the ball but also struggled to win it.
LM: Lewis Hall – 7/10 – There were two great moments to score, both of which were met by great saves from Ortega. Still impressed overall but probably shouldn’t have given City’s goalkeeper the chance to save them.
RF: Hakeem Ziach – 6/10 – Missed the target at 1-0 which could have made the difference. Made a great opportunity for Hall as well.
ST: Armando Broja – 5/10 – Not touched at all and looked isolated.
LF: Christian Pulisic – 6/10 – A few opportunities arose on the night. Should American offer more? Probably.
SUB: Raheem Sterling (68′ for Zech) – 6/10
SUB: Mason Mount (for 68′ Bruja) – 7/10
SUB: Conor Gallagher (69′ for Zachariah) – 6/10
SUB: Cesar Azpilicueta (69′ for Chalobah) – 6/10
SUB: Kai Havertz (75′ for Hall) – 6/10
Manager: Graham Potter – 5/10 – After half-time, Chelsea were very flat in the main period and it was too late in the quadruple substitution that it looked like it would make a positive difference.
Man of the Match – Stefan Ortega (Man City)