Phil Foden and Manchester City dash Cheltenham dreams of Cup upset

Just as Cheltenham Town of League Two sniffed one of the most important shocks in FA Cup historical past, two objectives in three minutes turned an exhilarating tie on its head and earned Manchester City passage to the fifth spherical. City had been made to sweat after an extended throw helped Cheltenham take a shock lead by way of Alfie May, however late objectives by Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus punctured Cheltenham’s hopes of recording the mom of all upsets earlier than Ferran Torres allowed City to breathe straightforward within the ultimate seconds.

With seven minutes to play, moments after Foden had equalised by gracefully changing João Cancelo’s good cross, it spoke volumes {that a} pernickety Guardiola was nonetheless fretting on the touchline, pedantically arguing that Ben Tozer, the Cheltenham captain who heroically led his staff, was attempting to steal a couple of yards earlier than unleashing his not-so-secret weapon: that monstrous and now notorious lengthy throw. The motive Guardiola was ruffled was as a result of Cheltenham had already prospered from it, May scoring after nipping in forward of Benjamin Mendy, one of 10 City modifications.

Nevertheless, this was a complete mismatch: City’s squad was assembled at a price of greater than £563m, in contrast with a Cheltenham staff comprising eight free transfers, two loanees (together with the difficult Finn Azaz) and a £10,000 signing in May, a livewire from begin to end whose fervour drew particular reward from Guardiola. City’s galaxy of superstars, because the Cheltenham supervisor Michael Duff described them in midweek, arrived because the solar set on Cleeve Hill, a picturesque backdrop on the cusp of the Cotswolds extra synonymous with the Cheltenham Festival. Bookmakers would have given sizeable odds of an upset right here however Cheltenham, 72 locations beneath a City staff which have now racked up 10 straight wins, ensured a bumpy trip.

“I don’t think we deserved to concede a third, but I’m incredibly proud,” Duff mentioned. “The players they brought off the bench and the way they celebrated the goals probably tells you something. We said to our players: ‘Can you make a mark on the game in a positive way?’ Pep and his players will definitely know they’ve been involved in a half-decent match. It was an amazing performance. Maybe we’ve stepped out of the racecourse’s shadow for five minutes.”

Guardiola had joked that Cheltenham wouldn’t go away any beers within the bar that doubled up because the away dressing room however did depart Gloucestershire with a bottle of crimson, courtesy of Duff. “It wasn’t the normal red wine I buy,” mentioned the Cheltenham supervisor. “But we’re back to work on Monday, because we’ve got to prepare for Oldham at home [on Tuesday]. We’ve got to go and kick on in the league now. All of the fanfare, all of you guys [the media] and the fancy advertising boards are going to disappear, so we’ve got to kick on.”

Tozer’s preposterous goal-line clearance to disclaim Mendy an early screamer set the tone for a gripping contest. Duff acknowledged every thing must go of their favour in the event that they had been to have any likelihood and Tozer’s superhuman effort to move Mendy’s bullet strike off the road after Tommy Doyle’s cross was solely half-cleared appeared a very good omen. Mendy’s wry smile mentioned all of it.

Fifteen minutes earlier than kick-off the general public tackle announcer issued a well mannered reminder that further time can be performed within the occasion the rating was degree at 90 minutes. At the time it appeared a contact optimistic – Duff whooped his aspect’s first effort on track – however City had been made to endure and ultimately wilted. When they fell behind, it inevitably stemmed from a mammoth lengthy throw. Charlie Raglan and Will Boyle helped the ball on and May reacted quickest to poke in.

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Guardiola wore a glance of disgust. Moments earlier Jesus, freed beautifully by Foden, handed up a golden likelihood when his shot kissed a submit and the City supervisor was quickly deep in dialog together with his assistant Rodolfo Borrell, devising an escape plan. In the top, it labored. Ilkay Gündogan and Rúben Dias arrived to offer City extra thrust and one other substitute, Cancelo, laid the ball on for Foden to strike earlier than Fernandinho’s move allowed Jesus to energy in. Then Torres received in on the act in stoppage time to tee up a fifth-round journey to Swansea. But it was removed from snug.

“We learn to suffer, being there, being there and in the end, the quality makes the difference,” Guardiola mentioned. “We know exactly what happens in this type of competition all around the world. We knew how tough it would be. Every [Cheltenham] throw-in was more important than a corner or free-kick. They were completely alive. That is why the FA Cup is nice – everyone can be punished.”

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