Manchester City end Newport’s FA Cup adventure and remain on course for clean sweep with 4-1 victory
The journey ends here. A gap of 82 league places proved too far to bridge, the champions of England too strong to contain. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City still have the chance to make this a historic campaign by taking a clean sweep of major honours. But for Newport County, this season is already a special one.
Leroy Sané, Riyad Mahrez and two goals for the excellent Phil Foden ended the League Two side’s journey through this season’s FA Cup at the fifth round, though a late Padraig Amond strike – to briefly make the score 2-1 – left Rodney Parade with a momento.
This was largely a story of two goalkeepers, though, and how different the evening could have been were not for one extraordinary save in its opening stages. Tyreeq Bakinson believed he had given Newport an early lead, only for Ederson to make one of the more impressive stops of his City career to date.
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Joe Day would not be so lucky. Early in the second half, when Sané’s cross-cum-shot came crashing towards him, it breached his grasp. From there, the visitors were in control. Even when Amond gave Newport brief, late hope, the third and fourth City goals came within minutes.
For all the talk of the pitch being a farmer’s field, there was more than a touch of the agricultural about Newport’s play too. Mickey Demetriou’s long, arcing throw-ins were their weapon of choice and despite City preparing for a physical, full-bloodied cup tie, these projectiles still caused problems.
Newport would have taken a surprise lead through this method if not for a remarkable save by Ederson. Bakinson was unmarked at the far post when one of Demetriou’s throws was flicked on into his path. His header was low and goalbound, and some parts of Rodney Parade were already celebrating, but a right hand intervened.
It was superb stop but one which had helped expose a weakness. Another Demetriou hurl into the area was sent wide on the half-volley by Joss Labadie. One more caused panic and confusion inside the City penalty area until it was eventually cleared. Nobody could have blamed manager Michael Flynn had he began instructing his side to play for throw-ins.
But City were otherwise coping well enough with the abrasive approach, hostile crowd and difficulties underfoot, claiming 80 per cent of possession. The first-half was largely played at City’s pace and their attempts to break through only failed because Newport’s defending proved more resolute than that of, say, Chelsea.
Mahrez tested Day’s reflexes with several early efforts and Sané clipped the top of the crossbar towards the end of the half. The latter also saw a cross blocked by full-back Mark O’Brien’s arm inside the area. It appeared to be a clear penalty but City’s appeals were faint and referee Andre Marriner waved play on.
Sané would not have to wait too long to break the deadlock and almost Day’s nose with it. It was a painful goal to concede in more ways than one and strangely apt that it came through City being simply too powerful. Sané’s cross came at Day straight and true and at full force, breaking his guard, rebounding off his face and then bouncing over the line.
Day required treatment, delaying the restart. As the other Newport players waited, their momentum spent, it appeared their hopes of yet another Cup upset to follow those against Leeds, Leicester City and Middlesbrough were as bust as their goalkeeper’s nose. Once ahead, City rarely allow an opponent back in.
Their passage to the quarter-finals then appeared to be assured by Foden. The teenager had shown remarkable self-control not to tap Sané’s goal over the line when watching it trickle over from close range. This restraint was rewarded when he danced past Dan Butler and fired low through Day’s arms.
And yet, there would be hope for Newport, only it would be fleeting. When Aymeric Laporte, a substitute, failed to cope with a long ball out from the back in the 88th minute, Amond took advantage with speculative lob that dropped over Ederson’s shoulder, bounced and then trickle into the far corner.
But City invariably snuff out any such sign of resistance. There were some in Newport colours still celebrating when Foden turned past O’Brien and let loose from the edge of the area, sending the ball past Day. The two-goal lead was restored and soon extended in stoppage time by Mahrez, scoring low at the near post.
Again, it was a goal that the Day would be disappointed with, but he, his team-mates and Flynn cannot look back on their efforts in this cup run with anything but pride. City march on to potentially greater glories but in Newport, the memories have already been made.
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