He was cool, calm, collected. Kelechi Iheanacho, helped seal the Citizens’ passage into Round Five of this year’s FA Cup after a well-taken hat-trick at Villa Park against an out-of-sorts Villa side.
Kelechi Iheanacho. Despite finding regular minutes hard to come by in an ever-improving Manchester City side, the talented young Nigerian forward has maintained his aspiration – to keep improving and establish himself in England’s top flight. An admirable attitude, self-belief and undeniable quality were all on-show as the 19-year-old scored a well-taken hat-trick to help seal the Citizens’ passage into this year’s FA Cup Fifth Round.
Remi Garde‘s Aston Villa side were out-of-sorts, and struggled to create much in the final third. But in fairness, the visitors had too much quality for them to deal with sufficiently, and ran out deserved winners at Villa Park.
Two goals in twenty minutes
Kelechi’s first of the afternoon was the result of fortunate positioning, but also spatial awareness. Fernando saw his close-range header denied by a fingertip save from Brad Guzan, as well as a goal-line clearance. But, in a goalmouth scramble, Iheanacho was closest to the ball and found himself consequently able to tap home from close-range and break the deadlock.
The second was a penalty, after Leandro Bacuna bundled Raheem Sterling to ground in the area as the English forward looked to latch onto Jesús Navas‘ low cross from the right-hand side. Composed and slick, Kelechi sent Guzan the wrong way with a neatly-slotted finish to double the visitors’ lead.
Chances of note
Fernandinho was denied by a smart reactive stop from Guzan shortly afterward, whilst Idrissa Gueye tried his luck from range at the other end from a loose ball – but Willy Caballero was equal to the swerving effort, comfortably smothering the ball after a diving save to his left.
Sterling came close to making it three-nil, but failed to get his feet sorted quickly enough after a ball was fizzed into the area – he lost his footing and Guzan was able to thwart the danger by rushing off his line and catching the ball.
Kelechi sealed his hat-trick with just under twenty minutes to play, taking advantage of an ill-advised backpass from Gueye to sprint forward from his own half, to latch onto the ball. From there, he had a one-on-one with Guzan and was composed enough to slot home in the bottom corner.
Two successive, impressive Cup victories for Pellegrini’s side, and despite de Bruyne’s injury, plenty of optimism within the youth core of the team. Kelechi scored three, assisted one, and continues to flourish as the sky Blues’ quest for silverware in 2016 continues.