Manchester City’s teenagers shone as they eased into the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup with a 2-0 win over Fulham.
All eyes were on 18-year-old Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz, 19, as they were handed rare starts at the Etihad Stadium, and neither disappointed.
Diaz’s first senior goals settled the tie and gave a hint of why Real Madrid have been linked with the Spaniard, while Foden, who has also seen his name in the transfer gossip columns this week, went close twice and was full of running and intelligent passing in City’s engine room.
The only sour note for City came late on when Kevin De Bruyne, still working his way back to full fitness, went down in pain and was immediately replaced.
Pep Guardiola had made 10 changes from Monday’s win at Tottenham, with John Stones the sole survivor from the side that started at Wembley and Raheem Sterling – understood to have verbally agreed a new deal – able to watch on from the bench.
While Guardiola made sweeping changes, Slavisa Jokanovic fielded a strong side with only three new faces from the weekend, hoping for a victory that would end a run of four straight defeats and perhaps provide a spark for the Cottagers.
There was little to encourage him early on. De Bruyne needed less than a minute to have his first crack at goal, and went close again in the fifth minute.
City had quickly set up camp in the Fulham half and would rarely leave, with Foden the next to go close when he hit a powerful shot from the left which stung the palms of Sergio Rico before De Bruyne sent the rebound over.
Instead it was Foden’s fellow youngster Diaz who broke the deadlock five minutes later with his first City goal.
Vincent Kompany headed down a looping cross from Fabian Delph and Diaz ran on to it to hit a powerful shot which deflected off Aleksandar Mitrovic to beat Rico.
City pushed for more with Danilo cracking a shot against the outside of a post after breaking into the area, while Foden would head just wide from De Bruyne’s wicked cross as half-time loomed.
The second half started in much the same vein, with Leroy Sane’s dinked cross headed wide by Gabriel Jesus before De Bruyne bent a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area.
The longer the game stayed at 1-0 the more Fulham were tempted into the City half, but just as it looked as though they were gaining a foothold in the match, the hosts doubled their lead in the 65th minute.
Foden was involved again, recovering possession and slipping it to Sane. He in turn played in Jesus but when the Brazilian’s shot across goal was touched on to a post by Rico, the ball fell for Diaz and the Spaniard took a touch before rifling the ball into the roof of the net.
With five minutes left De Bruyne limped off and was replaced by 18-year-old midfielder Claudio Gomes.
By then Diaz had already gone off to a standing ovation from fans who will hope they get to see plenty more of him and Foden in the future.
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