LONDON – Even against a team languishing in mid-table in the Championship, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believed that his side would not have beaten Bristol City comfortably, if not for fan support.
On Tuesday, Phil Foden struck twice as City eased into the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 3-0 win against the Robins, while 2021 winners Leicester City suffered a shock 2-1 defeat by second-tier Blackburn Rovers.
Guardiola’s side were never in danger of losing the fifth-round tie at Ashton Gate thanks to Foden’s brace and a late strike from Kevin de Bruyne, but the manager was thankful nonetheless.
“Our away fans are amazing. They come from Manchester and the only thing we can do is thank you,” he said.
“Always it has been like that. I don’t think we were ever apart.
“They seem so delighted with the last six or seven years. They know we are there to do it and today was another example, we spoke a lot about what the FA Cup means.
“From my experience, (against) League Two or League One sides, (we) always struggle, that’s why the FA Cup is so special. And all the players behaved perfectly.”
De Bruyne returned after missing two games through illness, while Kalvin Phillips started for only the second time since joining City from Leeds United in 2022.
City took a seventh-minute lead when Riyad Mahrez crossed to the far post, where Foden fired into the roof of the net. The latter then doubled the lead after 74 minutes as he produced another clinical finish past Max O’Leary.
De Bruyne got the visitors’ third from long range in the 81st minute to ensure the smoothest of nights for the six-time FA Cup winners.
“It was really tough. Bristol showed us how good they can be. I was impressed by some players, I didn’t know them. The second half was much better,” Guardiola added.
At the King Power Stadium, Leicester were booed off by angry fans after Blackburn ended the Foxes’ bid to reach a second FA Cup final in three seasons.
Brendan Rodgers led Leicester to the club’s first FA Cup triumph in 2021, but Blackburn punished woeful defending from the Premier League outfit to shatter their hopes of emulating that run.
Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side, fourth in the Championship, are into the last eight for the first time since 2015.
They took the lead when Tyrhys Dolan curled home from the edge of the area in the 33rd minute.
Sammie Szmodics made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute, following good work by Sam Gallagher.
Kelechi Iheanacho netted from Harvey Barnes’ pass in the 67th minute to reduce the deficit for Leicester, but Blackburn held on.
“It’s just consistency and mentality and ambition to succeed. That’s been too up and down for us,” Rodgers said.
“I’m really disappointed for the supporters. The FA Cup was an opportunity to get to a quarter-final, against a Championship team at home, but they were a lot better than us, and we have to be worried about that.”
In other matches, Manor Solomon scored for the fourth time in four games as Fulham beat Leeds 2-0 at Craven Cottage to make the last eight for the first time since 2010.
The Cottagers, who have exceeded all expectations to climb to sixth place in the Premier League, took the lead through Joao Palhinha’s superb curler in the 21st minute.
It was a first defeat for new Leeds boss Javi Gracia, whose side won 1-0 against fellow strugglers Southampton in the Premier League last weekend.
Brighton & Hove Albion won 1-0 at second-tier Stoke City to reach the quarter-finals for the third time in the last six seasons.
The Seagulls, who beat holders Liverpool in the fourth round, remain in the hunt for a first FA Cup final appearance since 1983.
They landed the decisive blow in the 30th minute when Kaoru Mitoma’s pass found 18-year-old forward Evan Ferguson who scored with a close-range finish, earning him praise from Seagulls boss Roberto de Zerbi. AFP