SUPER Eagles mercurial playmaker Kelechi Iheanacho scored his first hat trick in English football yesterday when he hit the back of the net three times in the fourth round of the FA Cup enabling Manchester City to secure an easy 4-0 over Aston Villa.
Putting in a scintillating performance, Iheanacho, 19, was played upfront as a striker as Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini decided to rest some of his more recognised forwards like Sergio Aguero and David Silva. Iheanacho responded to the challenge with two first half strikes and one in the second half, which enabled him to take the match ball home.
Despite only having started five times this season, Iheanacho has scored eight goals for Manchester City in both league and cup. Yesterday’s win keeps the club in contention for glory on four fronts, just three points below leaders Leicester City in the Premier League, through to the Uefa Champions League last 16 and in the League Cup final.
Yesterday, Yaya Toure Manchester City’s Ivorian midfielder was left out of the squad altogether, as both managers rested players with vital Premier League matches coming up. However, Villa manager Remi Garde quickly came to regret the wholesale changes he made in the heart of his defence, where Micah Richards and Ciaran Clark replaced Jores Okore and Joleon Lescott.
It was a decision that may have led to the first goal after just four minutes as Villa’s marking was found wanting at a corner. Inevitably Fabian Delph, a former Villa player was involved in the goal, winning the corner and then taking the set-piece himself.
His kick was flicked on by Bacary Sagna and met with a powerful Fernando header at the far post but Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan could not hold the ball and Iheanacho was on hand to hook it in for the opening goal. Three minutes later the goalscorer almost turned provider after he was released down the left flank as he whipped a perfect ball across for Jesus Navas, who could only fire the ball straight at Guzan.
Iheanacho then doubled the visitors’ lead from the penalty spot after Leandro Bacuna was penalised for nudging Raheem Sterling in the back. In the second half, he sealed the victory with a run from the halfway line to get his third, while Sterling made it four in the dying minutes of the game.
Meanwhile, Odion Ighalo also got the winner for Watford against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground as they too qualified for the next round with a 1-0 victory. Coming on in the 72nd minute, he scored in the 89th minute with practically his first touch.