Bernardo Silva settles FA Cup tie and makes compelling case as Man City’s most valuable player

Bernardo Silva, centre, celebrates scoring his second goal  (Getty Images)
Bernardo Silva, centre, celebrates scoring his second goal (Getty Images)

In 2011, the FA Cup represented Manchester City’s first major trophy for 35 years. Now, for the second successive season, it may only be the third they lift in the space of a few weeks.

It is almost six months since Newcastle denied City the quadruple by knocking them out of the Carabao Cup, but the double treble remains very much on. The defending champions are off to Wembley again, becoming the first team to reach six successive FA Cup semi-finals.

And Newcastle, despite that autumnal victory, can testify still further to the depth of high-class talents in the City midfield.

When they lost at the Etihad Stadium in August, it was because of a tour de force by Phil Foden. In January at St James’ Park, Kevin de Bruyne was Newcastle’s nemesis.

With the Belgian consigned to the status of spectator by a groin injury, it was Bernardo Silva who instead determined this tie.

A player of his precision rarely requires a touch off opponents to find his intended target but a double came courtesy of deflections. They may not make his personal highlights reel but if part of Silva’s appeal to Pep Guardiola lies in his selfless versatility, a man who can play in several positions assumed the role of match-winner.

He normally leaves that to others but Silva now has 10 goals for the season: his career-highest total of 13 is within his sights, even if the temptation is to suggest he would rather set up someone else than pursue his personal best. Here, he ended with only one more misplaced passes than goals, with umpteen examples of his willingness to press and with further proof of his considerable stamina. It was another 90-minute illustration of why he is one of Guardiola’s favourite players, of why the Catalan will be eager to win the annual summer scramble to keep Silva out of the hands of his persistent suitors.

Yet Newcastle may deem themselves luckless; it is hard enough to beat City without cruel touches off their defenders defeating Martin Dubravka. Perhaps, though, fortune did not favour the timid. Eddie Howe has preferred to play a front-foot, high-tempo 4-3-3, but here Newcastle stood off City in a deep-lying 5-3-2 formation.

It was partly the product of circumstances. A five-man defence was Howe’s response to lacking their regular right-backs. Amid their season-long injury crisis, it had often been a position of rare strength until Tino Livramento joined Kieran Trippier on the sidelines. If injuries have been the unwanted constant in Newcastle’s season, there was a familiarity to the result, their 10th consecutive loss at the Etihad Stadium. Their wait for a trophy dates back to 1969 and now cannot end until 2025 at the earliest.

Jeremy Doku of Manchester City is challenged by Jamaal Lascelles (Getty)
Jeremy Doku of Manchester City is challenged by Jamaal Lascelles (Getty)

They were starved of the ball, making contact with it only to divert Silva’s shots past Dubravka. They can be favourite opponents for the Portuguese. His recent record against them now stands at five goals in four games.

His first shot looped up off Dan Burn’s legs and over Dubravka. There was a subtler touch to his second goal, Sven Botman applying a deft header to Silva’s effort, sending Dubravka diving past it. The goalkeeper yelled at the centre-back, though culpability probably had to be shared.

But that decided the game. Erling Haaland, scorer of five goals in the previous round, drew a blank, shooting wide from the edge of the box. Much of the entertainment stemmed from the manic dribbling of Jeremy Doku, who added an element of the unpredictable; erratic finishing cost the Belgian a goal, though Dubravka twice saved well. Building on his cameo at Anfield, Mateo Kovacic added control in a fine display. Foden impressed again. City were able to rest John Stones and Nathan Ake while Jack Grealish, after a quicker-than-expected return from injury, remained an unused substitute.

Bernardo Silva scores his team's second goal (Getty)
Bernardo Silva scores his team's second goal (Getty)

In goal, Stefan Ortega probably would have played anyway but Ederson’s injury ensured he had to. The understudy made an excellent stop to repel Alexander Isak’s half-volley. That apart, however, the City goalkeeper had too little to do.

Newcastle were passive at the start, at least brighter after Howe made a quadruple substitution – a luxury he lacked when his squad was most stretched – and Miguel Almiron came on to add energy. But while Newcastle could rue getting the toughest possible draw, just as they did in the Champions League, they still have not reached an FA Cup semi-final since 2005. And the most their season may have to offer now is a battle for seventh place.