Holders Manchester City will face Arsenal in a strong FA Cup semi-final line-up after showing class and patience to beat Newcastle at an eerily quiet St James’ Park.
Shorn of a fervent home support, Newcastle struggled in the first half against their opponents who are aiming to complete a cup treble after conceding the Premier League title to Liverpool this week.
After wasting several good chances, City opened the scoring from the penalty spot when Kevin de Bruyne slotted past Karl Darlow following Fabian Schar’s needless push on Gabriel Jesus.
But after switching to a more positive formation in the second half, Steve Bruce’s team pressed higher up the pitch and the game opened up before a key turning point after the hour mark.
Although Andy Carroll caused problems of a physical nature on his first start since December, it was his replacement Dwight Gayle who had Newcastle’s best chance when he somehow skied over from six yards following Allan Saint-Maximin’s low cross.
Within two minutes, Raheem Sterling raced down the other end and slotted into the bottom corner with an exquisite curling finish for his 22nd goal of the season.
The errors by Schar and Gayle undid Newcastle’s hard work, but City kept their composure to extend their winning FA Cup run to 10 games.
Having already won the League Cup and with a lead over Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League, it could still be a memorable season for Pep Guardiola’s side.
For Newcastle, the dream of reaching an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley for the first time since 2000 was beyond them, but they can now concentrate on trying to fulfil Bruce’s aim of breaking into the Premier League’s top 10.
City keep their cool after tough week
City may have lost their Premier League crown this week as Liverpool ended their 30-year wait for a top-flight title, but there is still plenty for Guardiola’s team to achieve this season.
After looking tired in their 2-1 loss to Chelsea in midweek, the six-time FA Cup winners showed their appetite for the season ahead and a battle against a resolute Newcastle side, who were spearheaded by a combative Carroll.
It already felt like a training game thanks to the absence of 52,000 fans watching Newcastle’s first FA Cup quarter-final since 2006, but Newcastle’s formation reduced the first half to a game of attack versus defence where City clocked up the chances.
Before the opening goal, Riyad Mahrez skied over from 15 yards, Jesus could not direct a fizzing Kyle Walker cross towards goal and Sterling’s powerful shot was then stopped by Darlow.
Amazingly, it looked like the hosts might survive the first half intact before Schar’s mistake.
But De Bruyne kept his cool from 12 yards to net his 12th goal of the season.
That gave City a deserved cushion, and they were afforded more space in the second half that allowed them to attack with their usual confidence.
Following Gayle’s crucial miss, Sterling proved clinical to make the game safe and although City could have added to more goals, they were denied by some stern Newcastle defending.
Newcastle show endeavour after break
Although news of a proposed Saudi Arabian takeover has stalled during the absence of football because of the coronavirus pandemic, the team has emerged from lockdown with spring in its step.
They went into the break unbeaten in three games as they secured their place in the FA Cup’s last eight, and have since beaten Sheffield United and drawn with Aston Villa to virtually secure their Premier League survival.
It was a surprise, however, to see Bruce’s team start the game with a five-man defence, given their upsurge in form had resulted from a switch to a back four.
The logic against a team seeking a cup treble was obvious, but it also played into City’s hands as Newcastle could not get out of their own half. Carroll’s tame shot was all they had to show for a frustrating first half.
They improved after the break when they switched a 4-5-1 formation, with their midfield supporting Carroll, who was booked for a challenge on Aymeric Laporte.
The Newcastle forward was soon withdrawn after clashing with the City defender several times and it looked like the hosts’ extra mobility could take the game to extra time at least.
But Gayle, who has scored one goal this season, fluffed his opportunity and then watched in disbelief as Sterling showed him how it was done.
Bruce will rue the fact that two errors cost his side, but he will hope that his team’s best FA Cup run under owner Mike Ashley and a strong end to the Premier League season are evidence of his credentials for the the job should a takeover finally materialise.
More to follow.