Liam Delap gave Manchester City a tempting glimpse of their future before the EFL Cup holders were forced to scrape for a 2-1 win over Bournemouth in round three.
Delap, the 17-year-old son of former Stoke City favorite Rory, has sparked plenty of exciting conversation through his explosive performances for City’s youth team, and he wasted some time when it came to impressing his senior debut.
Pace, power and a dead-eye finish in the 18th minute had Pep Guardiola celebrating with joy, but the City boss soon got a furrowed forehead when Sam Surridge brought the championship level.
Flimsy defense and an inability to create regular clear chances so Guardiola sent the cavalry into Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, where the winner arrived at random as Phil Foden shot a shot into the lawn and in after Riyad Mahrez’s drive came back from post .
The foot was one of three players held back by the City side, who beat Wolves 3-1 in their Premier League opener, and the English midfielder slipped a sweet pass to Mahrez in the 16th minute, with Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers saved on his nearest post.
The foot was the provider again two minutes later as Delap drove past Jack Simpson and clipped a brilliant left foot finish in the top corner.
City’s second debutant, Zack Steffen, picked the ball out of his net as Bournemouth found a quick, well-crafted equalizer – Surridge fired a low shot over the United States international.
The hosts resumed with renewed purpose while Mahrez went close, but Bournemouth continued to threaten an incoherent defense on the counter-attack.
Surridge broke through twice – a combination of Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Eric Garcia, then a wildly slippery Steffen who denied him.
Guardiola had apparently seen enough and sent De Bruyne and Sterling instead of keeping midfielders Rodri and Tommy Doyle after the hour.
But it was Foden who decisively showed his poaching instincts 15 minutes from time.
Surridge could have sent a free kick in high over the penalty box but his shot went wide.
What it means? City remains in conflict for four in a row
A Wembley winner in this competition in 2018, 2019 and earlier this year, Guardiola showed he was not ready to loosen the grip on the three-handed trophy when he introduced his star strikers to help a youthful starting line-up that had allowed the game to drive. The sight of De Bruyne exposed to the lawn in stoppage time – the PFA player of the year eventually stood up, rough but fit to continue after a collision with Lewis Cook’s elbow – showed the costs the City boss was willing to incur.
Delap passes the audition
Sergio Aguero’s knee injury and City being thwarted in their ambitions to sign another Argentine international mean there are opportunities to be at the center of their attack. Delap has jumped out on stage with considerable hype, and the combination of athletic and supreme technique advanced by his goals suggested it is worth believing. The teenager’s physical readiness for men’s football was just as conspicuous as he threw himself into seven duels, even though a yellow card for a shocking hit from the second half at Travers was definitely deserved.
Nightmare Arch for Bernabe
Adrian Bernabe was a playmaker of trade and made his full debut after appearing as a replacement in the EFL Cup four times over the last two seasons. The 19-year-old experience could not have been more contrasting with Delaps as he struggled in the unknown position as a left-back. The Bernabe managed a team-high four tackles, but completed only 30 of his 37 passes and was to blame for Surridge’s goal before leaving a stretcher with a serious-looking injury before half-time.
Key facts – Only Liverpool (25 between 1980-1984) and Nottingham Forest (17 between 1977-1980) have come from more EFL Cup bands in a row than Manchester City in their current race of 16. – Among all Premier League players since the start of last season, only De Bruyne (eight) and Mohamed Salah (six) have both scored and assisted in the same game on more occasions than Foden, who has done so four times across all competitions. – Delap (17 years and 229 days) became City’s youngest debutant scorer since Marcos Lopes against Watford in January 2013 (17 years and eight days).
Guardiola’s side entertain in-form Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, while Bournemouth return for championship action against Norwich, who also dropped out of the Premier League last season.