Manchester City will carry a virtually unassailable lead into the second leg of their Carabao Cup semifinal after beating Burton Albion 9-0 in Wednesday’s first leg at the Etihad.
There were three divisions and several hundred million pounds in market value separating the two sides at kick-off and the question of “professional etiquette” was raised after the game, in which Gabriel Jesus helped himself to four goals.
1986 – Burton Albion’s 9-0 defeat is the heaviest League Cup defeat by any side since Liverpool beat Fulham 10-0 back in September 1986, and is the largest ever margin of defeat in the semi-final of the competition. Gap. #CarabaoCup
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) 9 January 2019
Indeed, critics were left to query whether City really had to continue piling the misery on their League One opponents even after romping to a 4-0 lead by the interval.
There’s also a professional etiquette of not taking the piss. Debatable whether City could have eased up after six…
— Mark Ogden (@MarkOgden_) 9 January 2019
Just look at the ratio on that tweet…
The issue was hotly debated on social media, with one camp arguing that City should have eased up on Burton to spare their blushes, while the other contended that football is a competitive sport and that the maximum number of goals should always be pursued.
The home fans were chanting that they wanted to see double figures during the latter stages of the game, perhaps in the knowledge that one more goal would have equalled the club’s all-time record win: a 10-0 victory over the now-defunct Darwen FC way back in 1899.
After the game, the question was put to Pep Guardiola, who maintained that his side had wholeheartedly obliterated Burton as a show of respect.
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) 9 January 2019
“We spoke about that at half-time — to play simple, let them run and try to score more goals. It’s the best way to respect the competition and respect the opponents,” the City boss told reporters.
“If you are 4-0 up and forget to continue, you don’t have respect for the competition or your opponent. The best way is do what we have to do.”
Whether or not you believe that a 9-0 drubbing demonstrates a lack of footballing etiquette, it must be said that Guardiola was at pains to remain humble in the aftermath.
PEP 💬 (Nigel Clough is) incredible. His father has showed him some tricks! You know better than me what he means, he respects football and is charismatic.
It’s an honour to play against his team.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) 9 January 2019
PEP 💬 (After the game) I wanted to congratulate (Burton) for getting to this stage in the competition. They deserve incredible credit.
We don’t have a lot of titles in our museum so every time we have the chance to be in final we have to take it and be hungry.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) 9 January 2019
Burton manager Nigel Clough seemed to take it in good spirits, asserting that his side didn’t play too badly at all despite losing out by a nine-goal margin.
“We didn’t do too much wrong,” Clough said after the match. “Perhaps two or three of the goals we could have done a bit better with.”
“We kept going right to the end, they [the City fans] were shouting: ‘We want 10’. And we stopped them, that’s a positive for us.”
Clough also revealed that Guardiola invited him for a sportsmanlike drink after the final whistle.
“He said: ‘Come in for a glass of wine.’ I said I hope he’s got more than one glass.”
It isn’t the first time City have made a point of annihilating comparatively weaker opposition either, with last weekend’s FA Cup third round clash against Rotherham ending in a comprehensive 7-0 romp.
Guardiola’s side thus became the first team in the top four tiers of English football to score seven or more goals in back-to-back matches since Leeds United, who did so by beating Spora Luxembourg (9-0) and Chelsea (7-0) in 1967.
In the League Cup alone, City have won 13 of their last 15 games against lower league sides, scoring a total of 50 goals in the process.
Perhaps the biggest shame of the evening was the phalanx of travelling Burton fans who missed much of their beloved club’s first ever appearance in a major cup semifinal due to getting stuck in massive tailbacks on the M6 motorway on the way to Manchester — with one supporter arriving with just 15 minutes remaining.
After all, think of all the goals they missed.
With two weeks to regroup, the sides will now reconvene to settle up the second leg at Burton’s Pirelli Stadium on Jan. 23.