MANCHESTER, United Kingdom – A Sergio Aguero brace was the highlight of Manchester City's comfortable 4-0 FA Cup fifth round victory over Leeds United at the Etihad Stadium, a win that will lift, at least temporarily, speculation about the future of manager Roberto Mancini.
With City 12 points behind league leaders Manchester United, the FA Cup remains Mancini's most realistic hope of winning silverware this season and Aguero's efforts, together with goals from Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez, carried his team through to the last eight with the minimum of fuss.
City wasted no time in taking out recent league frustrations on their Championship visitors and, even before their fifth minute opening goal, Leeds 'keeper Jamie Ashdown had been forced to race from his area to beat Aguero to an under-hit back-pass.
Neil Warnock's players were still struggling to come to terms with the task in hand when Yaya Toure left them with a mountain to climb.
The Ivory Coast international exchanged the ball with both David Silva and Tevez in a flurry of passes before advancing into the area and comfortably beating Ashdown and an attempt by Lee Peltier to clear off his line.
It was the start of a half of almost unrelenting City dominance with Tom Lees' timely tackle stopping Aguero, Silva flashing a shot wide and Tevez shooting into the side netting from an Aguero pull-back, all in quick succession.
Finally, after 14 minutes, Leeds succumbed to the inevitable after Lees was harshly judged to have pulled back Aguero on one of his trademark snaking runs into the area.
The Argentinian international took the spot kick himself, calmly converting past Ashdown.
Leeds finally launched a meaningful attack of their own as El Hadji Diouf headed just over from Sam Byram's 15th minute cross.
But, apart from City goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon being forced to punch away a 45th minute free-kick from Ross McCormack, the remainder of the tie quickly degenerated into a question of how many City would score.
An Aleksandar Kolarov free-kick was turned into his own side netting by Byram, a superb 20-yard volley from Yaya Toure was tipped over by Ashdown, who then needed two attempts to smother a low shot from Kolarov, and Javi Garcia glanced just wide from a Kolarov corner.
It took until the sixth minute of the second half for City to finally find the third goal that rendered any prospect of a Leeds fightback out of the question.
Aguero played a one-two with Silva before continuing a sprint towards the left-hand by-line from where his cross was met on the goal line by Tevez, who forced the ball into the open net.
James Milner's long run ended with a shot that passed just wide of the net from 18 yards and Tevez might have added his second and City's fourth but he just failed to make clean contact on Aguero's centre just before the hour.
As City pressed on Yaya Toure might also have extended the lead when he met Silva's cross with a powerful shot which Ashdown parried directly to substitute Jack Rodwell who could only head against the cross-bar with an open goal at his mercy.
As Leeds supporters expressed their growing unrest with manager Warnock, the afternoon might have turned even uglier for the mid-table Championship side had Aguero made decent connection with an eight-yard shot which dribbled through to the goalkeeper.
And when Leeds winger Aidan White finally set up a chance for his side after 71 minutes his cross was headed meekly over the City goal by Luke Varney.
It had long since been irrelevant to the outcome of the game, but Aguero finally added the fourth goal that City's superiority merited after 73 minutes, following Silva's well-timed pass picking out the Argentinian's run beyond the Leeds defence.
Aguero did the rest with a confident finish past the advancing Ashdown.
There was still time for City to seek a fifth goal and substitute Edin Dzeko almost delivered it with Ashdown diving sharply to the foot of his near post to keep out a low, 18-yard shot. – Sapa-AFP