The scourge of Crystal Palace, Kelechi Iheanacho struck once again on Wednesday night as his fairytale season continues to pick up pace.
On September 12, Manchester City’s 100% start to the Premier League season looked in jeopardy as their clash at Selhurst Park rolled into stoppage time at 0-0. Moreover, their talisman forward Sergio Aguero had been deprived from the side after picking up a knee injury during the game.
After Manuel Pellegrini had deployed Kevin De Bruyne in the Argentine’s place, Ivorian forward Wilfried Bony became the impetus of the attack. However, with City’s offensive play largely blunted, Pellegrini played one last roll of the dice.
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Bony was substituted and 19-year-old Nigerian forward Iheanacho took to the pitch for only his second ever appearance as a professional footballer.
It proved an inspired move by Pellegrini as deep into time added on, Iheanacho pounced on a mistake from goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to stab home the winning goal from close range. The final whistle blew moments later and the young boy had sealed the win for the Citizens.
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Since that day, the striker has established himself as City's third-choice striker and an energetic asset from the bench. The youthful Nigerian has joined a rare breed of City players to make their way through the academy and into the first team.
Many had criticised Pellegrini in the summer for the triple departure of strikers Stevan Jovetic, Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo. A number of pundits felt this left the two-time Premier League champions undernourished in attacking positions.
However, Wednesday night further proved that even in the absence of Aguero, City had a more than capable forward in their ranks all along.
Having made a further four league appearances since his goal at Palace, Iheanacho got the go-ahead to start the League Cup clash against the same opponents. Once again, the Nigerian impressed the Etihad crowd and tormented Alan Pardew's side in a 5-1 massacre.
He showed a superb moment of composure in the first half when he calmly directed the ball into the path of De Bruyne, who obliged and found the net. It proved the Belgian’s sixth goal in nine games for City and Iheanacho had handed it to him on a plate.
Early in the second half and the precocious youngster bagged a goal of his own to stretch the score line to 3-0. Controlling a firm cross, Iheanacho fizzed a low drive out of Wayne Hennessey’s reach and into the black netting.
The Nigerian also provided a late assist for Manuel Garcia for his first ever senior goal, in what proved a merciless evening for City.
Following the game, Pellegrini said, as per BBC Sport: "It was very important for Kelechi to demonstrate once again that he's a very good player.
"He's not just a striker - he provided two assists - I'm very happy for him. He has things to improve but he's working in the correct way."
With two goals already this season and Palace sick of the sight of him, there is little doubt Iheanacho is causing a buzz around the Etihad Stadium. Even if Bony joins Aguero on the sidelines, City fans can be confident of their youthful protégée waiting to pounce.
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