Manuel Pellegrini hailed Kelechi Iheanacho but rued another Pablo Zabaleta injury after Manchester City’s Capital One Cup demolition of Crystal Palace.
Iheanacho got on the scoresheet and set up two other goals as City cruised through to the quarter-finals with a 5-1 win at the Etihad Stadium.
It was an impressive way for the youngster to mark his first start for the club and offered City some encouragement with leading scorer Sergio Aguero still out injured.
Pellegrini said: “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.”
Iheanacho played up front with Wilfried Bony, who also scored. Iheanacho teed up goals for Kevin De Bruyne and fellow teenager Manu Garcia, while Yaya Toure also struck from the penalty spot.
Pellegrini said: “I think this moment it’s important for the team to have Kelechi and Bony as options without Kun (Aguero).
“They can play both together as they did tonight. Bony played well tonight. Of course Kelechi was very impressive, but Wilfried also knows he has all my trust and his team-mates’ trust.
“Kun is impossible to replace but we know we have another option in attack.”
The downside for City was another knee injury to Zabaleta, who has already missed more than a month of the campaign.
Pellegrini said: “Pablo had the same injury he had two months ago. The same ligament, the same knee. It’s the medial ligament.”
City will now play Championship side Hull in the last eight, but Pellegrini is not looking too far ahead.
He said: “We are not thinking about the trophy. We are just in the quarter-final. We must focus on our next game which is Norwich.”
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