In the end, you feel that both sides will be reasonably content with their evening’s work at Deepdale on Tuesday.
For Manchester City, their 3-0 win over Preston North End thanks to first-half goals from Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and David Silva, was enough to begin the defence of their Carabao Cup title in conivncing fashion, avoiding a potential bannana skin in the form of one of the Championship pace setters in the process.
Preston manager Alex Neil meanwhile, should be pleased with the determined performance his own side put in against the reigning champions of England, as they avoided the sort of confidence-sapping thrashing endured at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s side by Watford over the weekend, ahead of their return to the main priority of extending their impressive start to the Championship season on Saturday.
With both teams battling at the top of their respective divisions, it was perhaps little surprise to see a raft of changes from both sides, with only seven of the 22 players on the pitch having started for their sides the previous weekend.
It was understandable therefore, that both sides looked as though they needed a few sighters at goal to find their range, and it was the hosts who went to close to an early lead, as a Darnell Fisher cross inside the opening 60 seconds narrowly evaded the jumping Josh Harrop at the back post.
After that early scare however, City started to apply the pressure that was inevitably set to come, with Sterling quickly making his presence felt on the left-hand side, cutting inside on several occasions in the opening 15 minutes, without failing to beat the Preston defence or goalkeeper Connor Ripley.
That however would soon change, and though Harrop would force Claudio Bravo into a save with a half volley from distance, it was Pep Guardiola’s side who would take the lead 20 minutes into game, thanks to that man Sterling.
Picking up the ball just inside the Preston half, the England international was allowed to embark on a driving run into the Preston area, before firing confidently past Ripley.
While Preston, to their credit, did look to respond, the class of City would start to show, and once again it was Sterling who was involved, this time as provider, as the Premier Champions doubled their lead.
Once again picking up possession midway inside the Preston half, Sterling placed a precise through into the host’s area, where Gabriel Jesus – who by this point had already squandered a couple of decent half-chances – made no mistake to fire first time into the bottom right-hand corner of Ripley’s goal.
City were not done there however, and the defending champions looked to have secured their passage to the fourth round before half time, as another one of their big names, David Silva, got in on the act. Getting to the by-line inside in the Preston area, the mercurial Spaniard sent a cut back across the face of the Preston goal, which was inadvertently turned into his own net by a Preston man.
Despite that latest set back, the hosts once again continued to battle admirably, and almost pulled one back on the stroke of half time, as Tom Barkhuizen beat the City offside trap to latch onto a beautiful through ball from Ben Davies, only gor the striker to fire a tame effort straight at Bravo in the City goal.
Straight from the off in the second half, it was clear that City were in no mood to take their foot off the pedal, and within a matter of minutes of the restart, the visitors had gone close twice more.
First, Phil Foden fired over via a deflection from a tight angle inside the area, before Gabriel Jesus headed a pinpoint Angelino cross narrowly wide from the edge of the six-yard box.
Try as they might though, City continued to be frustrated early in the second half, as Eric Garcia narrowly missed out on a first senior goal, after firing wide from a matter of yards after David Silva’s cut back at the end of a well-worked corner routine.
Once again Preston would respond to that threat with a reminder of their own abilities, as Josh Harrop forced his way into the area, only to see his effort come back of the bottom of the right-hand post.
Not to be outdone, City themselves would rattle the woodwork minutes later, as Phil Foden went close to getting a goal for his troubles, only to see his effort from the edge of the area bounce back off the crossbar.
By that point however, it seemed as though both teams had become largely content to settle for a 3-0 scoreline, as save for a few more half-chances squandered by Jesus – including one impressive late save by the legs of Ripley – both sides appeared to slowly turn their focus back to League action at the weekend.