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Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Matheus Nunes celebrates their fifth goal, scored by Jeremy Doku during the FA Cup third round match against Huddersfield Town at Etihad Stadium in Manchester on Sunday. Image Credit: Reuters

London: Kevin De Bruyne made his long-awaited return for Manchester City as the FA Cup holders thrashed Huddersfield 5-0 in the third round on Sunday.

Belgium midfielder De Bruyne had been sidelined since tearing his hamstring during City’s Premier League opener against Burnley in August.

He finally got back in action as a 57th minute substitute in City’s emphatic victory over the Championship strugglers at the Etihad Stadium.

Chants of ‘Oh Kevin De Bruyne’ echoed around the stands when the 32-year-old replaced Julian Alvarez.

Pep Guardiola’s side were leading by goals from Phil Foden and Alvarez when De Bruyne was introduced.

De Bruyne’s arrival kept the momentum going as City netted three more times through Ben Jackson’s own goal, another Foden effort and a Jeremy Doku strike on his return from injury as a second half substitute.

Fittingly, Doku’s goal was set up by a deft lofted pass from De Bruyne.

Staying afloat

City have stayed afloat without De Bruyne, but his world-class quality in midfield will be a key factor in their bid to retain the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

After winning five major trophies in 2023, City have their sights set on more silverware in the new year and their first step on the road back to Wembley could not have been any easier.

City famously thrashed Huddersfield 10-1 in 1987 in a match featuring three hat-tricks.

Not brutal

While this wasn’t quite that brutal on Huddersfield, there was never any doubt City would progress despite the absence of Rodri, due his grandmother’s death, and the injured Erling Haaland.

Foden broke Huddersfield’s resistance in the 33rd minute, squeezing his shot in at the near post after Alvarez’s effort was blocked.

Alvarez nabbed in City’s second goal four minutes later, the Argentine stretching to tap in Rico Lewis’s pass from close-range.

De Bruyne had been on for just seconds when City scored their third as Oscar Bobb’s shot went in via a wicked deflection off Jackson.

Foden struck again in the 65th minute with a clinical low strike from 20 yards.

Belgium winger Doku capped the demolition in the 74th minute, meeting De Bruyne’s sublime pass with a first-time finish.

Premier League trio held

Premier League strugglers Luton were held 0-0 by third tier Bolton at Kenilworth Road.

In their first top-flight campaign since 1992, Luton’s primary goal is survival and a draining replay was the last thing Hatters boss Rob Edwards needed.

Nottingham Forest were also given a scare by League One opponents as Nuno Espirito Santo’s men recovered from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Blackpool.

Blackpool beat Forest in the third round last year when the Seasiders were in the Championship and almost repeated the trick at the City Ground.

Forest academy graduate Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel netted against his old club with a spectacular diving header in the 25th minute

Albie Morgan doubled Blackpool’s lead in the 27th minute, coolly converting CJ Hamilton’s cross at the far post.

But Nicolas Dominguez finished off Gonzalo Montiel’s cross in the 39th minute and Morgan Gibbs-White equalised from 18 yards in the 56th minute.

West Ham were held to a 1-1 draw against second tier Bristol City at the London Stadium.

Jarrod Bowen ran onto Lucas Paqueta’s lofted pass and slotted home in the fifth minute.

But influential playmaker Paqueta was forced off with an injury midway through the first half in a major blow.

And Tommy Conway sent 9,000 travelling City fans wild in the 61st minute when he fired the equaliser past Lukasz Fabianski.

Arsenal vs Liverpool

Later on Sunday, Arsenal and Liverpool take a break from their Premier League title battle to clash in the tie of the round at the Emirates Stadium.

After the title rivals played out a 1-1 draw in the Premier League at Anfield in December, they meet again with the chance to inflict a psychological blow.