FA Cup Final verdict: Manchester City 1 Stoke City 0
Goal: Y Toure (75 mins) for City.
City won the 2011 FA Cup courtesy of a 75th minute strike by Yaya Toure. Regardless of what happens in the future this was a historic victory for the club as, for the first time in a generation, a City captain lifted a piece of major silverware.
All the players contributed in a thoroughly professional team performance of which Roberto Mancini could be proud. There may have been few clear-cut chances and only the one goal, but this was an assured display far removed from our usual travails against Tony Pulis’ side.
“Every game is different” said Roberto Mancini when asked if conceding two headed goals against Everton boded ill for the Cup Final. So it proved as the manager presumably had his coaching staff working with the players on defending set-pieces during the week.
Kompany and Lescott were defensive pillars against the high balls, as Stoke never managed to create a clear opportunity from a set-piece.
Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry patrolled a broad area, enabling Richards and Kolarov to push up and keep the Stoke wingers pinned back. The Potters were successfully stifled and it was down to the City attack to produce a winner.
The return of Tevez enabled us to play higher up the pitch as he repeatedly dropped deep enabling link up play with others. Better this than a long ball aimed at an isolated Dzeko or Balotelli.
With Tevez drawing defenders, there was greater space for Balotelli to work in – except when he was poleaxed by Robert Huth’s errant arm. Mario came closest to scoring in the first half when a curled effort was tipped away by Sorensen.
The Stoke goalkeeper had initially done well to deflect a shot from Tevez, but was powerless when Silva mishit the best chance of the first half down into the ground and watched it bounce over the bar.
Once again the interchanging of positions by City’s front four had the opposition struggling to press the ball and regain possession. Unlike in recent games City retained this level of performance for the majority of the match and Stoke were unable to pin us back.
A few set pieces in the early part of the second half and a couple of corners in the closing minutes were dealt with in the disciplined fashion which Mancini requires. In between these times was the goal.
Given he was only just back from injury, it was no surprise to see Barry depart before he faded. Adam Johnson came on to give us more natural width and Yaya Toure might have been expected to sit deeper.
However, following the neat interplay between Balotelli and Silva which resulted in the Italian’s shot, the ball broke for the Ivorian to drive home. Johnson was also nearby in case the ball had come his way.
This illustrates the attacking intent being employed by Mancini at this stage. City’s approach play often flounders on a lack of bodies in the box, and rebounds rarely fall to our absent players. This time the players were there and we reaped the rewards.
With a goal scored, the game opened up and City continued to look the more likely scorers with Balotelli, Silva and in particular Tevez all keen to add to the glory.
A second wasn’t to be and Mancini closed the game out by bringing on Zabaleta and the height of Vieira for Silva and Tevez. With the final whistle came the release of unmitigated joy.
Prior to the goal City’s inability to turn territorial advantage into goals had seen the match become a frustrating one. Such was the importance of winning a trophy and the fear that one long ball could see our hopes dashed, that when the goal came it was greated by a cheer filled with both happiness and relief.
Defending corners against Stoke in extra-time with a single goal lead ensured that the final whistle was greeted with a similar sound. From then on it was joy unconfined.
Having won our first trophy under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour, and finished in the top four, there is a sense of the club having arrived. If we can finish ahead of Arsenal to qualify for the Champions League directly then everyone can reflect on a quite brilliant end to the season.
“I’m happy. Congratulations to all my players because I think that this afternoon they played a fantastic game.
“Our supporters have had to wait for many years, but I think in one week we have changed things. We want to try to get third position if possible. We have another two games.”
“In my opinion, this is just the first of many trophies to come in the future.
“We’ve laid the first brick, now we can build a house.”
“We deserved it because we dominated from the first minute, though they came back with their set pieces. I missed out on a World Cup medal in the summer, but I’ll happily take this.”
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