Saturday, April 16, 2011

City Progress To Cup Final

Manchester City goalscorer Yaya ToureDiscouraged, distraught, the United players slowly clumped off the field, as their local adversaries lapped up the adulation of their travelling support.

Forty-two years. Forty-two years since Neil Young's goal gave Manchester City their last taste of silverware. Now, in 2011, the death of the aforementioned Young has been used as the inspiration behind a Manchester City run to the FA Cup Final.

In the third round, Leicester City forced the Sky Blues to a replay, but a win was never really in doubt, and City's superior personnel led the them to a comfortable home win. In round four, City were once again tested, ten minutes away from being knocked out by Notts County, before an Edin Dzeko goal spared Roberto Mancini's blushes. For the second time, City dominated in the replay, sweeping County aside by a score of 5-0.

Following struggles in the early rounds, City were beginning to cruise through their FA Cup campaign, beating Aston Villa, before sealing a place at Wembley with a 1-0 home win over Championship side Reading.

That win set up a first ever Wembley meeting between the two Manchester clubs, one that would be hotly anticipated by all involved.

Come kick off at Wembley, the atmosphere around the game had been diminished slightly by the absences of United striker Wayne Rooney, and City talisman Carlos Tevez. While Rooney was serving the second match of a ban received for swearing, Tevez had been ruled out with a hamstring injury sustained against Liverpool the previous Monday.

United started the brighter of the two sides and, unsurprisingly, it was they who created the first real clear cut chances of the afternoon. First Dimitar Berbatov's shot was smothered after he had been played through by Park, and, just seconds later, he missed another glorious opportunity, some how putting a Nani cross over the crossbar from inches out.

Whenever a side misses clear opportunities, especially in a competition like the FA Cup, punishment is always in the offing, and as City revived themselves towards the latter end of the first half, the prospect of punishment loomed large.

Early in the second half, City took the lead. Loose defensive play from Michael Carrick gave Yaya Toure the opportunity to go one on one with Vidic, and the Ivorian made no mistake, blasting past Carrick and Vidic before slotting the ball under the legs of Edwin Van Der Sar.

Spurred on by the goal, City continued to press, and with United on the ropes, it seemed only a matter of time before Mancini's team grabbed their second.

However, having successfully ridden that City storm, it looked likely that United would kick on in the match, but a moment of madness from Paul Scholes insured that a come back would be less than easy. Challenging for a 50-50 ball in midfield, Scholes lifted his studs above the ball, raking them down Zabaleta's thigh before being sent off by Mike Dean.

Down to ten men, an equalizer looked highly unlikely despite the introduction of Chicharito Hernandez, and time was starting to run out.

As the board went up for five minutes of stoppage time a huge roar from the United end echoed around the ground, but despite the added time, United's search for an equalizer remained futile.

The final whistle was greeted by a wave of euphoria, created by the jubilant Manchester City fans and players. United had been punished for a failure to turn first half dominance into goals, with Dimitar Berbatov particularly culpable.

In hindsight, it would be easy to say that Sir Alex made a mistake in starting Berbatov ahead of Hernandez, but on any other day the Bulgarian would have tucked one of those two chances away.

Post match, many a City fan will feel confident of an FA Cup final win, but Blues supporters should realize that the winner of Bolton vs Stoke will make it difficult for the men from Manchester.

For United, today's match marks the end of the treble dream, but the Reds still have plenty to play for, they sit seven points clear at the top of the table, and, despite today's loss, they may well be playing in a Wembley final come May.

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