Well it had finally arrived, England’s 130th FA cup to be contested by Roberto Mancini’s high flying Manchester City and Tony Pulis’s Stoke City. The Blues have won the FA cup four times in the club’s 131 year history whilst this is Stoke’s first visit to England’s prestigious competition.
With the world’s eyes watching, Mancini put out a strong attacking team bolstered by the return of the talismanic Carlos Tevez combined with Balotelli up front. Barry returned to midfield alongside De Jong and Toure. Pulis looked to rely on strength and directness to combat City’s silky skills hoping to emulate what Everton had done to City just one week ago.
As Martin Atkinson blew for kick off the crowd noise was deafening. Stoke kicked off right to left and hoofed the ball up right away. City recovered and moved the ball along the floor into Stokes half.
First corner to City on two minutes. Stoke cleared into orbit which seemed to be their plan today.
First shot to City after neat work by Balotelli on four minutes and Tevez brought a smart save out of the Stoke keeper.
Stoke looked scared and City had the lions share of possession but could they turn possession into goals.
Eight minutes and City’s third corner. Cleared only to De Jong. A shot followed high and wide.
Ten minutes and nearly an own goal by Stoke after a drilled cross by Kolarov. The ensuing corner was cleared to Toure who nearly scored from thirty yards out.
When Stoke did break, De Jong was there to break up the play and they were resorting to long throws and balls into orbit.
On fourteen minutes Ballotelli was taken out by a well placed elbow in the box. Stoke were resorting to type and this was turning into a game of footballers against thugs.
Hart`s kicking was giving city a head ache as he constantly kicked the ball into touch.
By seventeen minutes the tempo of the game had settled down as City stroked the ball around and Stoke hoofed.
Stoke’s first chance came on twenty one minutes but Kompany smothered the shot and Hart collected.
Their second shot came from forty yards out on twenty two minutes and was high and wide.
Balotelli shot on twenty four minutes and brought an amazing one handed save from Stoke’s keeper. City were starting to purr in midfield and the front three were showing great understanding.
Stokes players were also dropping like flies in attempts to win free kicks.
Half an hour gone and it looked like men against boys. Stoke were clearly nervous whilst City had the bit between their teeth.
Stoke were leaving their foot in with every tackle and giving Hart some rough treatment. They were looking poor on the floor and were resorting to bully boy tactics.
Thirty five minutes and after great work from Tevez and Balotelli, Silva put the ball over from six yards out when it should have been one nil.
With seven minutes to go until half time, Barry gave the ball away and Stoke found themselves in the box with the ball at Jones’s feet. The shot nearly hit the corner flag as Stoke flexed their ‘footballing’ muscles.
First yellow of the game went to, you guessed it, to Stoke with a double foul on balotelli….Kolarov stepped up for the shot. Unfortunately it was a shot Kenwyn Jones would have been proud of as the ball came down with snow covering out.
Half time and if the game was judged on points City would be crowned winners. Unfortunately despite almost total domination City just couldn’t put the ball past Stokes keeper.
No changes at half time either to the line ups or to the style of football each team played.
Five minutes into the second half and Huth risked a second yellow card with a hand ball just outside Stoke’s area.
Silva stepped up to curl a lovely floated ball which was met by Balotelli but in the scramble that ensued the ref blew up for a Stoke free kick.
Every time City won the ball a Stoke player found themselves writhing in agony and each time the resulting free kick was blasted high and in the general direction of the City box.
Ten minutes in and Silva should again have scored after being found by Tevez. Unmarked in the box and on his left foot he opted to pass to Balotelli but the chance had gone.
Sixty one minutes and Hart kept City in the game by spreading himself fearlessly against Jones who was through on goal after a mistake by Kompany.
Two minutes later and after work between Silva and Toure on the Stoke left, Tevez found himself ball at feet unmarked on the edge of Stokes box. The shot that came was straight at the Stoke keeper.
Tevez was not having his best game for City…he was passing to Stoke players far too often and didn’t look 100% fit.
First substitute of the day came from City on seventy three minutes when Johnson replaced Barry as Mancini looked to create more width and a more attacking edge.
This had an instant impact as Silva found Toure in the Stoke box. Toure took his forward momentum and ran on to the ball and struck a powerful shot to the Stoke keepers right. One nil city. What a shot.
Minutes later Silva should have made it two after Johnson found the by line and cut the ball back.
Stoke made their second substitution of the game bringing on Carew for Delap. Stoke were going for the vital goal in the only way they knew how…long ball.
Pulis final throw of the dice as Ough replaced ex-City player Whelan. This was desperation indeed as City were camped in the Stoke half.
With only four minutes to go Tevez who hadn’t been at his supreme best was withdrawn for the tough tackling Pablo Zabaleta.
City changed to three centre halves as Mancini looked to shut out the towering Carew.
Seconds later City had another corner as Balotelli’s shot was blocked. Silva took it short to Balotelli as City looked to keep possession for the final few minutes.
Three minutes stoppage time ensued as City’s final substitution of the game saw Vieira replace Silva. Stoke had a corner on the City left. Long high ball in and butt clenching seconds followed until the ball went out for a corner on the City right. This time the ball was put out for a goal kick…seconds to go and Balotelli was announced as man if the match…seconds later the final whistle.
Thirty five years no more…City were FA Cup holders in Mancinis first year in charge having beaten the pub team from Stoke in one of the most one sided Cup finals in history.
Blue moon rising. Bravo Bobby Manc bravo City and bravo the City fans for putting up with thirty five years and still being there. And to the tough looking guy who burst into tears when City raised the cup, my blue and white jingle bells hat is raised high for you.
Joe Hart – 7
Made one great save and had little else to do. His kicking really needs to improve if he wants to have that world class tag.
Micah Richards – 7
Did what was asked of him defensively but didn’t do as much going forward as didn’t have a right winger to overlap.
Vincent Kompany – 8
Coped superbly with the orbital style of football Stoke played and only made one mistake in 90 minutes.
Joleon Lescott – 8
Looks to have set up a great partnership with Kompany. Was majestic in the air and stood up strong to the Stoke bully boy tactics.
Aleksandar Kolarov – 7
Didn’t look that bad and I won’t judge him until next season.
Nigel De Jong – 7.5
Played well and was a rock in front of the City defense. One of the Premier Leagues outstanding performers this season.
Gareth Barry – 7
Steady as a rock…calm on the ball and looked good.
Yaya Toure – 9
Ran his heart out for the City cause and looked a truly world class player. Scored the most important goal of City’s season.
David Silva – 8.5
Was here there and everywhere but left his finishing boots at home as he could have had four goals.
Mario Balotelli – 8.5
Was punched, elbowed and kicked but kept his cool and fought for every ball. Maturing with every game and could be a City great.
Carlos Tevez – 7.5
Didn’t have as big an impact as I expected and lost the ball a lot. But still a talisman that strikes fear into the opposition. Mancini says he will stay…..either way City are becoming the team the owners want and how exciting that is
Adam Johnson – 7.5
Had an instant impact as City made it one nil minutes after he came on.
Pablo Zabaleta – 7.5
Put in one or two juicy tackles and aided the finishing five man defense.
Too late to mark.
Roberto Mancini – 10
e won the cup in his first full year in charge and got a place in the Champions League to boot. Even Fergie couldn’t
Tony Pulis – 5
ow pretty poor show from Stoke hit and hope and dive. Looked like he put out a Sunday League pub team, not one from the Premier League.
The FA are buffoons.
I say this as they have de-valued the FA CUP one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world. Silly silly men in suits! They really don’t understand the game they run!
I actually agreed with Stan Collymore for the first time in my life.