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January 26, 2013
• Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
Referee: H. Webb
• Attendance: 19814
P. Zabaleta 85'
Of course, we have a host of 3pm FA Cup duels due imminently, as well as Manchester United vs Fulham at 5.30, all covered in the usual extensive detail by Goal.com - be sure to stay tuned!
It wasn't really one to get the blood flowing but I'm sure Roberto Mancini will care little about that. If you're curious as to how Alex Fisher saw proceedings, please hunt down his player ratings. I'm reliably informed David Silva was his top dog, while Stoke's Ryan Shotton takes home the wooden spoon.
Manchester City progress beyond Stoke and into the last 16 of the FA Cup, courtesy of a decisive late goal from right-back Pablo Zabaleta.
90' + 5'
And that's it, Howard Webb blows for full-time.
90' + 4'
Aguero very, very nearly finds himself in on goal after Stoke committed men forward though Sorensen races off his line to hoof the ball to safety.
90' + 2'
Manchester City look to batten down the hatches, negating any late momentum from the home side by keeping possession of the ball deep in the Stoke half.
...the ball is cushioned by Crouch and drops to Jerome, before getting spanked wildly over the bar. The substitute was unable to continue his recent flair for decisive and spectacular late goals there.
Five minutes of injury time announced at the Britannia as Shotton attempts to hurl another throw-in into the danger area...
Yellow Card Edin Dzeko
Stoke look to reply though after Etherington skips round a couple challenges just outside the City area, he slips Walters in a little too wide and the move amounts to nothing.
It's Zabaleta who finally gives City something to show for their overall domination, with the right-back finishing excellently with the outside of his boot from just inside the box after the visitors bombed forward on the counter.
Goal Pablo Zabaleta
GOAL! City finally get the breakthrough.
That said, Alex Fisher reckons Stoke are all the better for the beanpole striker's introduction: " Stoke are finally pushing to win this game and the introduction of Peter Crouch has given them a new dimension up front."
Tony Pulis' men have made me look quite the fool after a spell of sustained pressure. However, at every turn the Potters seem to be let down by poor final balls, with Walters, Shotton and Etherington all culpable before Crouch eventually ends the phase by heading well over the bar.
Yellow Card James Milner
Milner cynically scythes down Etherington, who had done well to nip the ball past the England man on the break. The resulting free-kick leads to absolutely nothing at all for the home side, who are really struggling to get out of their own half at the moment.
The game enters the last 15 minutes with the visitors firmly on the front foot.
Dzeko fizzes an effort through the legs of Shotton that bends just outside the far post. Great strike from the Bosnian, who has been virtually silent in the second half before that.
Alex Fisher can barely contain his irony at that lack of action on show at the Britannia: "Peter Crouch is imminent for Stoke, that's how exciting this is at the moment!"
Replays show that Walters was climbing all over the back of Aguero. Unlucky on the Argentine that, City should have had a free-kick from a potentially lethal position.
Aguero drives at the heart of the Stoke defense though stops in his tracks 20 yards from goal after feeling he was being impeded by the red and white shirts in pursuit. Webb is having none of it though and lets play continue.
Tevez does well to work himself half a yard of space on the edge of the Stoke box, yet his effort leaves a lot to be desired after it flies both high and wide. City are dominating here but could be made to pay for not taking their chances.
The visitors will need more flashes of inspiration like that if they're going to prize a stubborn-looking Stoke open.
Silva picks out a lung-bursting Barry run with a delightfully clipped, reverse pass. The deep-lying midfielder had the choice of whether to hit it first time or take a touch and finish. He chose the latter and cut back in from the byline, though Sorensen was alert and snuffs out the danger.
Alex Fisher kindly provides us on an update live from the Britannia: "We have played 15 minutes in the second half here at the Britannia Stadium and nothing of note as really happened apart Glenn Whelan's stamp on Javi Garcia. Roberto Mancini has introduced Sergio Aguero in place of Aleksandar Kolarov in the hope that the Argentine can spark this cup tie into life."
Dzeko sends in a whipped cross as City advance on the counter and though Kolorov absolutely slings himself at it, he can't get enough on the ball to trouble Sorensen.
Manchester City patiently work the ball up to the danger area before suffering simultaneous rushes of blood to the head at the business end, with Tevez miscontrolling and Kolorov sending an effort into orbit with his right foot.
Yellow Card Ryan Shotton
Kightly sends a tame effort into the arms of Pantilimon from well outside the area, before Shotton comes through the back of Tevez to add to the list of this half's misdemeanors.
Little to get the adrenaline flowing here, as both teams probe without creating anything clear-cut.
Another niggling one, as Kolorov and Walters clash heads challenging a for a Sorensen goal-kick. A rather disjointed start to the second half here.
Fair play - Alex Fisher reckons Webb's view of the challenge wasn't as clear as I suggested: "Glenn Whelan is a lucky boy, he has got away with a clear two footed jump on Javi Garcia's legs. Luckily for Whelan Howard Webb's view was blocked otherwise he would have to have issued a red for that."
Garcia hits the deck for the visitors after a very questionable challenge from Whelan. The Stoke man stamps on the Spaniard - should have been a red. A clear red, baring in mind that Howard Webb was a matter of yards away from the incident.
We're back underway.
No changes made for either team.
The players have re-emerged at the Britannia.
With Owen, Crouch and Jerome on the bench, Stoke have plenty of potential firepower to come on and change the game. Not sure if Pulis will opt to shuffle his pack this early on, though Owen and Jerome have both come up with the goods in recent weeks, while Crouch scored an absolute screamer against City just under a year ago on this ground.
So, admittedly not-quite-vintage stuff on show so far this afternoon. Still, I think there's goals in this one, particularly with there now being a Vincent Kompany-sized hole in the visitors' back four. Join us in ten minutes for the second half.
Here's what Alex Fisher - our man at the Britannia - makes of the opening 45 mintues: "Half time here at the Brit and it's goalless without much in the way of action to report on. The visitors have had the better of the game and have hit the woodwork through David Silva but in truth haven't stretched Thomas Sorensen in the Stoke goal. The Potters have been surprisingly subdued and have yet to take advantage of Costal Pantilimon who looks like he's got a mistake or two in him."
And the referee blows for half-time.
Walters spurns the chance to capitalise on a rare Stoke break by crossing into a forest of defenders, with Jones hidden by a number of blue shirts.
Again Kolorov bullies his way down the left and again he finds Dzeko with a low cross. However, the striker's contact is weak and Tevez can do nothing with the scraps, firing wide from an acute angle on the right byline.
Kompany is eventually replaced by a seemingly very reluctant Mancini, as Alex Fisher tells us: "Finally Manchester City make the change, why did it take so long? Gael Clichy is on with Javi Garcia filling in at centre half, James Milner dropping into midfield and Aleksandar Kolarov pushing further forward so Clichy can slip at left back."
Who needs 11 men anyway? Manchester City work Kolorov in down the left after excellent work from Tevez, though the full-backs driven cross along the floor narrowly evades the onrushing Dzeko.
There seems to be a fair bit of confusion surrounding the Kompany situation, as Alex Fisher reports: "I have no idea why but Manchester City are currently playing with 10 men after Vincent Kompany hobbles off after landing awkwardly. And the bench don't seem in any hurry to replace him so maybe the Belgian will be coming back on shortly."
Yellow Card Aleksandar Kolarov
Whelan neglects the chance to test Manchester City's defensively capabilities in Kompany's absence by firing a free-kick straight into the arms of Pantilimon. Foolish, considering Stoke had brought up all the big boys from the back.
Kompany goes down awkwardly and signals to the bench that he's unable to carry on. The immediacy with which Kompany signaled his problem doesn't bode well at all for the Premier League champions. The replay suggests he rolls over on his right ankle. Looked fairly innocuous but Zabaleta now has the captain's armband.
Better from Stoke, who have weathered the storm and battled their way back into the game through the usual industry and graft.
Shawcross nearly puts Stoke (undeservedly) ahead. The home side get a bit of respite from the visitors' relentless pressure and as Etherington whips a ball into the box, Tony Pulis' captain strays about a yard or so offside before tucking past Pantilimon. No mucking about from the referee's assistant, who calls it instantly.
The visitors are clicking through the gears now and this time it's Tevez who goes close. Dzeko's imaginative through ball finds the Argentine and after a bit of pinballing around the box, the ball breaks back to Tevez, though he can only lash high and wide.
Silva finds himself in an identikit position to when he wasted a chance in the game's first 30 seconds (free, on the right-hand edge of the box if you're not fussed about checking back). This time the Spaniard clearly has his eye in and his left footed effort bends gloriously round Sorensen and off the inside of the far post. Half an inch and that would have been an absolute beauty.
Fantastic break from Tevez, who runs almost the length of the field, skipping past Stoke players at leisure. The Argentine slips the ball to Dzeko, though Shawcross throws himself to the ground to block the Bosnian's strike.
Roberto Mancini's side continue to luxuriate in possession of the ball, much to the surprise of Alex Fisher: "Stoke are giving Manchester City far too much time on the ball already in this game, for some reason the normal high intensity play from the Potters isn't in evidence something I'm sure Tony Pulis will be keen to get going. Fantastic atmosphere inside the stadium with both sets of fans singing their hearts out."
Better delivery from Stoke, with Huth heading Whelan's corner narrowly over. The big German should really have hit the target there.
Ryan Shotton hurls in Stoke's first long throw of the game though Pantilimon is unperturbed, punching clear with ease.
Here's Alex Fisher with an update: "The home sections of the Britannia are by no means full but it is nice to see a packed away end of Manchester City fans. Early pressure from the away side as both Edin Dzeko and David Silva waste good chances from inside the penalty area."
Kolorov disappoints with a poorly struck free-kick from distance that floats harmlessly over the bar.
As I type that, Tevez cleverly lets the ball run across him and rifles in the the game's first on-target effort. Sorensen is equal to it though and tips round the near post.
Not a lot to comment on so far, with the game being largely contested in the middle third of the field.
Roberto Mancini's side look the more comfortable of the two in the game's early exchanges, looking pretty content to keep the ball and test the waters. Silva has worked himself into a few interesting positions between Stoke's two defensive lines so far. In the battle between two frankly mammoth sides, his intricacy could be key.
Manchester City start brightly, forcing a corner within 30 seconds that is worked short to find Silva in miles of space on the edge of the box. The Spaniard fires wildly over though.
And here we go.
The contrasting dugout styles of Roberto Mancini and Tony Pulis are seated, as Dzeko and Tevez kick-off for the visitors.
Two minutes until things get going...
Apparently Stoke has seen more than its fair share of snow over the last 24 hours but some sterling work from the home side's ground staff means today's proceedings should pretty smoothly. Certainly no need for an orange ball, at any rate.
"Manchester City make three changes to their side with Costel Pantilimon making his fourth appearance of the season in goal instead of Joe Hart; the other two changes come in defence as Joleon Lescott and Aleksandar Kolarov replace Mateja Nastasic and Gael Clichy. There is no place for Mario Balotelli in the squad with youngsters Karim Rekik and Marcos Lopes both included instead of the Italian and the ill Samir Nasri."
"Stoke make five changes to the side that were beaten by Swansea last weekend with Cup goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen coming in for Asmir Begovic, the Bosnian is given a weekend off as Carlo Nash is named on the bench. The other changes see Ryan Shotton and Andy Wilkinson return in defence in place of Geoff Cameron and Dean Whitehead; Michael Kightly comes into midfield for Charlie Adam and Kenwyne Jones starts upfront instead of Peter Crouch."
Alex Fisher, our man at the Britannia, does the decent thing and talks us through the selections:
Manchester City starting XI: Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov; Garcia, Barry; Milner, Tevez, Silva; Dzeko. Subs: Hart, Clichy, Rodwell, Sinclair, Aguero, Rekik, Lopes.
Stoke City starting XI: Sorensen; Shotton, Shawcross, Huth, Wilkinson; Kightly, Whelan, Nzonzi, Etherington; Walters, Jones. Subs: Nash, Owen, Crouch, Adam, Whitehead, Upson, Jerome.
Anyway – here are the teams for today's early kick-off…
Whether the high drama of that day is to be replicated in the next couple hours remains to be seen. That said, five consecutive draws between the two at this ground doesn’t bode particularly well for thrill-seekers.
Yaya Toure’s solitary goal was enough to earn the blue half of Manchester their first major trophy for 35 years on that occasion. Of course, the Ivorian's involvement at the African Cup of Nations means he won't feature this afternoon.
The duo’s last meeting in this competition was a memorable one – the 2011 final no less.
Afternoon one and all – welcome to Goal.com’s play-by-play coverage of the FA Cup fourth round clash between Stoke City and Manchester City at the Britannia Stadium.
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