Yaya Toure smashes a second-half winner to end the long wait for a trophy and complete a fantastic week for the blue half of Manchester.
Manchester City’s 35-year wait for a major trophy is finally over after a 1-0 victory over Stoke City saw them lift the FA Cup for the fifth time in its history.
Carlos Tevez returned to the Blues lineup following his recent hamstring injury but it was Yaya Toure who wrote his name into City folklore with his 74th minute strike, a strike that will also see the banner counting City’s barren years without a trophy at Old Trafford come down.
The return of the Argentine was the major surprise in the City starting lineup with Mario Balotelli also starting in an attacking formation with David Silva and Toure supporting Tevez in attack. Aleksandar Kolarov replaced the injured Pablo Zabaleta at left full back, whilst James Milner, Adam Johnson and Edin Dzeko all dropped to the bench in place of Balotelli, Gareth Barry and Tevez.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis was given a huge boost before kick off with Robert Huth and Matthew Etherington both declared to start for the Potters. Dean Whitehead dropped to the bench in place of Etherington while Asmir Begovic was not included as Thomas Sorensen continued as the Potters FA Cup goalkeeper. Defender Danny Higginbotham was ruled out with a knee injury, with Ricardo Fuller and Mamady Sidibe also unavailable for Pulis.
Manchester City settled the better of the two sides and it looked to dominate possession with short, sharp passing but it was a bit of luck that created the first real chance of the match. A loose ball in midfield dropped at the feet of Tevez on the left edge of the Stoke penalty area, the Argentine cut inside Huth and fired a right foot shot towards goal and although it took a slight deflection off Ryan Shawcross’ knee Sorensen was able to palm it away easily.
The Blues were much the better side, much to the frustration of Pulis, and in the 11th minute Toure came within inches of opening the scoring. The Ivorian confidently strode out of midfield, and with no Stoke challenge coming he unleashed a swerving right foot shot that missed the post by inches and had Sorensen scrambling to his left.
Stoke had not even tested Joe Hart in the City goal and four minutes later the Potters were lucky not to be down to 10 men. Manchester City broke down the left wing but in the middle of the pitch the German defender jabbed his left elbow into Balotelli’s face. The Italian striker lay prone on the floor but he did not receive a free kick and Huth was lucky not to receive a card for his astonishing piece of indiscipline.
Midway through the first half Stoke was grateful to it goalkeeper for keeping it in the game as he made a fine save from Balotelli. The towering Toure again broke from midfield and on the edge of the area he found the enigmatic Italian. He cut inside his man and fired a curling shot that looked destined for the top corner only for Sorensen to tip the ball wide for a corner.
The best, and final, chance of the half fell to Manchester City in the 35th minute. From the left wing Tevez jinked inside his man before chipping a pass into Balotelli inside the penalty area, the Italian controlled the ball, held off Sorensen and played it back to Silva, who looked certain to score from five yards. However, the Spaniard was soon to have his head in his hands in frustration rather than celebration as he fired his shot into the ground and over the bar from seven yards.
Should have scored| David Silva misses the best chance of the first half
The second period started at a much slower pace than the first had but Tony Pulis’ halftime team talk clearly had some effect as the Potters were posing much more of an attacking threat. Etherington and Jermaine Pennant began to threaten down both wings but the strong Manchester City defense was able to cope with everything they delivered into the penalty area.
Ten minutes into the second half, after soaking up some Stoke pressure, Manchester City nearly hit its opponents on the counter attack. A long ball out of defense released Tevez, he showed fantastic vision to roll the ball inside to the unmarked Silva but he delayed on the ball too long inside the penalty area and Shawcross robbed him and cleared the ball. The Blues began to pile the pressure on the Stoke goal, and moments later a low cross from Toure was met by Tevez but his shot was deflected wide of the post by Huth.
Just after the hour, Stoke created its best chance of the game, and it was the final contribution from Etherington. The winger played a lofted ball over the City defense for Kenwyne Jones, he muscled out Joleon Lescott to create the chance but as he attempted to poke the ball past Joe Hart the Manchester City goalkeeper made himself big and denied the Trinidadian striker with an excellent save.
With 16 minutes to go, the game finally got its first goal and it was the blue end of the stadium celebrating as Toure smashed them in front. Silva and Balotelli combined on the edge of the area before the Italian saw his strike blocked, but the loose ball rolled into the path of on running Toure and he smashed the ball past Sorensen from 12 yards to send the Blues fans delirious.
The goal sparked Stoke into life but it was the Blues who threatened again in the 84th minute as they exploited the gaps left by their opponents. It was the influential Silva who lead the counter attack, he took on Andy Wilkinson before firing a low foot shot towards the far corner only for Sorensen to get a hand to the ball and enable Shawcross to clear the danger.