Pile-driver from Ivorian sends FA Cup to Eastlands.
Yaya Toure was the hero for Manchester City as his second-half pile-driver won The FA Cup for the club for the first time since 1969, and their first piece of silverware in 35 years.
It was the midfielder’s goal against Manchester rivals United in the Semi-Final that saw them reach Wembley again 30 years after the club lost in The Final to Tottenham, and the former Barcelona man stepped up again to clinch victory with an unstoppable strike against the resilient Stoke City.
It came on a day of celebration for the City of Manchester, but this victory will mean so much to the blue half who have been taunted annually by their neighbours in red.
A glance at the team sheets before would have told you enough to know that Manchester City were firm favourites to win here, and their desire to end the barren spell without a trophy was evident. No doubt it was spurred on more by fierce rivals United clinching their 19th League title half an hour before kick-off.
The Blues' talismanic captain Carlos Tevez, who’d featured before at Wembley for the Old Trafford club, was back in the line-up after overcoming a hamstring injury and he almost gave his side the lead inside five minutes with a powerful strike from the edge of the area after cutting in from the left.
But the Argentinian, like Mario Balotelli and Vincent Kompany soon after, found Stoke’s FA Cup keeper Thomas Sorensen in fine form, as the Dane dealt with what was thrown at him. The most impressive was a one-handed finger-tip save from the Italian’s curling effort that was bound for the top corner of the net midway through the first period.
Stoke skipper Ryan Shawcross was also breathing a sigh of relief when he diverted a Balotelli cross towards his own goal, but thankfully for the 23-year-old is hit the side-netting. Before they could really clear the danger from the resulting corner, Toure almost found the top corner from 25-yards too, with Sorensen finally beaten, but the ball shaved the upright.
Somehow, David Silva missed a golden chance to take the lead for Manchester City with ten minutes of the first half to go. Balotelli’s presence in the six yard box, hunting down a Tevez chip into the danger-zone, unsettled Sorensen who could only palm away to the Spanish international. With the goal gaping, Silva struck the ball into the ground and it bounced high over the bar.
It was one-way traffic with Roberto Mancini’s men controlling possession and creating all the chances, but Stoke stood firm with numbers behind the ball and were relying on their pace from Matthew Etherington – who was also returning from a hamstring injury – and Jermaine Pennant out wide and the hold-up play from Kenwyne Jones and Jon Walters.
The lack of service to the forwards, though, no doubt played a part when Jones’ snapshot was way off target from the edge of the area when perhaps he had more time to compose himself.
Tony Pulis would have been happy to address his players at the break with them still on terms and when they reappeared, they had a renewed vigour. Pennant and Etherington were coming into the game more, forcing a series of dangerous free-kicks in wide areas.
But they were almost made to pay when Manchester City broke quickly after England Under-21s defender Micah Richards dispossessed Walters in the left wing position and found Tevez with Silva arriving in support.
He squared to the former Valencia man, who looked odds on to shoot from 18 yards, but instead he rolled out to the other flank and the danger for Stoke was averted.
The Potters then had their best chance of the game on the hour when Etherington’s long-ball over the top picked out Jones, who was being closely marked by Joleon Lescott. The Trinidad striker showed his strength to get around the defender and he just needed the right touch to send an effort past Hart. Instead he scuffed and the ball bounced into the grateful England keeper’s hands.
And that was Etherington’s day over. Having missed the last two games through injury, he was off to be replaced by Dean Whitehead. Mancini’s first change was more positive and within a minute of Adam Johnson replacing his England team-mate Gareth Barry the Blues were in front.
E.ON Man of the Match Balotelli linked up with Silva to open up a chance though his tame first-time effort on the stretch was half-cleared. But only as far a Toure arriving from deep.
He didn’t stand on ceremony and smashed home the loose ball from ten yards with his left – a shot that this time gave Sorensen no chance. Even the net had trouble restraining it as the Ivorian burst away to the corner flag to take the appreciation of the Blue half of Wembley Stadium.
It prompted wild celebrations and a chance for the Manchester City fans to pull out their recently-adopted ‘Poznan’ celebration.
And it was no more than they had deserved on the balance of play, but it came at a time Stoke were beginning to establish themselves as a threat. Pulis now had just over ten minutes to inspire his side, and his first move was to bring on another ex-Valencia man, striker John Carew for Rory Delap.
While his strength immediately posed a problem as he outmuscled Kompany twice, he didn’t have the subtlety to produce a final decisive pass.
Stoke made a last push in injury time, winning two late corners following good work from Whitehead on the left, while City brought on four-time FA Cup winner Patrick Vieira to help close out the game.
And when Martin Atkinson blew the final whistle, the pent up frustration from 35 trophy-less years was released into the Wembley sky. Click here to download the official match team sheet