Stoke City 0-1 Manchester City
The FA Cup with Budweiser
Fourth Round Proper
3pm, Saturday 26 January 2013
The Britannia Stadium, Stoke City FC
Winning clubs receive £90,000 from The FA's Prize Fund
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By Peter Glynn
This proved to be a long afternoon for Manchester City.
The Premier League champions left it late to prise open a stubborn Stoke City side to ensure their passage into The FA Cup Fifth Round.
It appeared the hosts’ obdurate defensive display had secured a replay until Pablo Zabaleta’s crucial 84th-minute winner.
The Potters, who for long periods of the tie nullified the visitors’ wealth of attacking riches, will be aggrieved given that good fortune accompanied the Argentine’s winner.
There was no surprise that the source of City’s decisive attack began at the balletic feet of David Silva, who was imperious throughout. The Spaniard’s surge from central midfield saw him prod a pass into the path of substitute Sergio Aguero whose cross was inadvertently deflected into the path of the onrushing Zabaleta by Edin Dzeko.
City’s makeshift captain, who is developing a knack for decisive strikes, didn’t stop to break stride before clinically finishing with the outside of his boot.
The sense of relief amongst the visitors was palpable. For most of the tie Roberto Mancini’s side had monopolised possession without finding an attacking solution. Mancini’s concern was underlined by the fact he concluded the tie with three recognised strikers on the pitch, in addition to Silva.
This was a much anticipated clash given the previous Cup history between the two sides. Stoke suffered FA Cup Final heartbreak against City in 2011. It is a memory which is still raw around these parts and the tie offered Tony Pulis’s side the opportunity to make amends for the memory. However, it was to the visitors’ credit that they were afforded few opportunities to do so.
The only interruption to City’s fluidity in the first half came when Mancini, and his assistant, David Platt, could be seen tactically debating their response to losing captain Vincent Kompany to a calf strain.
Deliberation aside, City had made an authoritative start to the tie. The visitors' attacking triumvirate of Silva, Tevez and Dzeko were soon indulging in periods of bewitching link-up play. The one way momentum had the home parish discontented with proceedings. Half an hour had passed before Stoke had a scent of goal; Potters’ captain Ryan Shawcross seeing his close range effort ruled out for offside.
The England defender will rue his intervention as it appeared Robert Huth’s swivelling volley, from Mathew Etherington’s free-kick,was goal-bound.
The hosts had lived a charmed life up until that point. Tevez had forced the first save of the afternoon. Wriggling away down City’s right his low drive after seven minutes forced Sorensen to save at his near post. Unsurprisingly, it was the probing of the Silva that delivered the chance.
Tevez was clearly in the mood. At times his quick thinking, deceptive movement and tireless running wreaked havoc. One lung-busting run in the first period which took the former Manchester United man away from both Glenn Whelan and Shawcross particularly caught the eye. With Silva conducting proceedings,Tevez had the visionary accomplice to complement his livewire movement.
Silva’s first effort of the game drew the breath. Unmarked to receive James Milner’s short free-kick the former Valencia midfielder pushed the ball inside the hosts’ box, before one flick of his left foot sent a curling effort rebounding off the inside of Sorensen’s post . Once the ball was in flight the Dane could only stand in admiration.
As the first period wore on City’s attacking pack moved through the gears; their quick passing and movement proving disorienting for the hosts. The second period, however, showed greater anxiety.
Stoke got tighter out of possession and a number of tackles set a new tone. City midfielder Javi Garcia in particular felt the full force of Whelan’s presence. However, for all the Potters’ renewed vigour it was City again that crafted the better chances.
In the second period Sorensen was forced to bravely claim at the feet of Gareth Barry, before Tevez wildly shot over. With 20 minutes left it appeared Dzeko had broken the deadlock, only to see his right-footed effort flash across the hosts’ goal.
After Zabaleta’s breakthrough there were anxious moments for both sides, as the game concluded with five minutes added time. Substitute Cameron Jerome thrashed over when composure was called for and at the other end Sorensen could be seen charging from his goal to slide tackle Aguero.
The 2011 Wembley contest between these two sides is remembered in Manchester for different reasons. It was City’s first trophy for 35 years and a significant moment in Mancini’s reign.
Much has changed at the Etihad since then, but progress in this competition may prove just as important this time round.
Sorensen; Shotton, Shawcross, Huth, Wilkinson (Whitehead 73); Kightly (Jerome 67), Whelan, N’Zonzi, Etherington; Walters, Jones (Crouch 73).
Substitutes not used: Nash, Owen, Adam, Upson
Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Kompany (Clichy 40), Lescott, Kolarov (Aguero 62); Barry, Garcia; Milner, Tevez (Rodwell 86), Silva; Dzeko.
Substitutes not used: Hart, Sinclair, Rekik, Lopes
Referee Howard Webb
Stoke City 0-1 Manchester City