City scoop FA Cup prize
Manchester City's 35-year wait for silverware is over, with Yaya Toure's strike seeing them to 1-0 victory over Stoke in the FA Cup final.
By Chris Burton
Last Updated: 15/05/11 9:02am
Manchester City's 35-year wait for silverware is over, with Yaya Toure's solitary strike seeing them to 1-0 victory over Stoke in the FA Cup final.
The big-spending Blues were pushed all the way by the plucky Potters, but have started to repay owner Sheikh Mansour for the considerable investment he has pumped into the club over recent years.
Carlos Tevez was handed a starting role by Roberto Mancini, while Robert Huth and Matthew Etherington passed late fitness tests for Tony Pulis' Potters.
Tevez helped City to make the brighter opening as he and Mario Balotelli forced smart stops from Thomas Sorensen.
Stoke were struggling to find their feet and were fortunate to see David Silva bundle the ball over the crossbar from close range after it fell invitingly for him six yards out.
The Potters improved as the first half wore on, but City keeper Joe Hart entered the interval untested.
Pulis' side continued to be forced backwards after the break but could have edged ahead when Kenwyne Jones was sent clear, only for Hart to smother his tame shot.
Having survived that scare, City's big moment arrived on 74 minutes as the ball ricocheted around the Stoke box before falling for Toure to lash home from 10 yards.
Stoke were unable to offer a response and Mancini's men saw their way comfortably through to the final whistle in professional fashion.
Almost three years after Sheikh Mansour's takeover transformed City into one of the richest clubs in the world, his £300million investment has now produced UEFA Champions League qualification and an FA Cup triumph in the space of a week.
It was somehow fitting that semi-final hero Yaya Toure - reportedly the highest paid player in the Premier League - was the match-winner again against Stoke, whose 148-year wait for FA Cup glory goes on.
City had not won the cup themselves since 1969 but the Potters had not even been to a final and were the only surviving founder members of the Football League never to lift the trophy.
The 1-0 defeat was also a double-whammy for manager Tony Pulis, whose last Wembley final saw his Gillingham side lose the 1999 Second Division play-offs to City.
The build-up to cup final day had been dominated by talk of the competition being further devalued by the scheduling of Saturday's game.
Manchester United clinching the Premier League title minutes before kick-off did not help matters, and neither therefore did a rather unfortunate pre-match rendition of 'We are the Champions'.
But try telling that to the tens of thousands of City and Stoke fans crammed into Wembley for what was the first cup final for both clubs for more than a generation.
And try telling it to the managers, who each gambled on the fitness of key players as Tevez, Etherington and Huth all started.
City captain Tevez soon set about proving manager Mancini right, forcing a fine parry from Sorensen from 25 yards.
It was a sign of things to come as Mancini's men belied their reputation for caution in an utterly dominant first-half display.
Ryan Shawcross almost put into his own net and Toure drilled just wide from long range.
And City would have been ahead midway through the half but for a world-class save from Sorensen, who somehow clawed behind Balotelli's top-corner-bound curler.
It was looking like Sorensen's lucky day after he kept his place as Stoke's FA Cup goalkeeper ahead of Asmir Begovic.
He survived being beaten to a long ball by Tevez and got away with spilling Vincent Kompany's tame long-ranger.
His luck continued when Tevez brilliantly played in Balotelli and Sorensen beat the ball down straight to Silva, who rifled a shot into the ground and over the crossbar.
Stoke had gone some way to shattering their own reputation in their free-flowing semi-final demolition of Bolton.
But when Huth's forearm connected with Balotelli's jaw, it was an early indication they had reverted to type.
Long throws and set-pieces were once again the order of the day, although they did fashion a chance in open play when Kompany threw his body at Jones' close-range shot.
Emerging from what can only have been harsh words at half-time, Stoke tore into City early in the second half, Jermaine Pennant playing through the pain of a first-half ankle injury to lead the charge.
But they were unable to produce the finishing touch and were almost caught on the break when Tevez squared for Silva, who hesitated just long enough for Shawcross to nick the ball away.
Hart had been a spectator all afternoon but he came to City's rescue just past the hour mark when Jones beat Joleon Lescott to a long ball before poking his finish too close to the keeper.
Etherington, who had looked less than fully fit, was immediately withdrawn for Dean Whitehead.
Mancini responded to City's second-half slump by throwing on Adam Johnson for Gareth Barry and it immediately paid off.
City won the ball on the edge of the area and Balotelli saw a shot blocked by Marc Wilson straight to Toure to blast home.
Desperate defending and a fine save twice prevented Silva wrapping up victory, with Stoke throwing on John Carew in a bid to keep their dream alive.
Mancini finally went defensive when he withdrew Tevez for Pablo Zabaleta but despite late Stoke pressure, City deservedly hung on.