City are through to their second FA Cup final in three seasons after a 2-1 win over Chelsea in a superb semi-final at Wembley yesterday. We now face Wigan in the final in May. The FA Cup has taken on increased significance this season after our disastrous Champions League and Premier League campaigns, but a win over Wigan in the final will mean a third domestic trophy in three seasons. Here are a few things that emerged from the semi-final win.
Dominant For an Hour
City were utterly dominant for the first sixty minutes of the match, in fact, it was startling just how easy it was. We kept possession well, moved the ball quicker than Chelsea, and created far more chances. At half-time my only concern was that we didn’t have enough goals to show for our dominance. We should have been 4-0 up.
It’s been incredible just how much better City have played since the defeat at Everton, a match which all but confirmed United as champions. Since then, wins over Newcastle at home, United away, and now this semi-final victory over Chelsea have all been secured with style. We’ve played with the same freedom and expression that brought home the title last season.
We’ve proven in recent weeks that, on our day, we are still the best side in the league. However, we just haven’t produced it anywhere near enough in the league, and United’s brilliant consistency has led to total dominance. It’s a season of ‘if onlys’ for City.
Aguero Horror Challenge
Sergio Aguero, a player known for his refusal to go down under a challenge and the professional way he approaches the game, was at the centre of controversy yesterday after a terrible challenge on David Luiz. Aguero inexplicably jumped in with two feet and planted both boots in Luiz’s arse, right in the full view of the referee. It was as unnecessary as it was out of character.
The strange rule of not taking retrospective action if the referee says he ‘saw’ the incident during the game means Aguero escapes any punishment for what was a sure-fire red card and three match ban. We’ve dodged a bullet there, but then again we were on the other side of that rule against Stoke earlier this season when Glen Whelan two-footed Javi Garcia only to get away with it. It’s a rule that needs looking at.
Many wondered whether Mancini would persist with Costel Pantilimon in goal after starting him in all of this season’s FA Cup games. With the prospect of a Wembley semi-final against one of the top teams in the country, it wouldn’t have been surprising if Hart was selected ahead of his understudy such was the importance of the game.
However, Pantilimon started and Mancini’s gamble paid off. The big ‘keeper has only played a handful of games for the club and, on occasion, has appeared shaky despite not conceding a goal in this season’s FA Cup prior to yesterday’s game. That said, he stepped up to the plate and gave a big performance against Chelsea. After surviving an early scare when Kompany cleared off the line when he was caught in no man’s land, Pantillimon produced a number of crucial saves in the second half to keep City’s one goal lead intact, most notably when he grasped the ball from Juan Mata’s feet when it looked for all the world that Chelsea would equalise.
Mancini’s faith in Pantilimon was rewarded with a fine performance and it looks more than likely that Pantilimon will start the Final against Wigan. Mancani said: “Pantilimon is there to do what he did, Costel did very well but he’s a very good keeper – it’s what I expected. He will stay, we have four weeks to think about it but I think he will play [in the final]”
written by Rob Pollard and Rob Toole