BEST OF THE MANSOUR ERA: The End Of The 35-Year Wait

Throughout June on Typical City, we’re looking at some of the best matches Manchester City have played in the Sheikh Mansour-era. Day by day, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to some of the classic encounters the Blues have had since the 2008 takeover – you can view the rest of the featured games on the Best of the Mansour Era page.

Today, we’re heading back to the afternoon that the Blues ended their 35-year wait for a major trophy. Having overcome Manchester United in a tense FA Cup semi-final in 2011, Roberto Mancini’s team headed back to Wembley to face Stoke on what would be another nervy – but ultimately historic – afternoon at the national stadium…

Manchester City 1-0 Stoke City
Saturday 14 May 2011
City: Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, De Jong, Barry (Johnson 73), Toure, Silva (Vieira 90), Balotelli, Tevez (Zabaleta 88).
Unused: Given, Boyata, Milner, Dzeko
Goals: Toure (74)

Manchester City fans must have thought that the sight of a captain climbing the steps to the Royal Box at Wembley to pick up a major trophy was something that only ever happened to other people. For 35 long years, they had watched their team try – and fail – to get close to lifting a cup, but in May 2011 it was a barren spell brought to an end. Carlos Tevez led his team up the 107 steps of the new national stadium to pick up the FA Cup, having beaten Stoke City with a second-half strike from Yaya Toure. It was 1976 the last time that had happened, as Tony Book ascended the 39 steps of the old Wembley to collect the League Cup.

While the fans might have been nervy about the game beforehand, in truth there was only ever likely to be one winner when the fixture got going. City started on the front foot, finding room inside the Stoke half to pressurise their opposition. Toure had Thomas Sorensen hurling himself over to the left side of his goal as he picked the ball up mid-way into the Stoke half. Having not been closed down, the Ivorian carried the ball slightly, before taking aim at the top corner – he wasn’t far away and the goalkeeper may not have got there had it snuck inside the post.

It was Mario Balotelli who next troubled the Stoke goalkeeper. After a brilliant turn and run from Toure, the striker was picked out on the left side of the box. He stepped onto his right foot and curled an effort towards the top corner. The City fans at the other end of the ground thought he’d scored, but Sorensen’s fingertips pushed the ball behind and kept it level – it was looking like it would be only a matter of time before the Blues broke the deadlock.

On the stroke of half time, David Silva should have put his team in front. After a ball over the top to Balotelli was snuffed out as the striker was closed down by Sorensen, it broke free for the Spaniard. It was a high ball and the goal was only marginally guarded, leaving the midfielder with a big target to hit. Conscious of not getting underneath the shot, Silva got too far over it – volleying it down into the ground and it bounced over the bar. It was the best chance of the half.

After the break, though, City fans’ hearts must have been in their mouths. A ball over the top beat Joleon Lescott and allowed Kenwyne Jones to get through one-on-one with Joe Hart. The goalkeeper was off his line quickly to snuff out the chance, blocking as the striker tried to poke a shot into the net. Hart was up on his feet straight away to then pounce on the loose ball.

It was a costly miss for Stoke, too. On 74 minutes, Toure scored the goal that would separate the teams. It began with Silva sliding a pass into Balotelli on the edge of the box, before continuing his inside run towards the by-line. The Italian tried a back-heel flick to find the midfielder again and Silva return the ball as Balotelli turned to run at goal. His shot was blocked, but Toure latched onto the loose ball to belt it into the back of the net on his left foot.

There was a release of tension from that end of the ground, as the City fans went bananas.

The game finished with City hanging on to their lead, as a series of Stoke corners put pressure on the Blues, but with the introduction of both Patrick Vieira and Pablo Zabaleta, there was more than enough to keep the Potters at bay. It left Carlos Tevez to lift the cup for City, with Roberto Mancini earning his first trophy in his first full season at the club.

After the match, Mancini was contented with how the campaign had gone: “The first target was the Champions League – that was more important. But after, we wanted to get into one of the finals – the Europa League or the FA Cup – and the FA Cup is maybe better. We played to win, but we played for them, the supporters, because when we play like today we are more happy than them.”

Written by David Mooney

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