FA Cup Third Round
Sunday 8 January 2012, 13.00 KO
City: Pantilimon, Richards, Kompany (c), Lescott, Kolarov, de Jong, Milner, Nasri (Hargreaves 82), Silva (Savic 45), A Johnson (Zabaleta 45), Aguero
Unused: Hart, Clichy, Razak, Suarez
Goals: Kolarov (48), Aguero (64)
Sent Off: Kompany
Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the Match: James Milner
It was a repeat of last year’s FA Cup semi-final as the third Manchester derby of the season got underway in the rain at the Etihad Stadium. And it was the hosts who looked in full control from the kick-off, as United struggled to get out of their own half. City, though, couldn’t fashion a good shooting chance and it was the visitors who took the lead, completely against the run of play: Rooney nodded the ball into the net after a poor kick from Pantilimon set up the attack. Rooney knocked the ball wide and beat Richards in the air to the return to score off the bar.
It got worse for City almost immediately. Vincent Kompany slid in to dispossess Nani midway into his own half; he did go in with two feet, but it was more of a scissor motion and a side-foot tackle and, after what appeared to be no small encouragement from Rooney, the referee decided it was worthy of a red card. Nani – the man challenged – seemed happy to play on and Chris Foy appeared to be playing on, but suddenly changed his mind. It was a very harsh decision.
Aguero almost equalised with a curling effort almost straight away, but Lindegaard got across well to push the ball behind for a corner. The referee further annoyed the home fans by not producing yellow cards for late challenges by Giggs and Jones. And it didn’t get better for the blues fans, as Wellbeck swivelled and shot in the box, finding the bottom corner, after City couldn’t get the ball clear.
A rash tackle from Kolarov inside his own area then seemed to end the game: Rooney stepped up to take the resulting penalty and tried for the bottom right corner. Pantilimon got across to block, but he was very unlucky that his save bounced straight back to the England centre-forward, who headed the ball into the empty net. It looked all over before half time.
Step forward Roberto Mancini. Two half time changes and a switch in tactics helped City fight their way back into the game, helped by the hosts pulling a goal back almost immediately. Evra brought down Richards on the edge of the box on the right side and Kolarov stepped up to power the free kick into the corner of the net. It was just what City needed.
That changed the atmosphere. Despite having a man fewer, City were defending tightly and allowing United possession, but keeping them at arm’s length, looking to nick the ball for a breakaway. The visitors brought on the now out-of-retirement Paul Scholes and it was he who was at fault for City’s second. With 63 minutes played, Milner nicked his short pass to Evra and crossed low for Aguero. The Argentine’s first shot was saved, but he reacted first to tap into the open goal.
United tried to kill the game off with possession and City weren’t able to commit too many bodies forward to try and steal the ball. The visitors pressed, but didn’t trouble Pantilimon on that many occasions: Scholes hit one straight at the City keeper, while Rooney bobbled one wide. Kolarov then got away with a challenge in the box that should have been a second penalty.
With eight minutes to play, City were then denied a penalty as Jones appeared to handle the ball in the box in blocking a Kolarov cross. The home players and fans were adamant, but the referee only awarded the corner. Rooney got up to head away, but de Jong retrieved the ball and United were pinned in their own half by the ten men.
As the board went up for added time, Richards attempted an overhead kick but missed the ball, before Lescott was unlucky as he challenged for a Zabaleta free kick that Lindegaard got nowhere near. The United keeper then spilled a Kolarov free kick that was powered at him, but none of the players in blue in the box could get their foot on the rebound to turn it home. The visitors were hanging on.
With seconds to play, the home side won a corner and piled everybody – including the goalkeeper Pantilimon – into the box. Kolarov’s kick found the keeper’s head, but he couldn’t direct it towards the net and, as the away side cleared their lines, the final whistle blew. City came out of the game with their heads held high and with a lot of pride, but, ultimately, it was United in the fourth round draw.