Stoke City 0 Manchester City 1

FA Cup Fourth Round
Saturday 26 January 2013, 12.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany (c) (Clichy 40), Lescott, Kolarov (Aguero 62), Milner, Barry, Garcia, Silva, Dzeko, Tevez (Rodwell 86)
Unused: Hart, Rodwell, Sinclair, Rekik, Lopes
Goals: Zabaleta (85)
Booked: Kolarov, Milner, Dzeko

Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta

Stoke1It was City who started the brighter in the opening stages, as Dzeko earned the visitors a corner with his first touch. The blues took that flag kick quickly and caught the hosts out, but Silva was only able to find the fans behind Sorensen’s goal, despite having time and space in the area. Shortly after, the Spaniard found Tevez in the area and his turn and shot forced the goalkeeper to palm it behind at his near post.

A great break by Tevez allowed him to step past two Stoke defenders before finding Dzeko in the middle. The Bosnian’s shot was blocked as far as Milner, who won a free kick on the right wing. It was taken quickly to Silva, whose shot rebounded off the inside of the post, with Sorensen left standing. A moment later, Tevez was brilliantly found by Dzeko, but as Milner’s shot rebounded to him, he couldn’t sort his feet out quickly enough to divert the ball on target.

Stoke had the ball in the net just before the half hour, but it didn’t count as Shawcross was offside as he poked the effort past Pantilimon following a free kick. It was a warning shot for the visitors, who had been well on top, but hadn’t taken any of the chances they had created.

Two low crosses from Kolarov almost got the blues ahead just before half time. The first skimmed through the box ahead of Dzeko and Silva couldn’t quite keep the ball in. The second was touched by Dzeko, but he wasn’t able to get his shot on target, leaving Tevez to try and scoop it into the net, but, stretching, he couldn’t quite make it.

A minute into the second half and City should have been playing ten men – Javi Garcia did brilliantly to win the ball back inside his own half, but was on the receiving ends of a two-footed stamp from Whealan. It was late and dirty, but the referee missed it completely.

By the hour mark, the game had become scrappy and City’s grip on the tie was loosening. Stoke had grown into the match without really testing Pantilimon, but the blues were struggling to create chances like they were before the break. Dzeko could have had a shot when Barry couldn’t quite reach his own touch, before Silva’s through ball was slightly too far ahead of Tevez.

Stoke2With 65 minutes on the clock, Silva played a beautiful ball over the top for Barry to collect on the blindside of the Stoke defence. He controlled and tried to take it round Sorensen, but it was good goalkeeping that stole the ball from the City midfielder’s feet. Barry could perhaps have hit it earlier, but chose to try and round the keeper.

Ten minutes later, City were cranking up the pressure. Dzeko shot just wide from the left side of the box, before Aguero hit the side netting with a deflected effort from the other side. From the resulting corner, Sorensen missed his punch, but the home side were lucky as Silva couldn’t get to the loose ball ahead of the defence.

With five minutes to play, City gambled with men forward and it paid off. A ball came in from the right side of the box and it skipped passed Silva as the Spaniard slipped, but following him in at the back post was Zabaleta. The acting-captain hit it first time past Sorensen at the near post, giving the visitors the lead.

Despite the Stoke pressure towards the end, they couldn’t threaten Pantilimon’s goal and the blues were able to see out their first win at the Britannia Stadium since the dark days of Division Two.

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