Manchester City 1 Wigan Athletic 2

FA Cup Sixth Round
Sunday 9 March 2014, 16.05 KO

City: Pantilimon, Richards, Demichelis, Lescott, Clichy, Navas (Dzeko 53), Toure (c) (Silva 53), Garcia, Nasri, Negredo (Milner 53), Aguero
Unused: Hart, Kompany, Kolarov, Rodwell
Goals: Nasri (68)
Booked: Nasri, Toure, Milner, Dzeko,

Referee: Anthony Taylor
Man of the Match: Samir Nasri

Garcia wins a 50-50 with McManaman.

Garcia wins a 50-50 with McManaman.

Wigan have knocked City out of the FA Cup for the second successive season. The Blues threw the kitchen sink at the visitors, but a sloppy first hour of the game was too much to recover from and the Latics fully deserved their place in the semi-finals, defending well against a sluggish City.

There was little in the way of early action – aside from some neat footwork from Pantilimon to escape the attention of McManaman – and when the chances came, they were for the away side. Gomez lashed a shot over the crossbar, before Navas almost forced an own goal with a low cross.

But City’s sloppiness was soon punished. A quick throw-in on the right wasn’t dealt with and Fortune got the wrong side of Demichelis, who brought him down inside the box. The referee pointed to the spot and Gomez sent Pantilimon the wrong way. It should have been a wake-up call… but it wasn’t.

And that was that for the first half – City huffed and puffed in possession, but got nowehere, with Wigan holding firm. Tackles flew in and players argued, but, in truth, there was little in them – though quite how Boyce avoided a yellow card for clatting Negredo from behind is a mystery.

The fans’ hopes that Pellegrini might have given his team a kick up the backside at half time were snuffed out inside two minutes of the second half. Richards didn’t cut out a low cross into the box, while Pantilimon remained rooted to his line when he might have claimed the ball. To complete the hat-trick of errors, Clichy was daydreaming and allowed Perch to get there first to slot home.

Pellegrini reacted with three substitutions, but it still took City after the hour mark to come close to pulling a goal back. A high ball into the box was headed back across goal by Dzeko, but the effort clipped the inside of the post and bounced clear – with Silva unable to touch it home.

With just over 20 minutes to play, Nasri dragged City back into the tie. A corner was only half cleared to the edge of the box, where Richards nodded it to the Frenchman. His volley missed Lescott in the middle and found the back of the net, via the inside of the post.

Two minutes later, City should have been on terms – Richards had a right-footed effort from inside the box, but it bent away from the top corner when he had a golden chance to hit the target. Aguero then almost added the luckiest goal he would have ever scored, blocking a clearance that Carson needed to back-peddle to catch.

Milner played in a brilliant low cross for Dzeko and the Bosnian must have thought he’d scored from six yards, but Boyce got there first to clear over his own crossbar. The striker then headed wide from a brilliant Nasri cross.

Pellegrini has gone out of his first cup competition as City boss and questions will be raised about his team selection and tactical approach – the manager was probably naïve, while his team were complacent. Wigan fully deserved to progress and knock the Blues out for the second season running.

Manchester City 2 Chelsea 0

FA Cup Fifth Round
Saturday 15 February 2014, 17.15 KO

City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Garcia, Toure, Milner, Silva (Navas 69), Jovetic (Nasri 61), Dzeko (Negredo 81)
Unused: Hart, Richards, Demichelis, Kolarov
Goals: Jovetic (16), Nasri (67)
Booked: Kompany, Jovetic, Toure, Garcia

Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Javi Garcia

Jovetic opens the scoring.

Jovetic opens the scoring.

Following the defeat to Chelsea less than a fortnight ago, the Blues looked like a team on a missing to avoid their second home defeat in a month. Chelsea – lining up very strongly, despite City’s four changes from their last match. In the end, the visitors couldn’t get a kick of the ball in a meaningful area and the hosts cruised to victory.

Jovetic teased the home crowd with what was to come as he came close to opening the scoring on the quarter-hour mark. Toure kept his feet after a foul by Matic and, with the referee playing advantage, he smashed a shot towards Cech’s goal. The goalkeeper made a hash of dealing with it, fumbling it to the feet of the Montenegrin striker, whose first-time dink towards goal clipped the crossbar.

A minute later, though, the forward hit the frame of the goal again – but this time it also hit the back of the net. Silva and Dzeko linked up well down the left flank and it was good awareness from the Bosnian to slide the ball into the path of the on-rushing Jovetic. He passed it across the sprawling Cech and into the net via the base of the post.

On 24 minutes, the Blues came close to doubling their lead with the same combination – this time in reverse. Jovetic found Dzeko in space on the edge of the box and he belted a curling effort towards the top corner, with only a double-handed flying save from Cech preventing it from going in.

Zabaleta tackles Eto'o.

Zabaleta tackles Eto’o.

Clichy played a brilliant cross into the middle that had both Luiz and Cech flapping, but Dzeko was unable to take advantage to knock home, before Jovetic rolled an effort into the goalkeeper’s hands. City were all over their opponents, who were still yet to start the game.

On the stroke of half time, it was a mystery how City hadn’t doubled their lead. Milner broke down the right flank after Jovetic had been ploughed through by Luiz – who later received a booking for the foul – and drove a low cross towards the front post. Dzeko was inches from touching it into the net, but couldn’t quite connect.

After the break, the pattern of play didn’t change. With many wondering if Mourinho’s side would raise their game, it was the hosts who looked more likely to add the next goal of the contest. And, just six minutes after coming on after his return from injury, Nasri did exactly that. He slid Silva in on the left side, and, as the Spaniard drew Cech off his line, he fed it back to Nasri to tap into the empty net.

It looked like it was three for City with 15 minutes left on the clock. Garcia rose highest at a corner and nodded back across goal. It needed a great save from Cech to keep it out, but Lescott turned in the rebound – though the linesman had (correctly) spotted he was in an offside position.

City were able to see the game out comfortably, with Pantilimon easing the pressure in taking several crosses from their air and with the hosts’ forward players keeping possession well – so well that Matic’s swipe at Toure’s legs earned him a late yellow card.

The Blues put another dent in Chelsea’s remarkable FA Cup run – being the only side to have beaten them in the competition without a penalty shoot-out in their last 33 matches – and knock them out for the second season running.

Manchester City 4 Watford 2

FA Cup Fourth Round
Saturday 25 January 2014, 15.00 KO

City: Pantilimon, Richards (Zabaleta 45), Demichelis, Lescott, Kolarov, Rodwell (Kompany 45), Toure (c), Lopes (Jovetic 57), Navas, Aguero, Dzeko
Unused: Hart, Nastasic, Clichy, Fernandinho
Goals: Aguero (59, 79, 90+3), Kolarov (86)
Booked: Dzeko

Referee: Kevin Friend
Man of the Match: Sergio Aguero

Anya challenges Pantilimon for a through ball.

Anya challenges Pantilimon for a through ball.

Manchester City survived a huge scare against Watford to keep their FA Cup hopes alive for this season. It was a game of two performances from the Blues, who were outplayed during the first 45 minutes, but dominant in the second.

It was the visitors who were asking all the early questions: Forestieri was felled by Toure on the edge of the box, but the resulting free kick was belted into Pantilimon’s man wall, before the Hornets should have had a penalty. A misunderstanding between the goalkeeper and Demichelis left Anya to get to the ball first, before he was clattered by Pantilimon, but the referee and his assistant were unmoved.

On 20 minutes, the inevitable happened and Watford opened the scoring. Forestieri made a great run in behind Demichelis and his pace took him away from the attention of the City defence. One-on-one with Pantilimon, he showed no nerves to place it into the bottom corner. It had been coming.

Worse for the Blues was that, a mere eight minutes later, the visitors had doubled their lead: It was an almost identical move on the opposite side after Toure and Rodwell had given the ball away in the middle. Deeney raced onto a through ball and tucked it past Pantilimon, leaving the hosts two goals down and in serious trouble of departing the competition with egg on their face.

Pellegrini played his hand at half time, bringing on Kompany and Zabaleta and changing the shape, pushing Toure further forward and Demichelis into midfield. The result was a completely different performance from the Blues, who were suddenly dominant. Kompany’s flicked header was just wide, Dzeko passed a shot into the hands of the goalkeeper, and Jovetic couldn’t get enough on a Kolarov cross.

The signs were there for the improvement and, just before the hour mark, the recovery was on. Kolarov fired a low cross into the box and Dzeko touched it towards goal. The goalkeeper, who blocked the effort, closed him down quickly but the rebound fell to Aguero. The Argentine was never going to miss the open goal.

Kompany almost unlocked the hard-working Watford defence, but he elected to square for Dzeko instead of taking on the left-footed shot. The Bosnian couldn’t sort his feet out and could only send a weak effort straight into the hands of the goalkeeper. He then tried to combine with Jovetic, but his return pass of a one-two on the edge of the area was just too heavy.

With just over ten minutes to play, the Blues pulled level. Dzeko knocked the ball through for Aguero to carry into the box and, after cutting back onto his left side, he curled a neat effort around the goalkeeper and into the top corner. It dragged the hosts kicking and screaming back into the game and they had 11 minutes to avoid a replay.

Football proved how cruel a game it can be with just four minutes left to play. With the Hornets close to securing a replay, an error from Bond effectively cost them the game. The goalkeeper had put in a strong performance, but a lapse in concentration meant that a speculative Kolarov effort from range slipped through his hands and straight through him, into the net.

In the first of four added minutes, Aguero added his third – for a perfect hat-trick. Navas did brilliantly to keep the ball alive on the right flank before digging out a cross to the back post, where the Argentine was waiting. He got up to head past Bond from a tight angle, to secure City’s place in Round Five.

Manchester City 5 Blackburn Rovers 0

FA Cup Third Round (Replay)
Wednesday 15 January 2014, 20.10 KO

City: Pantilimon, Richards (Huws 77), Nastasic, Lescott, Clichy, Navas, Garcia, Milner (c), Fernandinho (Kolarov 45), Dzeko, Negredo (Aguero 72)
Unused: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Lopes
Goals: Negredo (45, 47), Dzeko (67, 79), Aguero (73)
Booked: Milner, Kolarov

Referee: Craig Pawson
Man of the Match: James Milner

Pantilimon clears under pressure.

Pantilimon clears under pressure.

City will play Watford in the next round of the FA Cup following their replay win over Blackburn. In truth, the away side never really looked like upsetting the apple cart, but they did make life difficult for the hosts. Dzeko struggled to find the target – first, with a header inside the area, second, he skied a blast from a touch down by Fernandinho on the edge of the box, and third, he blasted a long, long, long range effort over.

In between his chances, Marshall curled a free kick straight into Pantilimon’s arms after Cairney was felled by Nastasic on the edge of the box. Garcia blasted a shot from range that looked to be curling into the bottom corner, until Robinson beat it away low to his left.

Ten minutes before half time, City got even closer. Navas beat Marshall on the right flank and fired in a low, driven cross through the six-yard box. First Negredo, then Fernandinho threw themselves at it, but they were both inches away from touching it into the net.

As it looked like the hosts were going to be frustrated at the break, the Blues found the breakthrough: Fernandinho’s cross was missed by Dzeko, but behind him was his strike partner in Negredo – the Spaniard met it and nodded it into the corner of Robinson’s net, with virtually the last touch of the half.

And, the same man scored with virtually his first touch of the second half. Kolarov picked up the ball on the left flank and crossed from deep towards the run of Negredo. The covering defender couldn’t intercept and the striker dinked it over the top of the substitute goalkeeper Eastwood.

Blackburn responded with some good chances. King found space in between Lescott and Nastasic to flick a header towards the top corner, but he got too much on it and headed over. A few moments later, the same man escaped the attention of Nastasic to go one-on-one with Pantilimon, but the Romanian keeper stood up well to make the save.

With just over 20 minutes to play, though, the hosts effectively ended the game. Navas raced through on the right to a Milner pass and, after wriggling his way to the by-line, he played it in low for Dzeko at the front post. The Bosnian’s effort towards the top of the net was too powerful for Eastwood.

Blackburn were deflated and, when Pellegrini introduced Aguero into the action, the Chilean was rewarded as the Argentine scored with his second touch. Dzeko received the ball inside the box on the left and he squared for his strike partner. Aguero took a touch to control and spin, then his second – a low shot – beat both covering defenders and the goalkeeper.

Goal number 99 for the season came with ten minutes to play. In a move not too dissimilar to create the third, the Blues added their fifth of the evening with the same combination – Navas to Dzeko. The Bosnian got across his man to touch the Spaniard’s cross around the corner and into the net at the near post.

Blackburn Rovers 1 Manchester City 1

FA Cup Third Round
Saturday 4 January 2014, 12.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, Boyata, Lescott (c), Nastasic, Clichy, Milner, Fernandinho (Toure 64), Garcia, Silva (Zabaleta 88), Negredo (Navas 74), Dzeko
Unused: Hart, Kompany, Kolarov, Lopes
Goals: Negredo (45)
Booked: Nastasic, Boyata
Sent Off: Boyata

Referee: Michael Oliver
Man of the Match: Alvaro Negredo

Nastasic and Clichy combine to win the ball.

Nastasic and Clichy combine to win the ball.

It was a dreadful start to the match with neither side really imposing themselves on the game. Negredo ran the ball out of play in the Blackburn box, while Milner’s over-hit pass didn’t find Clichy. The first decent chance took almost 20 minutes to arrive, as a Blackburn corner was headed towards goal by Dann, but it was well held by Pantilimon.

With 35 minutes played, City’s first real spell of pressure should have resulted in the opening goal. The ball was cleared as far as Garcia mid-way into the Blackburn half and he knocked it back for Boyata on the right. He neatly found Silva in the middle, but the chance was on his right foot and he hit the top tier rather than the target.

On the stroke of half time, City took the lead. Dzeko headed a corner into the box at goal, but the striker’s effort was well wide of the goal. Fortunately for the visitors, it fell kindly for Negredo, who touched the ball into the net. It was a dubious goal, as the Spaniard may have been offside.

Ten minutes into the second half, the hosts were level. City were feeling aggrieved with the officials after two clear corners weren’t awards, while Negredo might have had a penalty as he tried to latch onto a through ball. However, on the break, Blackburn won a corner – it was floated to the middle and the initial header was straight at Pantilimon. He spilt it and Dann tapped in.

Just after the half hour, Negredo should have doubled his tally for the afternoon. Silva chipped the ball into the Spaniard on the edge of the box and he nodded it down for Dzeko to shoot. Robinson parried the effort straight back to Negredo, but he couldn’t direct his diving header into the unguarded net.

A long range shot from Navas, shortly after the Spaniard had joined the action, was close to sneaking in at the back post but for a strong hand by Robinson. It was one of a few isolated chances in the second half, where neither side were able to really impose themselves on the match.

A long-throw in from Blackburn was well defended by the visitors and they were able to break. A great ball from Dzeko found Milner on the right and he flicked it through to Navas to go clear into the box. The winger’s shot, however, was on his weaker side and flashed wide of Robinson’s goal.

A late challenge by Boyata with five minutes to play saw him receive his second yellow card. His first seemed soft, but he could have no arguments with the second and it left City a man light for the closing stages. It almost cost the visitors immediately, as Cairney’s turn and shot flashed just wide.

There wasn’t another chance to win the game, though, and there’ll be a replay.

Manchester City 0 Wigan Athletic 1

FA Cup Final
Saturday 11 May 2013, 17.15 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Clichy, Y Toure, Barry (Dzeko 90), Silva, Nasri (Milner 55), Tevez (Rodwell 69), Aguero
Unused: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Lescott, Garcia
Goals:
Booked: Zabaleta, Nastasic, Barry
Sent Off: Zabaleta

Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez

Wigan1City walked out at Wembley for the fifth time under Roberto Mancini for their second FA Cup final in three seasons, but it was the underdogs in Wigan who got off to the better start. An early free kick for City was hit into the wall by Tevez and the rebound effort at goal by Toure was comfortably pushed away by Joel. But that was as good as it got for the blues in the opening stages.

Aguero lost possession mid-way in the Wigan half and it gave them the chance to break: McManaman turned Clichy on City’s left and found Kone on the opposite flank. He held it up and returned it to the midfielder, who had ghosted past Nastasic into a pocket of space in the box, but his shot curled wide of the post. Joe Hart was left rooted to the spot.

It was soon all Wigan pressure: Maloney volleyed a cross from the edge of the box right at Nastasic and the fans at the other end of the ground appealed for handball, though it would have been a very harsh penalty, having rolled off the defender’s knee first. It was the same player again who, having cut in from the left, took on a shot towards Hart’s bottom left corner, but it was just wide.

Mid-way through the half, City created their best chance of the game. Nasri cut inside from the left flank and slipped a ball in behind the full-back for Silva to chase. He centred it, looking for anybody arriving in the middle, and it fell nicely for Tevez. He tried to place the ball back across the goalkeeper, but Joel managed to get his toe to the ball while diving the other way, and divert it over the bar.

Wigan responded. Following a Toure blocked shot, the underdogs broke away. Kone managed to slip the ball through for McManaman to chase and he left Nastasic and Kompany for dead, to race through on Hart. The speed of the break took him wide, but Hart committed himself and the midfielder was able to take it around him. Zabaleta recovered to slow him down and allow Hart time to get back into position, but another McManaman turn left the goalkeeper stranded. When the midfielder shot, though, Zabaleta was in the right place to block. It was a let off.

The City fans would have been expecting a completely different City to emerge from the tunnel at half time. To an extent that was true, as they started the half on the front foot, but they were still very much below par. Tevez’s low cross to the near post was met on the slide by Aguero, but Boyce got the last touch to knock it behind for a corner. A Silva cross then led to a Wigan breakaway, that Zabaleta stopped cynically and he saw yellow.

But soon, Wigan were putting the blues under pressure again. It remained goalless thanks to a brilliant challenge from Kompany, coming across from the right side of the box to slide to block from McManaman, after he had stepped around Clichy and Silva. A free kick from the right wing was then crossed towards the back-post by Maloney and, with Hart standing and watching, it dropped onto the top of the bar and away.

A loose ball from Barry was then more costly than simply allowing Wigan a chance to break. Trying to find Kompany, his ball was cut out and McManaman was through on goal. Kompany and Nastasic couldn’t get back to cover and Zabaleta was forced to commit himself to the challenge. He missed the ball and took all of the man, resulting in his second yellow card.

As the board went up for stoppage time, Clichy inadvertently knocked the ball behind for a corner following a challenge with McManaman. From that kick, Watson was left totally unmarked on the corner of the six-yard box and he connected to nod it straight past Joe Hart. With only two minutes of the game to play, it was enough to win the game for Wigan.

In truth, City never turned up and Wigan fully deserved to lift the cup.

Chelsea 1 Manchester City 2

FA Cup Semi Final
Sunday 14 April 2013, 16.00 KO

City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Clichy, Barry, Y Toure, Milner, Nasri (Lescott 87), Aguero, Tevez (Garcia 73)
Unused: Hart, Kolarov, K Toure, Sinclair, Dzeko
Goals: Nasri (35), Aguero (47)
Booked: Barry, Y Toure, Kompany

Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the Match: Gareth Barry

Chelsea1It was a cagey start to the game, but it was City who were able to get the ball down and get into the match the quicker. After just five minutes, Yaya Toure slid the ball into Aguero on the left side of the Chelsea box and his effort slammed into the side netting. From a corner, Barry had an effort but it found Toure, who had a go himself, redirecting it towards goal. It looked comfortable for Cech, until Aguero flicked it towards the corner and it took a great save from the goalkeeper to prevent the ball hitting the net.

Tevez had a shot well saved at the near post, before Aguero managed to get in behind and it took a great recovery from Ivanovic to block the Argentine’s fierce effort, before Cech’s gloves were needed.

From a free kick, Chelsea almost opened the scoring. Pantilimon came for the cross, but didn’t get there and it was cleared only as far as Hazard on the edge of the area. His volleyed shot bounced down into the ground and over the goalkeeper, but Kompany was on the line to head it away. It was a warning shot for the blues.

And that was the wake-up call they needed. Yaya Toure picked the ball up mid-way into the Chelsea half and he drove towards the box. He slipped it in for Nasri, who tried to square it for Tevez, but the pass was blocked straight back to the Frenchman. One-on-one with Cech, he found the back of the net with a side-footed finish. City had the lead.

A couple of minutes later, it should have been two. Aguero was found by Milner inside the box and he tried to get his shot away, but couldn’t make a clean connection and Cech saved. It bounced straight back to Milner and, after taking a touch to control, he unleashed an effort for the bottom corner, but it was blocked behind the goalkeeper by Aguero, in an offside position.

On the stroke of half time, City wasted another good chance to double their lead, as a Chelsea free kick broke down completely. It was given away in City’s left back position and Milner steamed away with the ball. He shot at Cech’s near post, despite there being three unmarked men in blue shirts in the middle. It was spilled to the back post where Kompany side-footed wide, with the goal at his mercy. It was a horrible miss.

Chelsea2City made up for their slackness in front of goal in the opening minutes of the second half. A free kick from deep was rolled into Tevez and, via Milner, it found Barry on the right flank. He crossed to the back post, where Aguero had peeled from Ivanovic and headed to the top corner. Cech didn’t move, as it hit the post and dropped over the line. It was a brilliant goal.

Chelsea’s response was slow to arrive, though they did begin to grow into the game without testing Pantilimon. With just over 65 minutes played, they changed shape, bringing Torres on to join Ba up front. And the effect was immediate, as the ball bounced to Ba following Torres’s challenge with Kompany, and his swivel and shot flicked the post on its way into Pantilimon’s net. It was the first goal he’d conceded in the FA Cup this season and Chelsea were right back into the game.

The Romanian soon became heavily involved and he proved he was up to the challenge. Mata found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper after Nastasic’s tackle fell kindly for the Spaniard, but as he tried to go round Pantilimon, the City keeper got two hands on the ball and pushed it away. A minute later, Clichy was fouled by Hazard on the edge of the six-yard box, but it wasn’t given and the Belgian squared for Ba to shoot. It took a brilliant reflex save from Pantilimon to keep it out – and he recovered to pounce on the rebound.

Soon enough, the momentum had swung Chelsea’s way. Luiz had a free kick that was inches wide, before Aguero was lucky to stay on the pitch after stamping on the Brazilian with two feet in a challenge on the halfway line. The referee didn’t see it, but if he had, it would have been a red card. Torres was then denied a clear penalty, as Kompany had a fistful of the Spaniard’s shirt to prevent him going in on a one-on-one.

With a backs-to-the-wall finish for City, the blues held firm and confirmed their place in the final to face Wigan.