STOKE CITY 0, MANCHESTER CITY 1, FA CUP ROUND 4
Roberto Mancini finally won a game at the Britannia Stadium at the sixth attempt as City beat Stoke in their FA Cup 4th Round tie. Pablo Zablaleta scored the winner in the 85th minute of a close contest. Victory was soured by injury to the City captain Vincent Kompany while Stoke should have had Glenn Whelan sent off early in the second half for stamping on Javi Garcia.
Zabaleta was delighted with his goal: “It’s always great to score. Three goals this season is not bad for a full-back but it’s a massive win on a tough pitch and it’s difficult to win here.
“We won the FA Cup 2 years ago and we want to win it again.” he added.
Mancini resisted the temptation to tinker too much with a winning side opted for a strong and physical team against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium, the side they beat to win the FA Cup in 2011. The Italian had failed to win there five times and made three changes from the side that beat Fulham last week. Costel Pantilimon started in goal with Joleon Lescott and Aleksander Kolarov bolstering the physical presence at the back with Joe Hart, Matija Nastasic and Gael Clichy rested.
City had started the brighter of the two sides, with David Silva hitting the post during the early stages but Stoke proved they were never to be trifled with, especially at the Britannia Stadium.
Carlos Tevez sliced a chance laid on by Gareth Barry as Stoke began to reel under the City onslaught but they almost conceded the first goal when Ryan Shawcross was adjudged offside when poking the loose ball past Pantilimon after 28 minutes after Matthew Etherington’s free kick was helped on by Robert Huth.
City were hit by an injury blow to Vincent Kompany after 33 minutes. The City captain knew he couldn’t continue after landing awkwardly on his right ankle while clearing the ball forcing the City bench into crisis. Without Matija Nastasic on the bench City were reduced to 10 men for eight minutes while Kompany’s injury was assessed and tactical alterations were debated by Mancini and David Platt.
City’s injury woes continued in the second half after a prone Javi Garcia was trod on by Glenn Whelan in what seemed a clear red card offence but wasn’t addressed by referee Howard Webb.
With the clock ticking down and City continuing to be frustrated by Stoke, it seemed as though a replay was on the cards before City’s unsung hero Pablo Zabaleta popped up with what turned out to be the winning goal to break the deadlock.
Zabaleta sidefooted home from Dzeko’s miscontrolled touch after Silva and substitute Sergio Aguero had combined up Stoke’s right flank. The Argentine had started the attack but gambled and continued all the way up the right flank until the opportunity presented itself.