CHELSEA 1, MAN CITY 2.
Manchester City remain on course to collect one piece of silverware after defeating Chelsea to book their place in next month’s final of the FA Cup with Budweiser.
They will returning to Wembley where they will play Wigan Athletic in a final featuring two of Lancashire’s finest, but only after repelling a fierce onslaught from Chelsea in the last quarter of the semi final.
City, FA Cup winners in 2011, appeared to be coasting to the final after goals from Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero gave them a seemingly commanding 2-0 advantage early in the second half against an out-of-sorts Chelsea.
Once Demba Ba halved the deficit midway through the second period, the game suddenly swung the way of Chelsea as City were forced to dig deep and defend often desperately to hold on to their slender advantage.
City survived to reach the final, their second in three seasons, when it will be a David versus Goliath as the Premier League giants will be tackling the Latics who are battling to preserve their top-flight status.
City captain Vincent Kompany admitted it had been a struggle to hold on to their lead in the latter stages.
He said: “For a while it was too comfortable and Chelsea scoring was a wake-up call.
“In the end we defended well and we did a great job. It was an important game, but the most important will be the final against Wigan.”
Manager Roberto Mancini agreed his side suffered a wobble in the second half.
He said: “We played very well in the first half but, after we scored our second goal, we played as though the game was finished.
“Ba’s goal changed the game and for 10 minutes it was difficult. I am happy because I thought we deserved to win the game.”
City, whose only surprise was preferring Costel Pantilimon in goal to Joe Hart, made the brighter start as the Romanian shot stopper saw little of the ball.
It was City who made most of the early running creating a number of openings.
Sergio Aguero fired into the side netting while Gareth Barry’s shot deflected off both Yaya Toure and Aguero forcing Petr Cech into an athletic save.
Cech also had to turn Carlos Tevez’s fiercely driven cross round the post for a corner before Aguero and Tevez both had goalbound shots blocked by Branislav Ivanovic and Ryan Bertrand respectively.
Yet it was Chelsea who came closest to breaking the deadlock midway through the half when Pantilimon’s punched clearance fell to Oscar whose shot was looping in until Komany spectacularly headed off the line.
On the balance of play it was no surprise when City took a 35th minute lead.
And inevitably it was Yaya Youre at the heart of the move as he made a powerful forward burst before playing the ball to Aguero who laid it off, with the help of a deflection, to Nasri who fired high past Cech from eight yards for his fourth goal of the season.
Chelsea’s response was a shot from Juan Mata which was dragged narrowly wide.
City twice came close to adding a second goal when Cech had to be alert to deny Aguero and then James Milner’s follow-up effort then in stoppage time Milner broke on the left and found Kompany free at the far post but he shot wide.
They didn’t have to wait long as a second goal came within two minutes of the restart when Gareth Barry turned provider swinging in a cross from the right for Aguero to head home from eight yards in off the upright, his 15th of the campaign.
Chelsea received a foothold back in the game midway through the second period moments after Fernando Torres replaced John Mikel Obi.
David Luiz played a long ball forward over the head of Kompany and Demba Ba scored with another spectacular overhead kick.
Chelsea suddenly seized control and Pantilimon twice in quick succession pulled off super saved to prevent the Londoners from levelling.
First he dashed from his line to save at the feet of Mata and then he blocked Ba’s shot following a cut back from Oscar.
City brought on Javier Garcia for Tevez in a bid and then Joleon Lescott for Nasri to add more defensive muscle to the side and put the brakes on Chelsea’s gathering momentum.
Luiz fired a free kick narrowly wide and Torres has an appeal for a penalty rejected as he claimed he was held back by Kompany.