MAN CITY 3, SHEFF UTD 0
It was one of those rare days when Erling Harland was eclipsed by a team-mate whose goalscoring exploits grabbed the headlines at Wembley.
Riyad Mahrez scored a 23-minute hat-trick as much-changed Manchester City had far too much class for Championship club Sheffield United in the semi-finals of the Emirates FA Cup.
It was a rarity, the first treble in a cup semi-final for 65 years when Alex Dawson achieved the feat for Manchester United against Fulham in a replay back in 1958.
An upset of seismic proportions was never on the cards as Pep Guardiola’s side reached its first final since 2019 as hopes of a league, cup and Champions League treble remains on track.
And they have reached the final in style scoring an impressive 17 goals in their cup campaign, with Mahrez scoring five of them, and conceding none.
The last time a team replicated that was Everton in 1965/66 as City continue to produce outstanding achievements.Embed from Getty Images
Player-of-the-match Mahrez said: “It feels very good [to score a hat-trick]. The most important thing is that two or three seasons in a row we’ve come here in the semi-finals and lost. Today, we wanted to make sure we got to the final. I think I had a good game.
“I don’t know really which goal was the best. It’s a good team achievement and we took the game seriously.
“It means a lot to be in final. We really want to work hard in every competition going. We’re in the final of the FA Cup which is amazing. Now we have to concentrate on the league and the next game against Arsenal.
“We have a very good squad and a very good team. We have to keep going.”
Guardiola was delighted for Mahrez, admitting he is “grumpy” when he is not playing.
He explained: “Riyad loves to play football and has an amateur spirit. He is not like a player with a contract who comes in to training and does his job.
“It is important when he plays, he plays to that level and he is an exceptional player. He was mentally composed for the penalty.”
Guardiola was pleased with City’s display three days after their huge Champions League game against Bayern Munich and to banish their semi-final woes.
“Excellent performance, we cannot forget three days ago we were in Munich,” he said.
“For three years in the semis, it has been out, out and out. To be in the final is very satisfying.”
Blades’ boss Paul Heckingbottom was pleased how his side battled to the end which he expected.
“There is frustration, however, as we gave away the first two goals which is a big lesson we must learn from. We need to be better,” he said.
“We also didn’t score from the first two moments of the match which was critical. We know the margins are fine.
“Conceding the penalty the way we did was poor. And the manner of the second goal was frustrating
Guardiola named six changes after his side sealed progress to the semi-finals against Bayern on Wednesday.
Ederson was replaced by Stefan Ortega in goal, while Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte, Sergio Gomez, Mahrez and Julian Alvarez were also called up.
Ruben Dias, John Stones, Rodri, Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden were among the options on the bench.
Championship side Sheffield made three changes following a 1-0 win over Bristol City on Tuesday as they edged a step closer to a Premier League return.
Wes Foderingham was in for Adam Davies in goal while Oliver Norwood and Daniel Jebbison replaced Tommy Doyle and Oli McBurnie.
The Blades had a great chance to take the lead inside 90 seconds when Oliver Norwood’s corner was headed on to Iliman Ndiaye whose close-range shot was well kept out by Ortega.
Haaland had the ball in the net with a terrific finish from 30 plus yards, a laser guided strike, but referee Stuart Atwell had already blown for a foul before the ball hit the net.
City had to wait until midway through the opening period before carving out their first clear-cut chance when Mahrez bent a shot narrowly wide from outside the box.
That was quickly followed by Jack Grealish setting up Alvarez who forced a fine flying save from Foderingham.
City began to crank up the pressure, though the Blades defended resolutely until four minutes before the break when Guardiola’s side made the breakthrough after Bernardo Silva was tripped by Daniel Jebbison, a striker’s challenge, and Mahrez sent Foderingham the wrong way from the spot for his 13th goal of the season.
That was followed by goal number 14 just after the hour as the Algerian ran from the centre of midfield gaining ground as the Blades’ defenders back off. Mahrez suddenly found himself 12 yards from goal as he slotted home a low shot.
Mahrez completed a 23-minute hat-trick mid-half when he swept home a low shot with Grealish providing the assist following trickery on the left.
Guardiola’s response was to make two changes as Haaland, who failed to add to his 48 goals for the season, and Grealish made way for Cole Palmer and Phil Foden.
That was soon followed by a further two as Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva were replaced by Kalvin Phillips and Rico Lewis as City saw out the game with minimal effort as they prepare for Wednesday’s clash against Arsenal, a potential title decider at the Etihad.