Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Sunday May 15 2011
As the Pedmachine and his friends headed south on Saturday the weather was a mixed bag of sun and squally showers. The feelings in the car were a combination of the kind of optimism only a City fan can have mixed with the kind of trepidation that comes from playing against a team whose brand of football is not one that City likes and having seen us too many times come unstuck by it.
But on arrival at the magnificent stadium the sky was blue and the omens started to look good for the rest of the day.
New friendships were abounding in the square behind the Empire Pool where City fans and Stoke fans joined together and talked about the afternoon's events in front of them. Both sets had concerns and both sets were showing great respect for each other's teams who had achieved something that was beyond them for many years. A quick word with Ian Cheeseman, Nigel Gleghorn, Fred Eyre and Shaun Goater and...
Turnstiles open...here we go!
I took my seat early to watch the build-up an to savour every moment of what is still one of the most special days in the world football calendar despite the undying attempts by the FA to make a mess of it by presenting four Premier League matches on the same day.
Stoke came in early and went on to the field in their suits to take in the atmosphere created by exceptional supporters at their end of the stadium.
City much closer to kick-off keeping in focus the job ahead.
A quick round of 'We are the Champions', 'Abide with Me' and the National Anthem and let battle commence.
Stoke forced to play Etherington and Huth who were clearly unfit, City selected Tevez and Barry whose recoveries were somewhat ahead of their Black Country rivals.
Within two minutes of the start it was clear that Huth would be struggling, the fact that he lasted ninety minutes was probably a tesimony to his dedication to the cause.
After five minutes a Tevez shot on goal was well saved by Sorensen. After ten minutes seeing Etherington pull up at least twice, my confidence of a sure fire win was starting to take shape.
City were getting into gear with some superb fluency in attack, but as expected Stoke were very resilient, funnelling back to defend their goal with their lives. Shots flew in from Toure and an absolute cracker from Balotelli which brought a remarkable save from Sorensen when it had goal stamped all over it. Mario couldn't believe it!
Silva was waving his left wand all over the hallowed turf, with creative intelligent football setting up everything that was good about City's football. Inexplicably on thirty five minutes the chance of the first half was smashed into the ground and over the bar. Heads went into hands all over the field.
Stoke were struggling to find a plan A let alone anything else and their tactics seemed to concentrate on searching out dead ball situations with Jones hitting the deck at every opportunity and likewise Pennant. These two know exactly what they are doing staying down 'injured' until the physio looks as though he is coming on but getting up before they have to go off.
Martin Atkinson bought into Jones antics but didn't spot Huth's smart elbow into the face of Balotelli, which should have sent him to the showers.
The first half was all City. Mancini has surprised us by selecting Kolarov ahead of crowd favourite Zabaleta and looked to have matched up Stoke's 4-4-2 formation. One of the advantages of sitting up on Level 5 is that you can see the formations clearly and see how play develops and City looked to be playing a one-off formation of 2-1-4-1-2. Kompany and Lescott clearly marking Jones and Walters, giving them no room to get to work. In front of them was de Jong who put in the best display of cover tackling I have ever seen. He didn't put a foot wrong and I don't recall him making a foul tackle all afternoon.
Roberto must have read earlier Ped Reports which suggested that we keep Stoke's threat away from our penalty area and Richards and Kolarov were clearly detailed to push back Pennant and Etherington, which they did with deadly efficiency. This left Barry and Toure in the creative and defensive positions in midfield, Silva roaming between the lines, Balotelli at left attack and Tevez at right attack.
This unusual formation allowed City to close down Stoke at will and set off attack after attack from more or less any angle. Stoke just didn't have the answers especially when Toure pushed ahead to support Tevez and Balotelli. They did however manage to stumble to the break with their goal intact and were probably happy to hear the whistle and get to the sanctuary of their dressing room.
They came out for the second half in a more determined mood and for a while the match changed from being a procession towards their goal into more of a cup tie but their only real chance came just after the hour when the first and only hesitation in City's defence let in Jones, who should have scored but was stopped by a brave Hart in City's goal. As in the semi-final, Hart's save disheartened the opposition and with Toure revisiting his range, the game moved once again into the opposition half of the field.
City continued to knock on the door but as the clock started to tick down, were we really heading for extra time in what was turning out to be a one-sided match? Blue Moon and Delilah were missing in action and the Poznan hadn't been seen since the significant twenty sixth minute when Silva once again exploded into action, carving open the right side of the Potters' defence. He passed to Balotelli whose goalbound shot cannoned off a Stoke defender and sat up beautifully eight yards out. Yaya Toure was out of the blocks like Usain Bolt and hammered a rocket propelled grenade to open the gates of delirium behind what must be his favourite set of goalposts. The blue and white hoardes went mental. Adrenaline valves were released and Blue Moon now found some volume. The backs were turned and the stands were once again alive, a true sea of sky blue.
One goal was always going to be enough against Stoke in this match. They tried so hard to get back into the match but City closed everything off very well indeed.
The game clock seemed to read 81 minutes and 47 seconds for at least 35 years but at last it finally headed closer to 90 minutes. There was no panic with three added minutes despite a string of late corners when Sorensen spent a full two minutes in City's penalty area.
When Atkinson finally brought proceedings to a halt you had never seen anything like it. Thirty five years of winning nothing had gone. It is said that the majority of football fans worldwide support teams who win nothing and now Manchester City has stepped off that platform. United fans have to tear down their sad flag and start to make lifestyle changes and pen some new songs.
As the weary Stoke lads made their way for their runners-up medals, the Blue Mooners stood and applauded them for their great efforts. In turn Stoke's magnificent supporters, gracious in defeat, unlike the last set of opposition fans I enclountered at Wembley, stood to a man to applaud Carlos Tevez holding up the FA Cup. Amongst the FA dignitaries was David Bernstein who paved the way in becoming originally the Quantity Surveyor who saw what was needed to start to put the cement into this football club, before passing the job finally on to the architect who was well represented in the crowd today. Carlos Tevez who was supposed to not win trophies anymore gleefully lifted the Cup and the team finally joined the fans in doing the Poznan on the ceremonial platform.
As the Cup came down to pitch level out came the banner that said '00 years'. Out too came the Argentine flag behind which stood Tevez and Zabaleta cheerily holding up the Cup. A few minutes later we saw Yaya and Kolo sharing hugs and holding the Cup.
All around them were scenes of unbridled joy as City fans sang and celebrated the end of an era. They can go back to work on Monday heads held high knowing the revolution starts now.
This was their day, the day when notice was served on the football world that Manchester City is for real.
It was a famous day for football in Manchester. The day when it's only resident football team, Manchester City Football Club brought the game's oldest and most famous trophy to the City of Manchester Stadium. And I'm sure at the back of all of this was the spirit of Neil Young and his onlooking wife.
Stoke City's fans were a credit to their Football Club,their City and their Community. It is the first time in a long time that both sets of fans stayed on hand to watch the endgame proceedings. There was no visible animosity towards their conquerors and it was handshakes all round on the plazas and in the pubs. I am sure we will welcome them with open arms on Tuesday.
The season didn't end here. We have seen Arsenal lose again today as I predicted they would and finishing the season in third place is now in our hands...if we beat Stoke again and then Bolton. Come on you Blues!!
Date:Sunday May 15 2011
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