Man City wins FA Cup after beating Stoke 1-0
A party that ended up being 35 years in the planning kicked off at Wembley on Saturday as Manchester City finally broke its long trophy drought by lifting the FA Cup after a 1-0 win over Stoke.
Yaya Toure scored the winning goal in the second half, just as he did against Manchester United in the semifinal, to give City its first trophy since the 1976 League Cup and its fifth FA Cup win, 42 years after the last.
Toure, a 24 million pound ($38.9 million) buy from Barcelona last summer, broke the deadlock in the 74th minute with an unstoppable shot after Mario Balotelli's deflected effort rebounded into his path.
Watching in the crowd was his brother Kolo, who is serving a ban for a positive drugs test, but if Yaya wanted to run towards his sibling, his teammates had other ideas and piled on top of the elated midfielder.
''Yes, this goal was especially for my brother,'' Toure said. ''Especially as he was watching from the stands. I dedicate this cup to him. Hopefully he is back next season.''
City manager Roberto Mancini, along with jubilant captain Carlos Tevez, was one of the last to leave the pitch after the win.
''In my opinion we deserved it,'' said Mancini after seeing his side dominate most of the game against a disappointing Stoke team.
The Italian took the job in Dec. 2009, 16 months after the club was bought by Abu Dhabi businessman Sheikh Mansour. Since the takeover, an estimated 300 million pounds has been spent on assembling a squad to challenge for the game's major honors.
Mancini's first success came in qualification for the Champions League, sealed four days ago, and the club is hoping the FA Cup is only the start of a prolonged era of success.
Saturday's win came on the same day that city rivals United sealed its 19th English league title, but that didn't dampen the celebrations in a buoyant blue half of Wembley Stadium.
In response to the famous United banner at Old Trafford that notes the number of years since City's last trophy, the City fans at Wembley triumphantly held aloft one of their own reading ''00 YEARS.''
Stoke's ebullient supporters stayed to watch City lift the trophy, eking every last moment out of the club's first trip to the FA Cup final in its 148-year history. They delivered a last, deafening rendition of their unofficial anthem, Tom Jones' Delilah, before heading for the exits.
But while Stoke's fans reveled in the Wembley experience, their players appeared to be overawed by the occasion and were never at their combative, threatening best.
''They (City) played the best stuff on the day,'' goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen said. ''It's disappointing that we didn't play better. We've done so in the past - especially lately, we've done really well - that's the most disappointing thing.''
Pulis pointed to the injuries suffered by Matthew Etherington and Robert Huth in the leadup to the final as possible reasons for a below-par display. Both players started but Etherington, in particular, was far from his best.
''Maybe we've run out of a bit of depth,'' Pulis said. ''We've reached a level of performances over past six, seven weeks that have been very good.
''The greatest disappointment is that we didn't reach that level today. Full congratulations to Manchester City, they were the better team and they deserved to win.''
Tevez, who recovered from a hamstring injury to lead the team, drew a good save from Sorensen after only five minutes, and the Danish goalkeeper was relieved to see Toure's thumping 35-yard effort go past his left-hand post in the 11th.
Sorensen again came to his side's rescue in the 24th by athletically palming away a shot from Balotelli that was heading for the top corner, but the best chance fell to Silva, who shot into the ground and over the bar with Sorensen out of position.
Stoke, as expected, relied on its set-piece expertise, but Rory Delap's first long throw was easily dealt with by City's defense and Jermaine Pennant struggled to find any accuracy with his free kicks.
Pulis' team improved after the break but it was still City carving out the best chances, with Silva delaying his shot for too long in the 55th after being set up by the dangerous Tevez.
City survived its only real moment of danger in the 61st when Jones latched onto a long ball and escaped defender Joleon Lescott, only to be foiled by goalkeeper Hart.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 74th when Silva and Balotelli exchanged passes before the Italian striker's shot came off one defender and then rebounded off Wilson, with Toure finishing emphatically.
''We bought him for this,'' Mancini said of Toure. ''Yaya is a very incredible player for me. He has big experience and in the last two games against United and against Stoke, he scored important goals.''
Stoke's consolation is a place in the Europa League next season, and Pulis said he would look back on the season with pride - eventually.
''We've had a great season,'' Pulis said. ''To be eighth in the Premiership, to have got to an FA Cup final ... to be in Europe next year, it's a fantastic achievement for this club. The big picture is very, very good, it's just a desperately disappointing day.''
Manchester City's next target is to finish third in the Premier League above Arsenal. The first of its remaining two fixtures is on Tuesday - at Stoke.