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Yaya Toure puts a halt to United's treble dreams

match report

Manchester City 1 - 0 Manchester United

Manchester City finally claimed an all-important win over their rivals to book their place for the FA Cup final. The Citizens will find even greater joy in destroying United's treble dreams as the red devils failed to react to Yaya Toure's goal and Paul Scholes's sending off. 

 

A first Wembley final since 1981 now awaits and Roberto Mancini has an outstanding opportunity to win silverware in his first full season. But most importantly for the City supporter, it came at the expense of their great rivals, the team that has dominated their city for the last two decades.

 

United's players certainly helped City on their way. Dimitar Berbatov missed a simple chance to take the lead in the first half, Michael Carrick gifted the excellent Yaya Toure the ball for the winner and Paul Scholes undermined an attempted fight-back by getting sent off for a high, studs-up challenge on Pablo Zabaleta.

 

The game had been tense at times and it spilled over after the final whistle. Mario Balotelli ran towards the United fans, incensing the United players. First Anderson and then Rio Ferdinand confronted the Italian, with Ferdinand leaving the field still ranting furiously.

 

That intense climax to the game was in contrast to the careful way it began. United, no doubt because of their familiarity with playing in games of this stature, settled into the game much the better. It was relatively cautious stuff - both managers opting to play just one striker - but United had more of the ball and slowly started to squeeze City. Then they struck, almost taking the lead.

 

It was a superb move, like a slick mechanism almost too quick for the eye - no wonder City’s defence were left rooted in the turf. The ball was shuttled rapidly from Carrick, to Scholes to Park, who tapped the ball into Berbatov’s stride. Unlike the City defence, though, Joe Hart was mobile, sliding upright to reduce Berbatov’s options and make an impressive save.

 

Sensing vulnerability United pressed on and moments later Nani spun away from Zabaleta and found space on the by-line. His low cross was pretty much perfect for Berbatov, who had got in behind Joleon Lescott, but the United striker got the angle of contact wrong and sent the ball rising steeply above the bar from inside the six yard box. It was an embarrassing miss. Wayne Rooney, sitting behind the bench, stood with his head in his hands in disbelief.

 

Still, for the first half an hour it did not look likely to be one United would regret as their grip on the game tightened. Nemanja Vidic went close with a header from an Antonio Valencia corner, having got ahead of Toure, but he could not quite make clean enough contact.

 

With Balotelli, selected ahead of Edin Dzeko in the absence of Carlos Tevez, struggling to get involved in the City build-up, Mancini’s side were having a hard time putting sustained moves together. Slowly their confidence grew, however, and David Silva and Adam Johnson began picking up the ball in dangerous areas.

 

Gareth Barry went close. Silva bought himself space with nimble footwork, crossing low to Balotelli. The ball got stuck underneath the Italians feet before rolling to Barry, he managed to roll away from John O’Shea far enough to get a shot off, hitting it just wide of the post and into the side-netting.

 

The selection of Balotelli, so erratic and unreliable, was a gamble on Mancini’s part, a show of faith in the sporadic brilliance of the 20 year-old. Ten minutes before the break he showed why he might be worth all the hassle, cutting from the left before hitting the ball ferociously, causing it to rise and then dip. Edwin van der Sar dived and pushed it over.

 

City certainly ended the half the stronger. Lescott, in space, could not control a far-post volley with his weaker right foot when Johnson had found him with a deep corner. Toure then went galloping away down the middle, leaving Scholes in his wake, but Vidic tracked him alertly and blocked the shot. From the ensuing corner, which Johnson and Silva worked short, Vincent Kompany whipped an impressive shot just wide.

 

United came out early for the second half but City started the more eagerly, taking the momentum into the second period. Seven minutes in and they had the lead. What had been United confidence in the first half had become sloppiness. Van der Sar had already failed to properly clear his lines - to be fair he had been put under unnecessary pressure by his defence - when Carrick was robbed by Toure, whose acceleration took him beyond Vidic and allowed him to pass the ball beneath the onrushing Van der Sar.

 

City were confident and, in their short corner routines, were giving the United defence real problems. After a swift exchange with Silva, Johnson left Patrice Evra for dead and sprinted along the by-line. Van der Sar almost pushed into his own net in stopping the England winger’s attempted cross.

 

Johnson was more successful with his next cross, finding Lescott who headed wide. Replays showed O’Shea with a fistful of Balotelli’s shirt - fortunately for the United defender Mike Dean, the referee, did not see it.

 

United pressed for an equaliser. Zabaleta went in with a late challenge on Park - for which he was booked - and United had a free kick in a promising position. Nani’s effort clipped Balotelli’s head in the wall and Hart did well to claw the ball onto the bar.

 

The game was getting heated. Balotelli was booked for hacking down Carrick but worse was to come. Zabaleta looked to kick clear a bouncing ball and Scholes closed in. The United midfielder went in over the ball and his studs thudded into Zabaleta’s thigh, puncturing the flesh. Replays showed Scholes’ eyes were closed when he went in to the challenge. Dean produced the red card. Scholes just stood and stared.

 

United, despite being down to 10 men, made sure City had to ride their nerves, with Javier Hernandez, on as a substitute, causing problems with his wriggling runs. Five minutes of Fergie time did little to help settle City’s anxiety. Balotelli tried an ambitious pass instead of taking the ball to the corner. Toure and Shaun Wright-Phillips had chances to kill it

 

Adapted from: The Telegraph

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