Richards books semi clash with City rivals
Manchester City 1,
Blue Moon rising, Red Devils waiting. Manchester City have booked themselves an FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United with this occasionally edgy victory over Reading.
Micah Richards' header eventually pointed them to Wembley, triggering huge celebrations.
The outpouring of emotion at the final whistle reflected how long City have been waiting. They have not been in an FA Cup semi-final since 1981. They have not met United in the last four since Agatha Christie was vanishing and John Logie Baird was demonstrating the flickering wizardry of his magic box.
That 1926 semi saw City prevail 3-0 over United at Bramall Lane before losing the final to Bolton Wanderers, who have been drawn against Stoke City in the other semi.
The weight of history hangs heavily on City. Their search for a first trophy since 1976 is mocked by United fans, such serial winners under Alex Ferguson.
"Thirty-six years but we're still here", chanted the City fans defiantly yesterday.
No wonder they erupted in celebration when referee Lee Probert drew this game to a close. They chanted Roberto Mancini's name.
They threw around plastic blue dolphins, a paddling pool, inflatable bananas and countless beach-balls.
They did the Poznan celebration, jumping up and down with their backs to the pitch, arms draped across each others' shoulders like they were auditioning for the Folies Bergeres.
City and United have met seven times in the FA Cup, with United leading 5-2.
City may yet lose at Wembley -- and Rio Ferdinand immediately tweeted "Let's av iiit with em!" -- but what this season has confirmed is that they are moving on up under Mancini. "We are very close to all the top squads but we need to improve more," said the Italian. "Next year we will probably be at the same level."
"I'm very happy for the supporters because they deserve to go to Wembley for this game. It's a good semi-final and when you arrive there it's an honour."
Asked whether it was a chance for revenge after defeat to Wayne Rooney's wonder-strike at Old Trafford last month, Mancini said: "No, yes, no. In football you meet your opponent two times a year minimum, sometimes three or four times. For me it's a great semi-final. We know that semi-finals are always hard."
Playing the semis at Wembley was always a controversial idea, shredding tradition and undermining the special nature of the final, but the FA has to find the £757m for Wembley somehow.
So now four teams from the north of England -- City, United, Bolton and Stoke -- have to travel south on the weekend of April 16 and 17.
It is an expensive, environmentally harmful stunt the FA has pulled on the football public. The powers-that-be -- sporting, police and broadcasters -- have some tricky juggling to do. Not only is there one Wembley semi on April 17, but also Arsenal versus Liverpool and the London Marathon.
Playing City-United on the Saturday looks the likeliest, unless Mancini's men are still in the Europa League (which takes place on the previous Thursday).
City fans will overcome all the logistical problems to reach London though. Inevitably, there were emotional scenes for Reading at the end of their Cup adventure which saw them dispose of two Premier League clubs and limit City to one goal, headed in powerfully by Richards past the outstanding young 'keeper Alex McCarthy.
"Look at all the talent City have got and we got done on a set play," said their manager Brian McDermott. "It's galling to be done on a set play."
Reading's chairman John Madejski, had a few seconds with McDermott on the touchline after the game.
Madejski hugged him, consoled him, knowing that McDermott and his players could not have given any more.It was a touching moment that spoke volumes for the strong bonds at the club.
Reading's quality was occasionally seen on the pitch, particularly McAnuff and McCarthy, who made good saves from Shaun Wright-Phillips, David Silva and Yaya Toure.
City almost broke through early in the second half. When Vincent Kompany met Aleksandar's corner, Jay Tabb cleared off the line. Still City pressed, but still McCarthy shone, saving a piledriver from Yaya Toure and then tipping over a Richards header.
But then came Richards, powering on to Silva's corner. McCarthy got a hand to the header but could not keep the ball out.
Having had a disagreement with Mancini in Kiev, Richards ran across to accept his manager's embrace. "It was all happy," said the England full-back. "Tempers were raised in Kiev. We'd lost 2-0, so nobody was going to be happy."
Reading weren't happy with Tevez, who seemed to stamp on Zurab Khizanishvili.
Probert missed the incident but did have a word with Tevez, pointing to the word "Respect" on his captain's armband. City fans were pointing to Wembley. (© Daily Telegraph, London)