Sport Soccer

Friday 23 March 2018

Shawcross makes mark to sink City's Cup dreams

(After extra-time)

James Ducker

AT LEAST Wayne Bridge will be spared a third meeting with John Terry in nine days. Otherwise, this was an utterly joyless evening for Manchester City and their increasingly under-pressure manager, Roberto Mancini.

As if elimination from the FA Cup, and the realisation that their 34-year wait for silverware goes on, was not painful enough, City will be without Emmanuel Adebayor for the next three matches, including the Premier League game away to Chelsea on Saturday, after the striker was sent off at the Britannia Stadium last night for violent conduct.

Mancini may have tried to paint a picture of a united front amid growing rumours of unrest and unhappiness in the camp, but his players are hardly giving the impression of being a team prepared to put their neck on the line for their manager.

Goals from the outstanding Ryan Shawcross and a fine solo effort from Tuncay Sanli secured Stoke a deserved win in extra-time and a quarter-final meeting with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on March 7, in what will be their first appearance in the last eight of the competition since 1972.

Stoke's supporters goaded Mancini with chants of "You're getting sacked in the morning" and "You should have kept Mark Hughes" as the pressure on the Italian mounted.

City have won only two of their past eight matches, not the kind of form you want to take into a game against the Premier League leaders.

Carlos Tevez, their leading goalscorer, should be available with the Argentina striker due to return to England tomorrow after a two-week absence in the wake of the premature birth of his second daughter and it is as well given that Adebayor will be missing.

A tumultuous season for the Togo striker took another turn for the worse when he lashed out at Shawcross in the 82nd minute, catching the Stoke defender just below the chin with his arm. As well as the Chelsea game, he will miss the league matches at home to Tottenham and away to Fulham.

A dull affair burst into life in the final ten minutes when two substitutes combined to put Stoke in front.

Dave Kitson exchanged a neat one-two with Tuncay before finishing with aplomb, but City drew level within two minutes to take the game into extra time.

Bridge's cross was cushioned into the path of Craig Bellamy by Adebayor to score. It would be Adebayor's last contribution to the game.

Stoke would not be denied, though. Shawcross headed home a long throw-in by Rory Delap in the 96th minute before Tuncay collected Glenn Whelan's pass, cut inside Pablo Zabaleta and Shaun Wright-Phillips and fired the ball home with the help of a deflection off Joleon Lescott.

Familiarity had obviously bred contempt as far as Mancini was concerned. With this the third meeting between the teams in 12 days, and the fourth time the Italian has faced Stoke during his nine-week tenure as City manager, he had come to the conclusion that he did not particularly like what he saw from opponents not averse to a little rough and tough.

As an advocate of pass and move, repeated aerial assaults, the kind of which Stoke have come to perfect, offend Mancini's palate, but his strong team selection was as much an acknowledgment of the threat that Tony Pulis's side pose as an indication of City's desire to end their 34-year wait for some silverware of note.

In advance of the Chelsea game, Mancini must have been tempted to leave out more first-team regulars than he did, but when you are employed by demanding owners in a rush to put the club on football's global map, that is a risky game.

City started much the brighter and should have been in front inside 20 minutes, but with Bellamy spurning the opportunity, Stoke heeded the wake-up call and gradually began to gain a foothold.

Unbeaten in their previous 10 matches since the turn of the year, Stoke are awkward opponents to face, particularly at the Britannia Stadium, and as the first half wore on, it was clear they would take some shifting.

Shawcross had a thunderous shot heroically blocked by Lescott in the 35th minute, moments before Rory Delap rose above two City defenders to head Dean Whitehead's cross at Shay Given.

Stoke had imposed their will early on with Mamady Sidibe and Ricardo Fuller, their strikers, both being booked, but that had not prevented City from knocking the ball about with purpose early on with Bellamy forcing a save from Thomas Sorensen. (© The Times, London).

Irish Independent

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