FA Cup final 2011 Match Report

Manchester City – Stoke City 1-0 (HT: 0-0)

Venue: Wembley Stadium, London
Date: 14/05/2011 14:00 BST
PhotosRichard Tucker

 A Tale From Virginia by Thad Williamson

As the whole world knows by now, Manchester City have broken its 35 year duck of trophies with a deserved 1-0 victory over Stoke City in the FA Cup final this afternoon at Wembley, courtesy of an emphatic finish from Yaya Touré with just over 15 minutes to play. Touré hammered home a loose ball from just about eight yards out as an afternoon of pressure from City finally told.

It’d be easy to say there are no words to describe the feeling but it’s my job to try. As a relatively recent Blue (this is my twelfth season following the club) I always make a point to seek out the perspectives and feelings of those City fans who have been around all those 35 years, and even longer, the ones who truly have the right to sing “thirty-four years and we’re still here”, like the lads in the film “Blue Moon Rising”.

So it was my good fortune and truly special treat to watch the game with a City fan who has been around much longer than 35 years, Ernie Barrow, formerly of England but now living in the United States in a rural area outside Richmond, VA, where I live. I’ve known Ernie for a few years, and always take pleasure, when people say that I am the biggest City fan around, in saying “no, that’s not true, let me tell you about this guy out in Hanover County.”

Ernie is known to many City followers worldwide for his frequent posts to the MCIVTA newsletter (Manchester City Information Via the Alps), one of the earliest, highest quality, and most enduring Internet City communities. Ernie is known for his relentlessly optimistic outlook, but an outlook that is informed by detailed knowledge and good judgement.

Such is Ernie’s love for all things City that he has actually succeeded in converting some of his neighbours into hard-core Manchester City fans. What are the odds that along a rural road 20 miles outside Richmond, VA you’d find six passionate City fans (plus two dogs), half wearing the kit, watching an FA Cup final with such intensity that even the Jehovah’s Witnesses who showed up to knock on the door got quickly scared off?

Ernie is a generous and welcoming host, provided not only the TV but also beer (from Bud Lite to Boddington’s), chips, donuts, and of course his famous sausage rolls. His home is covered in City memorabilia. And better still, he’s full of City stories, old and new.

Today his old story was about being at the 1969 FA Cup final, the last time City won the competition. Ernie was in the stands behind the goal when Neil Young scored the winner (though he admits that he was too sloshed at the moment to fully appreciate it!). He recalls the fact that Princess Anne, there to represent the royals that afternoon, wore red and black, the same colours as the away strip City wore that day, leading City supporters to chant “Princess Anne/She’s a City fan.” And he recalls the way the trophy was carried by the players around to the fans at day’s end.

His more recent story came from last summer’s pre-season friendly between City and Inter Milan in Baltimore, in late July. Ernie had gotten the all-access ticket, and he spotted former City winger Mike Summerbee (part of the 1969 Cup-winning squad), someone he had met decades ago. He had a chat with Summerbee as well as current City executive Garry Cook, who bought him a drink and graciously invited him to come visit City of Manchester Stadium next year.

Ernie was not able to make that trip this past season, but he does plan to take Cook up on the offer next year. But today was all about capping an excellent season and getting the trophy.

City dominated the first half of the game; David Silva missed a glorious chance to score from close range, and a terrific save by Thomas Sorenson denied Mario Balotelli’s curling effort. Mancini fielded two proper strikers (Balotelli and Tévez), and that more offensive posture paid off as City were able to control the ball longer and with a greater variety of passes (including balls over the top) than we’ve seen in the single-striker formation.

The second half was more even and quite a bit more tense, as the game became choppier and Stoke City had a fair few set pieces and throw-ins from good positions. The best opportunity for Stoke though came on a long ball to Kenwyne Jones who had the beating of Joleon Lescott but was quickly closed down by Joe Hart, who made an excellent save with his leg.

For the second straight game, Mancini made a sub to change the course of the game. Barry came off and Adam Johnson came on, and it wasn’t long before the goal came, though Johnson himself wasn’t directly involved in the move. Yaya Touré pounced on the opportunity created by a ball played into Balotelli, and City finally had the lead.

The remainder of the game was an impressive display of how to defend a 1-0 lead. City did not get pulled back too deep, kept pushing forward for a second, and held Stoke City to no more than a half-chance. When the final whistle blew, there could be no doubt that Manchester City had well-earned the silverware.

Meanwhile, in rural Virginia, I jumped up and down; Ernie had a huge, huge smile and a glow to boot. We sat and watched every minute of the post-match coverage, then departed saying “see you in August” when City begin their next campaign.

Picture Gallery

It’ll be a very happy three months thinking about City until then.

Match facts

Attendance: 88,643
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Goal: MC: Yaya Toure (74)

Line-up: MC: Joe Hart, Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Alexander Kolarov; Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry (Adam Johnson), Yaya Toure, David Silva (Patrick Vieira); Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tévez (Pablo Zabaleta)

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