Yaya Toure, 74
Yaya Toure’s goal gave Manchester City a deserved victory over Stoke City in the FA Cup final. The Ivory Coast international pounced late in the game to secure the trophy for Roberto Mancini’s side as Tony Pulis’ outfit struggled to cope with their opponents for much of the showpiece tie.
Both sides received pre-match injury boosts, with Carlos Tevez passed fit for Manchester City while Stoke could call on Matthew Etherington and Robert Huth, absentees in previous weeks. With Tevez in the starting line-up Mancini pushed Mario Balotelli to a wide role in place of Adam Johnson and Toure in support of the Argentinean, while Stoke chose Jonathan Walters over John Carew in a 4-4-2 formation.
It was Manchester City that started the brighter, with the returning Tevez his usual blur of activity, stinging the gloves of Thomas Sorensen early on. Much of the first 10 minutes was City stroking the ball around the Stoke half, starving the Potters’ most dangerous players of possession – indeed, the most impact any Stoke outfield player had in the opening stages was Huth’s forearm on Balotelli. Sorensen was again called into action by Balotelli, tipping the Italian’s curling effort past the post with his fingertips, justifying Pulis’ faith in the Dane.
As the first-half wore on, Stoke, having weathered the initial storm, came into the game more but with City able to stand up to the physical challenge posed by the Potters and an unfit Etherington on the periphery of the game, the Champions League qualifiers were able to use their greater fluidity to launch frequent attacks. Only Stoke’s organisational skills, Sorensen’s goalkeeping and a miss from six yards by David Silva kept the scores level at the break. Jermaine Pennant was Stoke’s most lively attacking threat but his teammates were not able to match his level, leaving the winger a rare plus point in a poor first-half for Stoke, but even that light was dimmed by the sight of Pennant writhing in pain as the half drew to a close.
The early second-half saw a more even contest between the sides, with Stoke seeing more of the ball and drawing more set-pieces. But a lightning break from Tevez gave Silva glimpse of goal that was quickly obscured by a phalanx of red and white striped defenders. Manchester City’s first-half dominance lessened in the face of increased Stoke involvement and a rare opportunity soon fell to Kenwyne Jones, shrugging off Joleon Lescott, only to be stopped by Joe Hart. The through ball for Jones’ chance came from Etherington’s last contribution, the winger replaced immediately after by Dean Whitehead.
Toure made the breakthrough for Manchester City after 74 minutes, smashing through a crowded penalty area from 10 yards. Stoke responded by bringing on John Carew for Rory Delap but the effect was minimal, with Manchester City looking the most likely to score the game’s second goal. One, however, proved enough, as Mancini capped Champions League qualification with a first trophy for Manchester City since 1976.