By Calvin Palmer
The gods of football favoured quality, class and technical skill over determination, running and hard work this afternoon in the FA Cup Final at Wembley.
Manchester City emerged as deserved winners against a Stoke City side that seemed over-awed by the occasion. If the Manchester side had gone into the dressing-room at half-time with a three-goal lead, there would have been no complaints from Stoke.
To put it simply, Stoke were completely outplayed in the first half. Man City’s manager Roberto Mancini had done his homework. The twin wing threat of Stoke posed by Matthew Etherington, who looked far from fit, and Jermaine Pennant was completely nullified. Stoke were never a threat.
In the second half, Stoke briefly pressed and made more of a game of it but without ever really threatening. Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart had only one save to make in the entire match, thwarting Kenwyne Jones when he managed to get past defender Lescott.
It was always a question of when Man City would score and the goal duly came in the 75th minute when inter-passing between Silva and Balotelli in Stoke’s penalty area eventually saw the ball run free to Yaya Touré who drove home from 10 yards out.
It was game over as far as Stoke were concerned. They were never going to get back into this match. Too many players failed to play to their full potential; too many passes went astray. At times Stoke looked clueless and out of their depth, with balls aimlessly punted into areas where no Stoke player was present.
Stoke City’s first corner of the game came in the second minute of injury time. That statistic says it all.
The corner saw the strange sight of goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen making an extra attacker in the Man City penalty area but it was to no avail.
The better team won. In football, there is simply no substitute for class and with players such as Tevez, Silva, Touré, Balotelli, and de Jong in the Man City side, class and talent triumphed.
After decades of living in the shadow of their illustrious neighbours Manchester United, Manchester City’s blue moon is rising.
For Stoke, unless quality players are brought into the side and manager Tony Pulis actually plays them, next season will see them once again fighting to retain their Premier League status, with little chance of challenging for major honours.
The best thing that can be said about Stoke City today was their fans. The Stoke team gave them little to sing about but their support never wavered. They completely outsang the Manchester City supporters.