Man City 'Zab' cup encounter late on
26th January 2013 12.45pm
Attendance: 19, 814
Pablo Zabaleta`s late strike was enough for Manchester City to knock Stoke City out of the F.A. Cup and qualify for the fifth round.
With the match looking destined for a replay, stand-in captain Pablo Zabaleta strolled up the field and calmly fired home from 8 yards out with only five minutes left at the Britannia Stadium to send the 5,000 travelling Man City fans into raptures.
Stoke made four changes from the side that lost at the Liberty Stadium with Thomas Sorensen, Ryan Shotton, Michael Kightly and Kenwyne Jones replacing Asmir Begovic, Geoff Cameron, Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch in Pulis` starting line-up.
The match which was televised on ITV and the first meeting between the two sides in the F.A. Cup since Manchester City prevailed 1-0 in the final two years ago started off with Potters on the back foot.
David Silva and Carlos Tevez linked well and managed to dissect the Stoke defence but Tevez, who was at a tight angle of the box could only force Sorensen into a good save at his from post.
Manchester City continued to push forward and after Carlos Tevez received the ball after stand-in full back Ryan Shotton was disposed, the argentine skipped first past the sliding tackling of Whelan and then past Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross` attempt to cut off the striker before driving forward and finding Edin Dzeko on the edge of the area, who powered a shot towards goal but Shawcross made a good block inside his own area.
The danger was not fully cleared and the Premier League champions spread the ball out wide to James Milner who tried to beat Andy Wilkinson out wide but the Stone born full back slide in and inadvertently handled the ball on the floor near the corner flag, resulting in a free kick for the Sky blues.
Milner took the free kick quickly, and with the Stoke defence static, David Silva curled an effort towards the top corner which had Thomas Sorensen rooted to the spot, but the Dane was saved as the ball crashed off the inside of the post before being smashed away by Ryan Shawcross.
Stoke finally got some sort of footing in the game and could have easily taken the lead a number of times their selves in the first half. Glenn Whelan with Stoke`s best chance, as the little Irishman grabbed the ball in his own half and started Stoke on a counter attack, finding Walters in space on the right wing, who then managed to pull back the ball to the edge of the area for the arriving Whelan who tried an audacious volley which was deflected behind for a Stoke corner.
The resulting corner was whipped into the box by Whelan and was met by Robert Huth, who found space in the Man City 6 yard box but couldn`t get his effort on target as the ball ballooned over.
Man City were forced into a change as captain Kompany went down injured and was replaced by Gael Clichy some minutes later, in this time playing with 10 men.
In the second half, it was more of the same with Man City dictating the tempo and Stoke were lucky to keep all 10 players on the field as Glenn Whelan went in for a 50/50 challange with Javi Garcia and seemed to jump down on the Mexican with two feet.
Howard Webb, who was some ten feet away from the ball only decided to award Man City a freekick.
With the game looking like it was about to fizzle out in a stalemate, Manchester City captain for the afternoon won possession in his own half spread the ball into the middle and continued his run into to the Stoke penalty area. The ball found its way out to the left hand side where Sergio Aguero fizzed a ball into the area, and with David Silva seeming to be setting himself for a shot, Edin Dzeko flicked the ball away from the Spainard and seemingly into safety until Ryan Shotton slipped at a vital moment and the ball made its way to Pablo Zabaleta who stole in unmarked and placed the ball into the corner of Thomas Sorensen`s net.
Stoke had a chance to force the game into a replay, but when the ball fell to Cameron Jerome in the area, he could only blaze over.