Woke up this morning to check Twitter for the lineup, and what I saw was nothing positive being said. RM selected a very defensive midfield; Barry was supposed to be an attacking midfielder, but his prowess lies in the defensive side of the pitch. Not to mention that overall the team speed today left a lot to be desired, with Lescott and Garcia certainly the slowest (as I noted last week, when Garcia displayed his blazing speed in the second half). But, the teams performed like their "workmen" like personality, and in the face of adversity were able to pull out a 1-0 victory, and a spot in the fifth round of the FA Cup!
City has always struggled against Stoke (much like Tottenham) in recent history, so any City fan would be nervous for this match. Especially playing them at Britannia combined with a new look starting XI. Anyway, the game started like so many of City's games this year, with plenty of on-point passing, chances on goal and possession. Early opportunities on goal by Dzeko and Silva were begging to be put away, but both fell to the wayside. The best opportunity came from a curling shot by Silva from the edge of the box (he is just so.... Beautiful, isn't he?).
Before the game I tweeted "all right Dzeko, make me eat my words" and boy did he ever! He, and Silva showed true flashes of their class this morning/afternoon, setting up teammates, as well as each other for chances on net. City threw shot, after shot at Sorensen's goal but the keeper did a great job of keeping City off the scoreboard.
Rust was very apparent from Kolarov and Pantilimon, which is to be expected, luckily their rust did not come to bite City later. Kolarov sent opportune free kicks array and Pantilimon looked apprehensive when balls were thrown into his box.
Coming out for the second half, City continued their pressure, spraying shots at goal from every where, but Stoke stood strong. Early in the second half Stoke's Glenn Whealen was lucky to avoid being sent off when tackling Garcia, he stomped on the midfielder's ankle, and referee Howard Webb, who was standing right there, did not even call a foul! I digress, Tevez, Dzeko and Silva continued to work extremely well together, feeding one another into the box but Stoke was not yielding an inch.
Every time Stoke charged into City's box I couldn't help but get nervous. Usually, I have confidence in Hart to make a save but with Pantilimon in net, despite his ability, he was making me nervous with his decision-making. But, he recorded a clean sheet! Aguero substituted for Kolarov late in the second half, Kolarov, who was playing an attacking role, which in my opinion suits him better (even though he still doesn't impress me there either). Kun's introduction sparked a more offensive attack by City, and it paid off. As the game looked like it was heading into extra time, City broke through in the 85th minute, when Pablo started and finished a break down the right side for City, City 1 Stoke 0 (I will have a paragraph dedicated to the beautiful Argentinean defender in the ratings section). The game changed little for the final 10 minutes, and City has now set them up for a Fifth Round FA Cup match.
Final Note: Team selection interesting but effective, AND we could have put together quite the basketball team. Pantilimon at center, Lescott, Garcia and Dzeko in the forward positions (Power and Small), and pick you poison for shooting and point guard! Sorry, irrelevant but it was what I thought when I looked at the squad. Luckily, Kompany's injury does not seem to be to bad, but our captain is definitely out for the QPR game, he is listed as uncertain for the Liverpool game. Hopefully he can make it back for that one, especially with Liverpool trending up as of late.
Twitter fact of the morning:
"Last time we won away at Stoke before today was 29/1/99 with Gerard Wiekens scoring the only goal during that season in the third tier..."
Pantilimon (4)- He reminds me of Pau Gasol (soooooooo Soft), afraid to come for the ball in any situation. But, he made the saves he had too, but they weren't anything spectacular.
Zaba (8 MotM)-Why is this man a 79 rating in FIFA?! No man more deserving of a goal than this man! He has been the heart and soul of City all season, when he plays he leaves everything on the field and I am amazed he is able to walk off the pitch after the game. As a defender, his offensive ability doesn't get much praise, but this season and last season he has stepped up his presence on the right side of the pitch, offensively and defensively.
Kompany (5)-Out early for injury, big loss and I hope he can recover....Quickly. Out for QPR (officially) uncertain for Liverpool. To sum up the teammate he is, after being injured he made his way to head of the tunnel to watch the rest of the match. Get well soon Vinny!
Lescott (6)- Could have easily under performed with his recent run on the bench, after being a staple of our team last season. He played a strong defensive midfield, and maintained that mindset when Vinny went off with his injury.
Kolarov (4)- Left a lot to be desired, and as a poo-pooer of him I was even less impressed. He is known for his free kick and crossing ability, but today you could tell rust affected his play. That being said he was just coming back from injury, so it is of me to expect a perfect game from the man.
Garcia (7)- Showed his versatility when Kompany went out, playing more defensively for the rest of the match. He played well when he was in the defensive back, and when he was pushed to midfield he continued to use his strength on Stoke's attack.
Barry (5)- Was invisible for most of the game, especially in an offensive role you would hope he'd be in on the attack, but I didn't see him. If you saw other wise, please let me know, cause I love Barry.
Milner (5)- Workmen like effort from James today, but that is what I expected hence the lower rating.
Tevez (6)- Carlito (as I call him) continued his recent struggles, but I have never seen a man try so hard to break out of a slump. He constantly put pressure on Stoke's defense with or without the ball. He, Silva and Dzeko played a great triangle style of attack that was breath taking. But, he just couldn't put away any of his chances
Silva (8)- I mean come on? Do I need to give a reason for Silva getting an 8? Merlin's recent run of form has been exactly what City expected when we bought him, and then signed him for a 5-year extension. Beautiful vision, dribbling, passing and shooting, he is just beautiful. I do note how weird my obsession is with him.
Dzeko (7) He made me bite my tongue today, and I'm glad he did. As much as I rag on the guy, it is because I believe he can be great and City need him to be! Today, he showed great vision and passing, and worked extremely well with Silva and Tevez. I hope next week the lineup looks similar up front (maybe Aguero for Tevez) because you can't stay hot, unless you keep playing!
Clichy (6)- Typical Clichy effort today, wasn't phased when he replaced Kompany. And, his form did not change when the tactics did, well done today Gael.
Rodwell (N/A)-Didn't make an impact, but he looks like this kid I know at school, so I will now call him Jack when I see him.
Aguero (6)- Didn't play for too long, but he made an incredible impact. With the Stoke defense becoming tired, his speed and pace gave them fits, and aided Zaba in scoring the game-winning goal.