Fuller flavour forces City to acquire the taste for a replay
Manchester City 1 Stoke City 1
Sunday 14 February 2010
Just by looking at their managers, you could tell these were clubs with different approaches to football. With his suit and beautifully-tailored overcoat, Roberto Mancini looked ready for an evening stroll along Milan's Via Montenapoleone. In his tracksuit and peaked cap, Tony Pulis looked ready to coach a game of Little League baseball.
And yet, this odd couple are seeing rather a lot of each other. By the time this tie is replayed at the Britannia Stadium on 24 February, Stoke and Manchester City will have faced each other four times in the space of two months. Stoke were Mancini's first opponents but the booing on the final whistle last night was a sign the honeymoon with the new manager is wearing thin.
He is being undermined by an old failing of the new Manchester City and one that probably did for his predecessor, Mark Hughes – an inability to finish off a wounded opponent. "It cannot be a fair result because we played so well and had four chances to score another goal," Mancini said. "But if you don't, then this can be a difficult and dangerous game."
Until they equalised, Stoke were something they have very rarely been: they were almost incompetent. By the time Ricardo Fuller, who has now scored in every round of this FA Cup campaign, headed home Rory Delap's long throw, Pulis had been forced to make three substitutions because of injury; seen his side concede a ludicrous goal and been forced to swap full-backs because Andy Wilkinson proved unable to cope with Shaun Wright-Phillips.
But Stoke endured although Pulis pointed out they were happy not to have confronted Carlos Tevez, who has had to return to Argentina to care for his expectant girlfriend and is unlikely to be involved when these sides meet in the League on Tuesday.
While John Terry was appearing in staged photographs in Dubai, designed to show his love for his wife on Valentine's weekend, the other side of the Cobham love triangle was undergoing an altogether sterner test – examination by Fabio Capello.
Although Wright-Phillips' unchallenged runs and a comfortable, controlled display by Gareth Barry, would have interested the England manager, it is Manchester City's left-back who would have been at the centre of his vision. Bridge may not have justified Mancini's description of him as "the best left-back in England" but he was impressively solid in the first half, rather looser after the break.
Before kick-off, Capello talked to Mancini and you would imagine Bridge was the topic. The Manchester City manager assumes his left-back wishes to play for England, although he has not talked to the player about it. "Wayne improves with every game, although he still needs to train and play," he said. "I think he wants to play for England. I spoke with Capello and he should play for the national team."
Capello also had a chance to talk with Garry Cook in the directors' box. However, whenever the cameras focused on the pair it appeared the Manchester City chief executive was making an animated point while the England manager was nodding in the vacant way a commuter does when he is sitting next to someone who is an expert on railway timetables.
Animated was a mild description of Pulis's reaction to City's opener, which required not one but two dreadful errors. It began with an upfield punt from Stephen Ireland chased by Wright-Phillips, which might not have been fatal had Thomas Sorensen not dashed out of his area and allowed the winger to chip him.
Even then Ryan Shawcross ought to have cleared the ball but he slipped mid-kick. Defender and ball began to slide out of play until the ball hit Shawcross's head and rolled back to Wright-Phillips. Sorensen looked aghast but when your manager has just signed a new goalkeeper, it is not the time for these kind of moments.
Referee: M Clattenburg
Man of the match: Wright-Phillips
Match rating: 6/10
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