Match Report: Pablo Zabaleta lightens the gloom for Manchester City

Stoke 0 Manchester City 1: Poor game sees City win at Stoke for first time in seven attempts but lose Kompany to injury

Britannia Stadium

Tony Pulis said last week that he has never bothered watching Stoke’s 2011 FA Cup final defeat to Manchester City, such is the hurt that Yaya Touré’s Wembley winner causes him.

After a fourth-round tie devoid of real excitement or trickery, not many will be queuing up to purchase the DVD of this one either.

Pablo Zabaleta was the unlikely hero, sealing a 1-0 win for Roberto Mancini’s side late on, but the action lacked the intensity expected at the Britannia Stadium. In a throwback to the Potters’ earlier top-flight years it was an abhorrent tackle that created the main talking point.

The determination to get the job done pleased the City management. While they are keeping clean sheets – now five on the spin in January – and just doing enough to win games, secuing the double is a real possibility.

“It was a longer afternoon than it perhaps should have been but we’re delighted with the way that we played,” City’s coach David Platt said afterwards.

The Premier League champions hadn’t won here since an old Division Two match in 1999, but seemed intent on laying the ghosts of uncomfortable draws and a painful 2010 FA Cup defeat to rest early on. David Silva hitting a post was the closest they came after a host of chances.

Ryan Shawcross had the ball in the net during a rare foray forward for the home side, but was correctly adjudged offside, while worryingly for Mancini, Vincent Kompany picked up an innocuous-looking injury diagnosed as a pulled calf muscle. After going off in the 40th minute, the captain watched from the tunnel for the remainder of the tie and will miss Tuesday’s trip to Queens Park Rangers.

The game’s true moment of contention and intrigue came when the mist descended on Glenn Whelan. He really should have seen red for a two-footed lunge at Javi Garcia but, instead, his tackle – akin to an amateur diver bombing into a swimming pool watched by Vernon Kay – went unpunished, with referee Howard Webb not even opting to award a foul despite being close by. As Webb missed it altogether, Whelan is likely to face stern retrospective punishment. It is difficult to imagine anything other than a three-match suspension, especially after the Eden Hazard circus of midweek.

The eventual goal summed up the lunchtime proceedings. Sergio Aguero’s pass, while in a decent area, wasn’t pinpoint in its accuracy. Edin Dzeko’s wafted leg deflected the ball to Zabaleta who drilled a shot past Thomas Sorensen to send the 4,100 travelling supporters into delirium.

“It isn’t by luck that Zabaleta gets into those positions,” said Platt. “The way that we play we get a lot of players forward. He’s been in those positions many times and tucked it away nicely.

Zabaleta, head and shoulders the best player on the pitch, rescued everyone from a further 90 minutes of anti-football Thank goodness these two don’t have to do it all over again at the Etihad Stadium. For City, though, the juggernaut could be picking up speed.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Shotton, Shawcross, Huth, Wilkinson (Whitehead, 73); Kightly (Jerome, 67), Whelan, N’Zonzi, Etherington; Walters, Jones (Crouch, 73).

Manchester City (4-4-2): Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Kompany (Clichy, 40), Lescott, Kolarov (Aguero, 63); Milner, Garcia, Barry, Silva; Tevez (Rodwell, 86), Dzeko.

Referee: Howard Webb.

Man of the match: Zabaleta (Manchester City)

Match rating: 4/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'