James Lawton: Yaya Touré displays the character that decides championships
He has brushed aside the possibilities of alibis and any other evasions in the event of failure
For the briefest time there was a wild set of allegations made against Yaya Touré. They could be pared down easily enough. He was overpriced, overweight and over here.
He has been ridiculing such sacrilege for quite some time, of course, but yesterday we saw, just in case anyone needed reminding, the full extent of that first outrage.
There have been many ways to define the growth of Touré and his impact on the champions-elect Manchester City since he left Barcelona in 2010 as an expensive but apparently expendable defensive midfielder. But then, while he exerted such massive influence over the 2-0 victory at Newcastle which all but guaranteed City's first title in 44 years, another one presented itself.
On this vital occasion it was the exquisite deference displayed by Sergio Aguero a second before the moment of breakthrough.
The Argentine, who has earned superstar status in his own right not only with superlative skills but also some of the best professional values ever imported into the Premier League, might have tried some speculation of his own as the tension mounted in the second half.
Instead, and like a perfectly trained acolyte, he rolled the ball into the path of the big man from Ivory Coast.
The rest was a one-man intervention of the highest possible quality, an inswinging shot that curled quite beautifully from outside the far post but still beyond the reach of Newcastle's notably resilient goalkeeper Tim Krul.
You expect such fine quality in a team that has cost as much as City, but in the overheated economy of football something that can never be taken at face value is competitive character.
It has always been the most demanding requirement of City manager Roberto Mancini as he juggled, sometimes desperately, his resources. However, yesterday, and largely thanks to Touré, he must have felt like a master puppeteer utterly in charge of his act.
The move that turned everything was not original – but has perhaps never before worked quite so flawlessly. Nigel de Jong came on not so much to stiffen the midfield as release Touré to those advanced positions from which he produces such apparently effortless damage.
His one-two combination of goals finally confirmed the edge that had been exerted over English football's most upwardly mobile team.
It also suggested most strongly that City may indeed have come out safely from the other side of the moral crisis that had seemed, at least to some of us, so implicit in Mancini's acceptance that Carlos Tevez represented too much value on and off the field to permit any enforcement of his vow that the rebel of Munich and the defector of most of a crucial season would never wear the club's colours again.
As it happened, in one of the most important games of Mancini's reign, Tevez was a relatively peripheral figure. He was replaced by Edin Dzeko near the end and carried a somewhat reflective expression as he returned to the bench. If Tevez had contemplated a heroic climax to his return to the team that some will always feel he betrayed to a point beyond redemption, the reality was maybe a little humbling.
Certainly, it meant that left at the centre of the stage were those players who had been most notably resolute in pursuit of the great prize, players like Touré, supremely, Vincent Kompany, Aguero, and coming again with much of his wit and touch, David Silva.
From Touré it was still another prodigious statement of will. He ushered his team magnificently to their first breakthrough last season, scoring the goals and injecting the conviction that saw off first Manchester United, then Stoke City at Wembley in the semi-final and final of the FA Cup.
In the run-in to this all but complete title claim he has been similarly awesome. Before last Monday's crucial victory over United, he was emphatic about the meaning of the game. He brushed aside the possibilities of alibis and any other evasions in the event of failure.
United, he said, had faltered badly in surrendering a two-goal lead to Everton. They had forfeited a hard-earned advantage and for Touré it was almost as if City had received help from another dimension. "If somebody is trying to help us," he said, "it is even more important that we help ourselves. Beating United and winning this title is so important to this club everyone has to be counted."
Naturally, he then proceeded to the head of the queue. Kompany scored the decisive goal but in all else Touré was the most persuasive figure.
Yesterday his stamp was even more profound. It was expressed not only in goals but something that wasn't so easy to quantify when he first arrived in east Manchester. It was the demeanour and the style of a natural-born champion. A few days short of his 29th birthday, Yaya Touré has surely found his destiny.
The video couldn't give Carroll a second goal, but he deserved one
It was hard to know which was the greater irony, Andy Carroll's near-sensational rediscovery of so much of that raw-boned potency which made him such a likely force of nature in his Newcastle days, or that a bombardment of technology couldn't really tell us if he should have had the goal which might have changed both the 131st FA Cup final and his painful status as the last word in transfer inflation.
So close to a trial of goal-line television in a county cup final deep in the shires, the all-seeing lenses simply couldn't throw conclusive light on a crucial moment in the showpiece game which the FA and the TV programmers have marginalised so relentlessly.
We can, however, hope that the argument for a system which would have prevented the scandals of Frank Lampard's World Cup goal that wasn't allowed to be and the semi-final effort of Juan Mata that was, is in no way adversely affected.
Match officials need a lot more urgent assistance than mere goal-line monitoring and if, on this occasion, the evidence of the camera was indecisive it is unlikely ever again to be quite so vague.
None of this is likely to mollify too much either Carroll or those especially besieged Liverpool fans who explained to a national radio audience on Saturday night that they had booed the national anthem for a variety of reasons, ranging from the FA's decision to start the game at the inconvenient time of 5.15pm and past disrespect to the Hillsborough victims by certain sections of the Chelsea following.
Yet Carroll, particularly, has reason to take heart from defeat in the final that was supposed to wipe away much of the frustration accumulated in Liverpool's failed Premier League campaign.
Not only did he go a long way to redeeming a Liverpool performance which had been deeply undistinguished as first Ramires then Didier Drogba drilled in goals, he also reminded his manager, Kenny Dalglish, that even a player as ferociously inventive as Luis Suarez is always going to look at least twice as dangerous in the company of a big, able battering ram.
Carroll certainly recalled for the rest of us the deceptive quality of some of his ground skills when he swept Liverpool back into the game. What he couldn't do, unfortunately, was dispel the thought that after spending more than £100m, Liverpool are scarcely much nearer any consistent coherence, especially in midfield.
Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing once again failed to provide much promise of value for money and Jay Spearing, for all his good intentions, resembled nothing so much as a bad case of over-promotion. Steven Gerrard could only yearn for the best of his years.
What the watching owner, John W Henry, made of it all is no doubt something we will come to know soon enough. Wholesale surgery is surely not entirely discounted.
Roman Abramovich's hand is not likely to be revealed before the Champions League final but if most of English football was prepared to see Chelsea's fourth FA Cup win in six years as no more than a reward for the extraordinary work of temporary manager Roberto Di Matteo, the old guard of John Terry and Frank Lampard were more circumspect.
Both praised Di Matteo's work, Terry even allowing that the win hadn't done the Italian any harm, but they knew their environment too well to go as far as a full-blooded endorsement. The least you can say for Di Matteo, though, is that he has provided a few certainties that were unimaginable just a couple of months ago. Across the corridor, only Andy Carroll could warm himself with such a thought.
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