Manchester City 2 Aston Villa 1: Old boy Vassell helps knock out Villa to send City into last eight

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The Independent Online

The dates are seared into the psyches of all Manchester City fans: last won the FA Cup, 1969; last serious silverware, 1976; last time in the quarter-finals, 1993. There is some way to go before Stuart Pearce's team update the first two, but they put the third to rights by overcoming Aston Villa at Eastlands in last night's fifth-round replay.

The win was a fine accompaniment to Pearce signing a two-year rolling contract at the club, but City being City, they made things harder than necessary after scoring either side of half-time through Georgios Samaras and the former Villa player Darius Vassell. Steven Davis' 85th-minute goal, after a move of unexpected fluidity by a disjointed Villa, meant a tense finale before City secured a home tie against Bolton or West Ham next Monday.

Fully 23 days had passed since City earned a second chance by virtue of Micah Richards' riposte to a Milan Baros strike for Villa. Rather longer had elapsed since Patrik Berger appeared in David O'Leary's side, the Czech midfielder having limped off in the 3-1 Premiership defeat at City in October. Berger's comeback here was aborted when he pulled up in the warm-up, ensuring Luke Moore's late promotion from the bench for the second game in a row.

In the first meeting, City were forced to wait until the fourth minute of stoppage time before scoring. On this occasion they were ahead in the 16th minute after Samaras raced clear on the left following a long pass by Albert Riera. The striker held off Olof Mellberg comfortably before hitting a left-foot shot which Thomas Sorensen should have been better than to parry.

The ball rolled back to Samaras, who calmly side-footed it into the net.

With his lank hair and penchant for step-overs, Samaras is fast acquiring cult status at City. The home supporters in a crowd a long way short of capacity were suitably enraged by Liam Ridgewell's robust challenge on the former Heerenveen player midway through the first half, the Villa defender planting a boot in his lower back as they contested a header. The referee saw nothing amiss, yet was quick to brandish the yellow card after Samaras went in fractionally late as Mellberg launched a clearance.

Sorensen partially redeemed himself by stretching out a leg to divert the ball behind after Samaras put in Trevor Sinclair with the goalkeeper to beat. But Villa's woes continued when Baros, whose pace had been a threat on the counter-attack, had to give way before half-time to Craig Gardner, who was instantly booked for fouling Joey Barton.

Samaras could not resume after the interval, but Villa were soon in even greater discomfort. They failed to clear their lines after early City pressure, enabling Riera to drive the loose ball goalward. To compound the visitors' consternation, it was Vassell, lurking barely a yard out, who used his body to change its trajectory and leave Sorensen helpless.

Almost immediately, Antoine Sibierski had an opportunity to plump up a three-goal cushion. Wilfred Bouma's headed clearance went straight to his head, but so, it seemed, did the prospect of scoring, and the Frenchman's effort hit a post on its way behind.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Sun Jihai, Dunne, Richards, Jordan; Sinclair, Barton, Musampa, Riera; Samaras (Sibierski, h-t), Vassell (Wright-Phillips, 90). Substitutes not used: Weaver (gk), Sommeil, Reyna.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Sorensen; Hughes, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Bouma; Moore, Davis, McCann, Barry; Baros (Gardner, 40), Phillips. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Samuel, Whittingham.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

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