Tevez's double puts City up to third and rubs Stoke noses in the dirt

Manchester City 3 Stoke City 0
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The Independent Football

Looking at them now, you would never imagine this was a club that once won "cups for cock-ups" to recall the words of its then chairman, Francis Lee. Having qualified for the Champions League and won the FA Cup, Manchester City then ruthlessly went about ensuring they would not have to pre-qualify for European football next season.

Should they match Arsenal's result on the final day of the season, City will be denied the awkwardness of a Champions League qualifier – a burden that will be heaped on the thin, somewhat sagging shoulders of Arsène Wenger, who is likely to finish fourth in what was until recently a two-horse race with Manchester United.

City's lap of honour was received with rather more enthusiasm than Arsenal's embarrassing shuffle around the Emirates Stadium. The chants were especially loud for Roberto Mancini, whose name was celebrated in a way perhaps no Manchester City manager has been since Joe Mercer's day. Should City hold off Arsenal, it will confirm their highest league finish since 1977.

They remain confident of keeping their captain. However, if there really is to be no more of Carlos Tevez in Manchester, this was a fabulous way to say goodbye. He scored two gorgeous goals and might have had a hat-trick had he directed a free-kick a fraction lower.

His second goal was also from a dead-ball and was swung beautifully around the wall just beyond Thomas Sorensen's grasp. It was so good that when it was shown again on the big screens, there was a collective gasp around Eastlands. When he was substituted just before the end, it was to a standing ovation which he acknowledged to every corner of the ground.

Stoke had simply no appetite to seek a consolation – it would never have been revenge – for their defeat in the FA Cup final three days before. Edin Dzeko, a man whom Steve McClaren, his former manager at Wolfsburg, said would take time to settle into the Premier League but would excel once he did, struck the outside of the post and was denied by Sorensen when clean through.

There was very little of the grit that has become their trademark under Tony Pulis and, should they perform like this on the final day of the season, Wigan might have a very good chance of survival.

The Stoke manager promised rather more resolve than his players had displayed here against a club he believes will go a very long way in Europe and domestically. "They remind me of Chelsea three or four years ago under Jose Mourinho," he said. "They are a big, strong, powerful side but who individually have a lot of skill. They are going to be very hard to deal with next season."

For a club that had waited 35 years for a trophy, Manchester City's celebrations were not exactly extensive before kick-off. There was some footage from Wembley, a brief, if emotional, chorus of "Blue Moon" and then a rather low-key game of football kicked off.

They did not parade the FA Cup before kick-off as Liverpool once famously did before tearing into Internazionale in the 1965 European Cup semi-final. Nor did they place it on a trestle table on the touchline as Sunderland did at Roker Park in 1973. Stan Bowles, then playing for Queens Park Rangers, deliberately knocked it over with a single well-aimed shot.

Manchester City's attitude was that the Cup would be paraded officially through the streets of the city and that to do so at this game would be rubbing Stoke's noses in it. They managed that once the game kicked off.

There were not many who made the short journey from the Potteries to Manchester and, given the circumstances, this was understandable. It was rather like accepting a dinner invitation from someone who had just run off with your wife.

Only six of the Stoke team that had failed to really stretch City at Wembley began the rematch and it was with no real appetite for the task. The contest was a little over a dozen minutes old when they were behind as Tevez took a pass from James Milner, sent Ryan Shawcross one way and Andy Wilkinson the other, before driving the ball emphatically into the roof of Thomas Sorensen's net.

It was a goal worthy of an FA Cup final. It was the Argentine's 23rd of the season and his first since the 5-0 destruction of Sunderland in April, another team that came to Eastlands in red-and-white stripes and began with a complete absence of conviction. Unlike Stoke, however, they had no excuses.

It took them half an hour to fashion a chance, when Glenn Whelan aimed a shot into Joe Hart's midriff but by then Manchester City had carved out half a dozen without really taking full advantage of any of them.

Stoke were not to go unpunished for very long after the interval. A hopelessly late tackle by Danny Collins on Yaya Touré conceded a free-kick that Joleon Lescott headed past Sorensen who had been offered minimal protection. The Dane did not bother to hide his anger.

The smile on Mancini's lips never faltered, even in the press room when he discussed the futures of Tevez and Jerome Boateng. There will be many more questions like these during the summer and he knows that football, like money, never sleeps.



Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Zabaleta; Milner, De Jong; Johnson (Wright-Phillips, 67), Y Toure, Silva (Dzeko, 56); Tevez (Boyata, 88). Substitutes not used Given (gk), Kolarov, Barry, Vieira.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Wilkinson, Collins, Shawcross, Wilson; Whelan (Shotton, 74), Diao, Whitehead, Pugh; Walters, Carew (Delap, 72). Substitutes not used Nash (gk), Soares, Jones, Tonge, Faye.

Man of the match Tevez

Match rating 7/10

Referee L Probert (Gloucestershire)

Attendance 45,103.

Final fixtures for top four

Bolton v Man City, Everton v Chelsea, Fulham v Arsenal, Man Utd v Blackpool.

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