Stoke City 1
- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 13 February 2010 19:24
- Posted by Chris Bailey
Few people embrace a cup competition more warmly than Roberto Mancini and his love affair with England’s most historic version is still aglow.
It is appropriate that the next instalment of his passion should unfold on Valentine’s Day when the sixth round FA Cup draw will take place though his side will need all its heart after conceding home advantage after this less than dynamic draw.
Mancini is an avid devourer of the knockout format of the game having won the Coppa Italia no fewer than six times as a player and four as a manager but his ardour may be tested to the full in the replay.
City are no strangers to the sixth round of the FA Cup having reached the last eight in successive seasons in 2005-06, 2006-07 only to have been sent packing by West Ham United and Blackburn Rovers and they really should have been in the hat alone given the weight of possession they enjoyed.
However, there was a crucial lack of a cutting edge and Stoke were the ones celebrating at the final blast of Mark Clattenburg’s whistle.
It is said that familiarity breeds contempt and if that is the case then disregard could be the theme of the night at the Britannia Stadium in the next couple of weeks.
Tuesday will see the third meeting since Boxing Day for the two sides with the plot of this particular tale of two Cities still open to twists and turns.
Stoke were the first team to face the Mancini led Blues back at Christmas time when after just a week of working with his side, goals from Martin Petrov and Carlos Tevez gave the stylish Italian the best possible start to his reign as manager.
The home line up for this FA Cup tie was, however, quite dissimilar to the one that did duty that December day. With several injured and rested stars due back for the Premier League clash in three days time the cast list is likely to change markedly yet again.
Tevez was absent on compassionate leave for family matters in Argentina, there was no Craig Bellamy on view, Adam Johnson, the instantly successful January recruit from Middlesbrough was cup tied and with Vincent Kompany and Patrick Vieira afforded the luxury of a rest after a heavy workload a chance to grab the limelight was handed to Joleon Lescott, Martin Petrov, Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
It was a timely return for Wright-Phillips as England boss Fabio Capello turned up to see the four men in Blue who may yet make his World Cup squad.
Gareth Barry and Wayne Bridge were both busy and impressive enough but it was SWP who caught the eye in the 11th minute scoring what it in the end turned out to be one of the simplest goals of his career.
Ireland’s through ball from the half way line sent Wright-Phillips hurtling towards the penalty area where he chipped over the advancing Thomas Sorensen. Ryan Shawcross was odds on to clear the danger in a little versus large foot race but the defender slipped under the ball then inexplicably nodded it back into the path of the City man who said thank you very much and rolled it home from a yard.
Thereafter his confidence high, Wright-Phillips gave Andy Wilkinson a torrid time to the point where the full back was booked for one bad tackle too many.
Bridge then showed his worth to the England coach blocking superbly from substitute Liam Lawrence who looked poised to score at the far post just before the half hour mark.
Five previous FA Cup ties between these two sides have been settled by a one goal margin and without recourse to a replay but this was not destined to be another.
The home side dominated possession but were hit with a sucker punch in 56th minute when football’s worst kept secret, a Rory Delap throw in, came hurtling into the box and Ricardo Fuller nodded in a simple equaliser.
It was nip and tuck thereafter with Mancini’s men coming closest to a winner when Barry’s 78th minute header brought a fine save from Sorensen.