Manchester City 3-0 Sheffield United: FA Cup semi-final – as it ...
Jamie Jackson was at Wembley to see Manchester City reach their 12th FA Cup final. His report is in. Congratulations to City, commiserations to Sheffield United, and thanks for reading this MBM.
Pep Guardiola talks to ITV. “It was an excellent performance … we cannot forget three days ago drawing in Munich … it was a demanding game … it took a lot to be here … we suffered in long balls because they are a master of that … but we played a really really good game … with the quality we had, we did it … Riyad Mahrez has a special quality, a huge mentality, a competitor … scoring a penalty at the end of the first half was so important … for many years we are fighting for titles and still we are there … in one year you can win, two years, but six years, every year, of being there to win the title, the mentality of the club, not just the players, helps us to be here … it is an honour to be in the FA Cup final.”
Riyad Mahrez speaks to ITV. “It is very good … but the most important thing is, for two or three years in a row we have come here and lost and didn’t play good … but today we really wanted to make sure we put in a good performance and get to the final … I think we had a good game and we are happy … the second goal was good because I was coming from far away … but I think it was a collective performance that was really good … we took the game really seriously … that’s why we are good, yeah? … it means a lot [to be in the FA Cup final] because we want to go as far as we can in every competition … now we have to concentrate on the league and the game against Arsenal.”
Blue Moon rings around Wembley. Pep Guardiola smiles with quiet contentment before thanking Paul Heckingbottom for the game. Sheffield United gave a good account of themselves before the penalty that changed the course of the match; after City took the lead, there was only ever going to be one winner. The Blades will go home with feelings of pride and disappointment, but their season still promises much, with promotion back to the Premier League on the cards. As for Manchester City, the treble dream remains alive, thanks to Riyad Mahrez, who becomes the first player to score a hat-trick in an FA Cup semi-final for 65 years! A rare quiet day for Erling Haaland, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
Manchester City will face either Brighton & Hove Albion or Manchester United in the 2023 FA Cup final! The treble is still very much on!
90 min +2: Palmer again makes a nuisance of himself down the left, whipping a low ball across the face of goal. Foden should trundle in at the far stick, but strangely hesitates with the goal at his mercy. Perhaps he didn’t see the point in potentially clattering into the post, which with your team three up in added time, is fair enough.
90 min +1: An unsurprising but wholly deserved choice: hat-trick hero Riyad Mahrez is the Player of the Match.
90 min: Alvarez fizzes a low drive inches wide of the right-hand post. No matter. City are three added minutes away from the final!
89 min: City stroke the ball around elegantly, as they so often do. Their fans give it plenty, and why not.
88 min: Walker drives down the right and rolls infield for Lewis on the edge of the Sheffield United D. Lewis takes too long to decide what to do and is stripped of possession by Koulibaly.
86 min: Basham enters the City box from the right but can’t get past Laporte. He drops to his knees. Another claim for a penalty, but the heart’s not in this one either. We play on.
84 min: Alvarez takes down a right-wing Walker cross and slashes harmlessly wide right.
83 min: Palmer spins elegantly away from Basham down the left. He enters the box only for his low cross to be blocked by the sliding Egan. A half-hearted claim for handball is ignored.
82 min: Today’s attendance at Wembley is 69,603.
81 min: The very exciting prospect Rico Lewis comes on for Silva.
80 min: Ndiaye has the opportunity to release McBurnie down the inside-right channel, but Laporte is wise to the caper and intercepts.
78 min: A low rumble around Wembley. Post-match pint arrangements, no doubt, the tie having long been settled.
76 min: A triple-change for Sheffield United, as Ahmedhodzic, Berge and Baldock make way for Bogle, Basham and Koulibaly.
75 min: Gundogan makes way for Phillips.
74 min: Norwood is booked for a late lunge on an in-flight Palmer.
73 min: To their credit, Sheffield United continue to press and probe. Sharp has been lively since coming on.
71 min: This scoreline is a shame for Sheffield United, who haven’t played badly at all. Certainly they were highly decent in the first half. But … and this isn’t exactly breaking news or top-level punditry … this Manchester City team are good. Treble ahoy? Treble very possibly ahoy!
69 min: Fleck is replaced by Sharp, who immediately tears down the left flank and looks for McBurnie at the far post. His low cross is missed by Gomez, but McBurnie is surprised to see the ball coming to him and can’t control, never mind get a shot away. Big chance for what would surely have been just a consolation, but would officially have signalled the start of a possible, if highly unlikely, comeback.
67 min: A double change for City, as Grealish and Haaland make way for Foden and Palmer. No 49th goal of the season for Haaland today … but Mahrez’s hat-trick is the first in an FA Cup semi-final since Alex Dawson scored one for Manchester United against Fulham in 1958!
A hat-trick for Mahrez! Grealish dribbles at Ahmedhodzic down the left. He enters the box and rolls back for Mahrez, who opens his body and powers a sidefooted shot into the bottom right. City are coming back to Wembley!
65 min: The pre-match song contest had been won by the Greasy Chip Butty. It’s all Blue Moon now.
63 min: Robinson and Egan were both caught in two minds there, and Mahrez took advantage brilliantly. The defenders caught between a rock and a hard place.
A glorious solo goal by Riyad Mahrez! He steals the ball off Lowe in the centre circle, then drives down the middle of the park. He’s got Haaland and Alvarez on either side, with Robinson and Egan stuck in reverse. He spots a big gap between the defenders, who are worried about the threat on the flanks. He strides through it, into the box, and slots across Foderingham and into the bottom right. Easy as that!
59 min: Berge advances down the right and whips a cross towards the near post. McBurnie can’t get anywhere near it, and it’s an easy gather for Ortega.
58 min: Alvarez blazes wildly over, much to the nearby Walker’s displeasure. Then McBurnie comes on for the hapless Jebbison.
56 min: A bit of space for Gomez down the inside-left channel. He shoots. The ball takes a huge deflection, looping towards the right-hand edge of the six-yard box. Robinson attempts to usher the ball out of play, but Haaland sticks out a telescopic leg and nearly pokes opportunistically into the bottom right. Side netting. Note to Robinson: do not fall asleep in the immediate environs of Erling Haaland.
54 min: Mahrez knocks it to the far stick. Akanji gets too busy and concedes a free kick, releasing the pressure that had been building on Sheffield United.
53 min: Robinson’s loose header back towards his keeper gifts City a corner. Mahrez takes … way too long this time. But City recycle possession, and Gundogan has a shot from 25 yards. Deflected. A third corner from the right coming in any time now …
51 min: Walker has a dig from distance. Corner. Mahrez launches it long. Foderingham claims confidently at the far stick, and has the opportunity to launch long for Ndiaye and Jebbison upfield, but hesitates and the chance to set up a counter is gone.
49 min: Haaland, the small matter of a disallowed goal aside, has been pretty quiet so far. But now he turns powerfully into space down the middle before striding towards the United box and laying off to Mahrez on the left. Mahrez twists and turns but can’t get a shot away. For a second, though, Haaland looked prepped to shoot from distance, and the crackle of anticipation around Wembley was palpable.
47 min: A slow start to the half. City are two minutes closer to the treble.
Manchester City get the second half underway. Neither manager has made a change during the break. Incidentally, all three ITV panellists agreed that the penalty award was the correct decision. “Jebbison just got too excited,” said Roy Keane. “He’s got to slow it down. he was too keen, he got too excited and got punished for it.” Karen Carney added that “he did two pirouettes before he slid in and you can’t do that”, while Ian Wright simply wore a look of glum resignation as he considered the poor 19-year-old Jebbison’s fate.
Half-time mailbag, featuring those aforementioned conflicting opinions. “I can see why that penalty would be given in real time, but if VAR doesn’t spot the touch on the ball then what is the point of it? That was an understandable, but clear and obvious error by the ref” – Josse McMahon
“While that was about as clear a penalty as you’ll see, I can’t help but feel that it was unfair given the financial disparity of Manchester City and Sheffield United. At some point, if a club’s financial resources are many multiples of their opponent’s, they should only get indirect free kicks in the penalty box” – Kári Tulinius
“A little touch on the ball doesn’t necessarily mean a foul hasn’t also been committed. A foul in the area equals penalty. Probably offside in the build-up though!” – Chris Walker
Sheffield United could easily be going in ahead. But the small margins have gone against them, and Manchester City have taken advantage as great teams so often do. As things stand, City will be heading back to Wembley for the FA Cup final.
45 min: There’s enough ambiguity about that penalty award to annoy Sheffield United. Jebbison definitely prodded the ball away from Silva … but he also clipped the player. Light contacts both, but VAR was never going to overturn the decision, clear and obvious, all that. You’ll certainly hear conflicting opinions about it, though. The internet, ladies and gentlemen!
Mahrez gives Foderingham the eyes, sending the keeper the wrong way as he whips the penalty into the bottom right. City lead!
42 min: There’s a VAR check, because Jebbison brushed the ball with his toe while making contact with Silva. But the decision stands. Mahrez to take.
41 min: Gundogan hits the free kick long. At the far stick, Silva can’t get a shot away. A fresh-air swipe. Jebbison misses a header, then kicks out to clear the loose ball. Silva goes over his leg and the referee points to the penalty spot.
40 min: This isn’t so perfect, though. Norwood clatters into Mahrez out on the City right, and it’s a free kick in a dangerous area. Gundogan to swing it in as everyone lines up on the edge of the United box.
39 min: Walker scoops a pass down the right that nearly releases Silva, but Norwood drops back to slam the door shut. A perfectly timed challenge in the penalty box.
37 min: Alvarez channels his inner Ricky Villa and attempts to dribble his way through a crowded box. Egan blocks and clears, though there’s a brief claim for handball and a penalty. There’s no real conviction in it, though, and the referee’s not interested.
36 min: Grealish and Gomez take turns to probe down the left. The latter eventually crosses. Ahmedhodzic clears. City still haven’t given Foderingham any serious work to do.
34 min: City press forward but Grealish ships possession and Berge launches a counter. The ball’s slipped left to Ndiaye who, with Jebbison supporting, has an opportunity to race towards the City box … but dithers, allowing Walker to get back and nick the ball off him. A big opportunity comes to nought.
33 min: … but City win yet another corner, this time via Grealish down the left. Mahrez knocks long for Haaland, whose header goes straight up in the air and is easily cleared.
32 min: Mahrez’s cute backheel down the right releases Walker, who hammers a low cross towards nobody in particular. The ball’s deflected out for a corner. Walker berates his team-mates, none of whom showed for him there. Nothing comes of the corner.