On a day when they feasibly could have scored five or six goals, Manchester City will nonetheless be pleased with a 2-1 victory over Chelsea, one that will send them to the FA Cup championship game.
City came out absolutely buzzing in this contest, prodding and probing Chelsea's defensive third with early chances. But Petr Cech and the Blues defense would sustain the early pressure, including a Carlos Tevez near-post effort that almost fooled Cech.
Vincent Kompany would save a goal for City after the early bout of pressure, heading Eden Hazard's bouncing volley—that cleared a crowded box and keeper Costel Pantilimon, who was off his line after initially clearing Chelsea's corner—away from danger.
But the first half was all about Manchester City, and the team's continued pressure would result in the game's first goal.
City poured forward on the attack led by Yaya Toure, and his pass into the box would be chipped onto the foot of Samir Nasri from Sergio Aguero (and a lucky deflection off a Chelsea defender). Nasri found himself in space and promptly buried the ball into the back of the net.
Given the run of play, it seemed a fitting result. City absolutely dominated the first 35 minutes.
That would wake Chelsea up, however, and just minutes later Juan Mata would curl his shot on the counter-attack wide of the net.
City would blow another golden opportunity in stoppage time. With numbers on the break, James Milner tried to chip a cross to Aguero over Cech (or perhaps it was a poor-angle shot), who blocked the attempt. The ball dropped right to Vincent Kompany, but he pushed the rebound effort far wide.
The game would go to the half with City leading 1-0, and Chelsea likely feeling lucky to have only given up the Nasri goal.
Chelsea's luck would run out just two minutes into the first half. Gareth Barry's service into the box was met by Aguero, who brilliantly headed the ball above and across a helpless Cech to give City a 2-0 lead. It was as though the Chelsea defense collectively fell asleep.
City would continue to find space on the counter against Chelsea's high line, and it seemed the Manchester club was primed for even more goals.
But it was Demba Ba who would cut the lead in half on an absolutely brilliant effort, giving Chelsea hope in the 66th minute. David Luiz's pass over the top would find Ba, who finished with a half-volley, half-bicycle effort.
Chelsea would nearly add another minutes later, but a diving Pantilimon would just knock the ball out of the path of Mata. Chelsea would scream for a penalty, but the keeper clearly got the first touch on the ball.
Pantilimon would immediately come up clutch again. Hazard battled for the ball on the touch line and won it, centering a feed for Ba. But this time, the striker's shot was met by Pantilimon, who was perfectly positioned to prevent Ba's promising equalizing attempt.
In the 78th minute Luiz would nearly equalize on a free kick, but his dipping effort flew wide of the net. Chelsea would continue to press forward, but the Blues couldn't equalize in the waning moments.
Manchester City will now face Wigan in the FA Cup final on May 11.
Sergio Aguero, Manchester City: A
Save his two-footed stomp on Luiz that the referee clearly missed late in the game and should have resulted in a red card, Aguero was brilliant in this contest. He helped to set up Nasri's goal, his own score was magnificent, and he made countless threatening runs on the counter that would have resulted in more goals had his teammates sent him the proper service. He was fantastic, from beginning to end.
Chelsea's Back Line: C-
Manchester City could have scored so many more goals than they did, and it was the product of Chelsea's high line and sometimes lazy defending. To be fair, Luiz was solid in this game, but César Azpilicueta absolutely went to sleep on the Aguero goal and the unit as a whole was cut to shreds on City's counter. A disappointing performance from the Chelsea defense.
Costel Pantilimon, Manchester City: A-
What a performance by Pantilimon, namely in the second half when Chelsea peppered him with several promising chances. But he was up to the task, and minus Ba's brilliant goal that he was helpless to stop, Pantilimon was excellent in this game.
Eden Hazard, Chelsea: C
What was Hazard doing in the first half, exactly? He was barely involved early, didn't become that much more active late and was a defensive liability for much of the game.
Chelsea are truly dangerous when Hazard, Mata and Oscar are paired together and force the issue on the attack, but when another team can dominate possession and put Chelsea on their heels, the trio can be a liability. Hazard was indicative of that this afternoon.
Yaya Toure, Manchester City: A-
Toure did a bit of everything in this game. He pushed the counter-attack forward. He set up Nasri's first goal. He played even farther forward after Tevez left the game. The only thing he didn't do was play the right pass here or there on a few of City's rushes forward, but it's a minor complaint of his effort.
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