It is one thing to lose when your team has done its best but quite another when they fail to perform.
Stoke City were beaten 1-0 by Manchester City in this afternoon’s FA Cup Final at Wembley. If the scoreline had read 4-0 in favour of the Manchester side, Stoke would have had little reason to complain.
In the first half, Stoke’s attack and midfield failed to turn up at the office. It was only thanks to some splendid saves by goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, and some woeful shooting from Manchester City, that Stoke went in at half-time still in the game with the score at 0-0.
Stoke were completely outplayed in the first half. Man City’s manager Roberto Mancini had done his homework, nullifying the threat of Stoke City’s wingers Matthew Etherington, who looked far from fit, and Jermaine Pennant, as well as target man Kenwyne Jones.
A hallmark of Stoke’s midfield play is that they chase and harry, putting the opposition players under pressure and forcing them into errors. Too often, Stoke simply sat back and let the likes of Silva, Tevez and Touré orchestrate the game.
In the second half, Stoke briefly pressed and made more of a game of it but without ever really threatening. Man City’ goalkeeper had only one save to make in the entire match, thwarting Kenwyne Jones when he managed to get past defender Lescott.
It was always a question of when Man City would score and the goal duly came in the 75th minute when inter-passing between Silva and Balotelli in Stoke’s penalty area eventually saw the ball run free to Yaya Touré who drove home from 10 yards out.
It was game over as far as Stoke were concerned. They were never going to get back into this match. Too many players failed to play to their full potential; too many passes went astray. At times Stoke looked clueless and out of their depth, with balls aimlessly punted into areas where no Stoke player was present.
Stoke City’s first corner of the game came in the second minute of injury time. That statistic says it all.
The corner saw the strange sight of goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen making an extra attacker in the Man City penalty area but it was to no avail.
The better team won. In football, there is simply no substitute for class and with players such as Tevez, Silva, Touré, Balotelli, and de Jong in the Man City side, class and talent triumphed.
After decades of living in the shadow of the illustrious neighbours Manchester United, Manchester City’s blue moon is rising.
For Stoke, unless quality players are brought into the side and manager Tony Pulis actually plays them, next season will see them once again fighting to retain their Premier League status, with little chance of challenging for major honours.
The best thing that can be said about Stoke City today was their fans. The Stoke team gave them little to sing about but their support never wavered. They completely outsang Manchester City’s supporters.