Manchester City reaches FA Cup final
Sergio Aguero provided a Jekyll and Hyde contribution to Manchester City's 2-1 FA Cup semifinal triumph over Chelsea on Sunday at Webley Stadium.
The brilliant South American scored the second-half goal that ended up booking a meeting with Wigan next month. But he was also fortunate to escape a red card after a nasty challenge on David Luiz.
"It is brilliant," Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany told ITV. "It is another great day for the club. You look at this [atmosphere] and we only hope we can have these scenes when we play against Wigan in the final.
"We never doubted the fact that we wanted to win trophies. This was an important game and it will be an even more important game in the final against Wigan. That is what we are looking forward to now."
The triumph keeps City manager Roberto Mancini in with a chance of extending his trophy-winning sequence to three seasons, which will answer his critics, who claim this campaign has been one of under-performance for the big-spending Blues.
"We can do nothing for the championship," Mancini said, with Manchester United set to win the Premier League. "We have this final and should get second position -- this our target at this moment."
That Chelsea went out with neither John Terry nor Frank Lampard being asked to make any contribution was the clearest indication yet that Rafael Benitez is presiding over a changing of the guard, even if he will be replaced as well during the summer.
Terry and Lampard have been part of all seven Chelsea FA Cup triumphs at this revamped stadium. At least they were on the bench -- Ashley Cole did not even make it that far.
Petr Cech may be another survivor from Jose Mourinho's time but the keeper remains an integral figure and made a key early save to deny Aguero.
The Czech Republic international had set himself to deny Yaya Toure. That Aguero got his foot to the Ivorian's effort and steered it even closer to the corner just made Cech's plunge to the right more remarkable.
That chance came about because Costel Pantilimon flapped at a cross.
With silverware so close, there had been a feeling Mancini would restore Joe Hart to his FA Cup starting lineup.
Clearly, Mancini has plenty of faith in the Romanian, just as the City fans have so much in their manager.
For it was the Italian's name that was sung loudest and longest after Nasri had broken the deadlock.
The sight of Toure powering at any defense is enough to get fans quaking.
And Chelsea seemed spooked by the midfielder lumbering toward its box, which meant Aguero was afforded too much space when the short pass came.
He quickly flicked it onto Nasri, whose attempt at a return, resulted in a couple of fortunate rebounds and the perfect opportunity to lash home.
It is only a couple of weeks ago that Mancini said he wanted to punch Nasri for failing to produce top-class performances often enough.
That is was Nasri's first goal since October tells its own story. But presumably, all is forgiven -- for a little while at least.
Rarely can a substitute have had such an immediate impact as Fernando Torres.
For, as play restarted following his 65th-minute introduction, David Luiz drove a long ball to the edge of City's box, Torres flicked it on and Ba superbly hooked it in.
It ended City's chances of becoming only the fourth team to lift the trophy without conceding a goal and injected Chelsea with some much-needed self-belief.
Pantilimon saved at the feet of Juan Mata, then produced a wonderful stop to deny Ba.
It was spellbinding stuff, which just made Aguero's two-footed lunge at Luiz all the more stupid.
Had Chris Foy seen it, City would have been left with just 10 men.
"See the video," Benitez said. "I will not talk about players, but for me the penalty decision was crucial."
As he didn't, Aguero was still around for Torres to run his studs down the back of his calf, although in neither instance did any injury result.
It left a sour taste, although as it happened within the general run of play, it is unlikely Aguero will face any retrospective action. Instead, he will return to this stadium in four weeks' time and aim to add another FA Cup to City's expanding trophy collection.