Man City survive Sheffield Wednesday scare
MAN CITY 2
(James Milner 66, 90+1)
SHEFFIELD WED 1
(Atdhe Nuhiu 14)
They battled but, in the end, they failed.
They lost but, in the process, they gained respect.
Sheffield Wednesday may be a Championship side fighting for pride more than honours these days but, for 90 minutes at the Etihad Stadium yesterday, the second-tier team rolled back the years.
Alas, the task proved beyond their reach, as they lost 1-2 to Manchester City, the defending English Premier League champions and current joint league leaders.
But on a platform which gives gutsy underdogs their fair share of days in the sun, Wednesday, who are lying 10th in the Championship, roared like a turbo-charged engine.
The glamour of the FA Cup may have waned.
But sides like Wednesday are still doing their utmost to keep the romance of the Cup alive.
They rose to the occasion, they disregarded the clear gulf in class, and they even took the lead.
City looked poised to romp home easily in the early stages of play with some enterprising attacking moves until the visitors hit them with a classic FA Cup sucker punch in the 14th minute.
It was a goal which even City manager Manuel Pellegrini would be proud of.
Starting from deep in their own half, it ended with Wednesday forward Steve May squaring the ball for his partner Atdhe Nuhiu to hit home first-time.
City were rattled. Frustration mounted with every passing minute.
Wednesday grew in stature. Their backline defended with a cohesion and organisation that belied their tier-two status. When they broke, it was with a sense of purpose that the hosts couldn't emulate.
It didn't make sense. The last time the two teams met was earlier this season, when City whipped Wednesday 7-0 in the League Cup.
And, despite City manager Pellegrini making six changes to the side that beat Sunderland on New Year's Day, on paper, there was still a very clear difference in quality - players such as Aleksandar Kolarov, Fernando, James Milner, Jesus Navas, Frank Lampard, Yaya Toure and Stevan Jovetic were on duty for City.
At half-time, the occasion was on the precipice of another famous upset.
But, with City's heavy-duty bench providing a bag of tactical options for Pellegrini to consider, the final 30 minutes of the match were always going to be crucial.
Near the hour mark, David Silva and Samir Nasri came on and they didn't take long to make an impact.
In the 66th minute, City equalised, with both substitutes playing significant roles.
It was flowing one-touch football as Nasri passed the ball to Silva, who in turn found Milner and the England international, who turned 29 yesterday, equalised from an acute angle.
City then began pitching their tent at the edge of Wednesday's penalty area, and the visitors' response came solely from counter-attacks.
As the pressure mounted, Wednesday began looking increasingly vulnerable.
Then the inevitable happened, and heartbreak ensued.
In injury time, Milner struck the winner. And City escaped humiliation by the skin of their teeth.
- MAN CITY: Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna, Aleksandar Kolarov (Gael Clichy 75), Eliaquim Mangala, Dedryck Boyata, Fernando, James Milner, Jesus Navas, Frank Lampard (David Silva 61), Yaya Toure, Stevan Jovetic (Samir Nasri 61)
- SHEFFIELD WED: Chris Kirkland, Glenn Loovens, Jose Semedo, Liam Palmer, Tom Lees, Jeremy Helan, Jacques Maghoma, Kieran Lee, Claude Dielna (Rhys McCabe 85), Steve May (Caolan Lavery 66), Atdhe Nuhiu (Christopher Maguire 75)
SELECTED THIRD-ROUND GAMES
- Dover Athletic 0 Crystal Palace 4
- QPR 0 Sheffield United 3
- Sunderland 1 Leeds 0
- Aston Villa 1 Blackpool 0
- Man City 2 Sheffield Wed 1
- Southampton 1 Ipswich 1
- Stoke City 3 Wrexham 1
- Arsenal v Hull City
- Chelsea v Watford
- Yeovil v Man United
- Burnley v Tottenham (3.45am)
- Wimbledon v Liverpool (3.55am)
- Everton v West Ham (3.45am)