IBO Reporter : Spot51
|The match was screened by BBC with Steve Bauer and Martin Keown commentating. City played in a dark blue kit which had “MAN CITY” on the front in case our players forgot who they were playing.
Saints looked up for it from the off and pushed forward in numbers. We didn’t work their keeper though and it was Fraser who made the first save, from Sterling, on 5m. City began to take control of the ball but Saints matched them and kept at their pressing.
Sterling got through again on 9m but Mo shepherded him out so his shot went into the side netting. A minute later, Saints cut City apart. Tino progressed down the right before finding Romeu to his left. Alfa sent a super forward pass through their defence into the path of AA’s run. Adam hit a cross shot past Steffen but it came back off the far post and was hacked away.
Two minutes later we went behind. City attacked down their right but an overhit pass found Jack as our last man. Instead of finding Row Z he merely nudged it to Jesus who picked out Sterling in the middle of our box. Bang! City up 1-0. Bugger!
City were emboldened and came forward again but this time Mo saw them off and cleared the danger. We turned over the ball again on 17m, this time on the edge of our box. This time Jesus shot and sent it into the City fans in the Northam. It took a while before Saints began to dominate the ball again and on 24m a beautiful move found Long who rolled it to AA. He rushed his shot, lofting over the bar. One day…
I’ve long admired De Bruyne for his creativity and ball skills but he was showing he can be a fiend without the ball. At St Mary’s Alfa and JWP usually seem to breeze through games, dictating the pace and direction of play. City’s #17 gave them sod all time for that and had taken the ball from both our midfielders during the first half hour. On one such occasion he sent the ball wide to Cancelo whose wicked cross was volleyed against our post by Gundogan. Thankfully the rebound came to one of ours and the crisis was averted.
Saints were still getting forward. Both our centre backs took long throws into the City box but if Stones or Laporte didn’t head them away, Rodri did. Saints were still in the game and City were relieved for the let up while Salisu received treatment following an awkward fall. The Ghanaian was OK to continue. On 36m, City suddenly broke up-field and Rodri’s long range punt deflected for a corner. De Bruyne swung this in under the crossbar but our giant keeper was able to punch it clear.
I’d barely noticed Mike Dean when, on 37m, he appeared to be joining City’s press as Stu carried the ball out. He resisted the urge to slide tackle the Scot who was able to play the ball away. City’s next attack saw Jesus flagged offside. Cancelo’s foul on Stu, wide right, gave JWP the chance to curl in a cross but again it was a City head that reached the ball. City then broke at pace, Grealish playing the ball in to De Bruyne but Stu’s tracking back saw him block the ball out and Saints were able to clear the corner.
Saints pressing was moving the game into the city half and chances began to come. Tino got to the by-line and fired a low cross which evaded Long by inches and was turned behind for a corner. A City head put this behind for another and this time the ball reached Alfa on the edge of the box. I know he scored a screamer recently but he has history for volleying into the crowd. This one he caught beautifully, kept it low and hard and – straight at the keeper. A yard either side and we’d have been level.
Our next attack saw Stu fire wide before the +2M board went up. Saints continued to attack and with seconds left a sweet pass sent Moi Elyounnousi behind their defence. He reached the ball first but Steffen was right on top of him. He turned away from goal and got his head up. Clearly trying to pick out a team-mate Moi played the ball back into the danger area but it hit Laporte and deflected into the net. Saints were level with the last kick of the half and it was very much, Game On! 1-1.
City kicked off facing the Chapel End. Saints carried on pressing hard and, when they won the ball, Romeu set up Long who shot wide. City had their moments too and, on 52m, there was a period of pinball inside our box when they looked certain to score. Thankfully a Saints boot sent it away from Fraser’s goal.
Following a City corner Saints broke out quickly, JWP finding Stu who cut inside and shot. Stones got his enormous frame in the way and City cleared. Salisu continued to keep City at bay, My notes describe his defending as “immense”. On 57m Sterling got to the by-line and rolled the ball back to De Bruyne and, to my surprise, he lumped it over the bar.
Saints then created 2 very decent chances. They first worked the ball into the box with Long inches away from getting on the end of the pass and, moments later, JWP took aim drawing a save from City’s keeper. The hour mark passed, Ralph decided to bring on reinforcements. With activity on the bench, the game suddenly slipped from our grasp.
A nothing ball into the box was pursued by Jesus but Mo had tracked his run and would deal with it. But Jesus went over and Mike Dean pointed to the spot. Naturally I assumed a grave injustice was being perpetrated but replays showed Mo had indeed dangled his wrong foot in the forwards path and Jesus is way to shrewd not to go over it. De Bruyne slotted the ball to Fraser’s right but it went under his hand. If I was writing the script, he’d have turned it round the post but, buggeration, we were behind when our subs came on!
In fact, 4 changes were made before the restart, Broja and Che replacing our strikers and Mahrez and Foden on for Grealish and Jesus. Adams was soon involved but Rodri tracked him and cleared the ball – good player that lad! Stu recovered the ball and won a corner. There were 20m left and JWP picked out Stu. His shot was blocked but Mike Dean gave City a free kick in their box, Lord alone knows why…
Steffan took so long taking the free kick, Dean booked him for time wasting but when City did get going Cancelo found Sterling who played the ball to Mahrez. My heart sank but the winger hit it with his right foot and struck the opposite corner flag. Keep ‘em there, City! Saints were still in it at this point and JWP played a fantastic pass into Moi. He found Adams who drew a decent save from Steffan. Up the other end Tino conceded a corner which we cleared for a throw. From this, City took the game from us with quick passing and movement. Foden played a 1-2 with De Bruyne and another off Mo before unleashing a terrific left foot shot. It came past bodies and Fraser may not have seen it till it flew past him into the net. 3-1 City.
On 78m, City tore us apart again. Cancelo’s cross reached Gundogan in the middle. He sent it on to Mahrez who shaped to shoot. Fraser had a good look at this one and knew Mahrez likes to bend them in towards the back post. He, and I, were flummoxed when the shot came low and hard inside the near post. 4-1 FFS – Saints didn’t deserve that!
Saints carried on bravely. Broja won a corner and the ball again reached Stu but. As ever, a blue clad body was in the way of his shot. With a semi-final place assured, Pep replaced Rodri, Laporte and Cancelo with Fernandinho, Ake and Zinchenko. There were huge cheers as the Ukrainian defender took the field. Ralph later replaced Stu with Djnepo.
Fraser got another chance to save from Mahrez as time ran down. This time he grabbed it and held on. On 87m the same player did curl one to Fraser’s back post but the ball drifted just past it. Ralph then made his final changes, Diallo for Alfa and Will for Moi. City were still trying to score and Gundogan crossed for Sterling but he stuck his header wide. As +2m was signalled, Keown nominated De Bruyne as his MoM and City kept attacking. A cross from Walker was cleared by Tino and Mike Dean brought things to their finish. Saints definitely didn’t deserve a 4-1 thrashing but, when a club like City can afford all the players they want, WTF can you do?
We later learned Mike Dean was retiring from on-field refereeing but, sadly, he still wants to do VAR. Bugger!
Man of the Match
|Our team put in an honest shift, but were simply outclassed by the superstars pitted against them and this will continue to happen because we support a decent, footballing, smaller club. Mo Salisu came close to MoM but the penalty he conceded left us chasing the game - so my choice is the hard working and beautifully coiffured, Stuart Armstrong