Saturday, May 14, 2011

F.A. Cup Final: Manchester City v. Stoke City

This is an odd matchup -- sort of like watching Wake Forest play Iowa for the NCAA basketball championship. This is only the second time since 1991 that the Cup Final has not featured Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, or Liverpool. Manchester City hasn't reached the Final since it lost to Spurs in 1981, and City hasn't won the Final since 1969. Stoke City has never been to the Final.

They've been playing for 14 minutes now, and nothing has happened so far, so let's talk a bit about Stoke. Stoke-on-Trent (commonly referred to as "Stoke") is a town in the northwest of England only about 50 miles south of Manchester. It has around 240,000 people. Since the 17th Century, Stoke has been best known for potteries. The land around Stoke is full of coal and the right type of clay for pottery-making. Stoke was also home to Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795), who was probably the greatest potter of all time.

In 1863, a group of apprentices at the North Staffordshire Railway formed a soccer team with the name of "Stoke Ramblers." In 1878, this club merged with the Stoke Victoria Cricket Club to become Stoke Football Club. It is the second-oldest soccer club in England, and it was one of the 12 founding members of the Football League in 1888. Stoke City is known as the Potters.

For most of its history, Stoke City has bounced around from division to division without accomplishing very much. They won the League Cup in 1972, and they came close to winning the League title in 1947, but that's been about it. This year, however, they've had quite a season, and are currently in eighth place in the Premier League. A win today would be their biggest in club history.

Manchester City leads the all-time series between these teams, with a record of 34-30-19 against the Potters. They've only met seven times in the F.A. Cup, but interestingly Stoke eliminated City only last year.

City has already qualified for next year's Champions' League and knocked Man Utd out of the F.A. Cup, so they've had their best season in decades. But given that they haven't won a trophy since the 1976 League Cup, a win here today would be huge for them as well.


  1. Manchester City 0 - 0 Stoke City (33 minutes)

    There's been more back-and-forth action than I expected, but no one has come close to scoring so far.

  2. This is a great game for uniforms, by the way. Manchester City is wearing their sky-blue shirts, while Stoke is in red-and-white stripes. It looks like a game between UNC and N.C. State.

  3. Manchester City 0 - 0 Stoke City (34th minute)

    Man City just has a great chance to score, but botched it. They look like the better team so far -- they've taken seven shots to only two for Stoke City.

  4. They don't play the National Anthem at Cup Finals, but they do sing "Abide With Me," which is one of my very favorite hymns.

  5. Manchester City 0 - 0 Stoke City (Halftime)

    Man City dominated the possession -- they are going to the Champions' League, after all -- but we are still scoreless.

  6. By the way, Manchester United clinched the league title today with a 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers. United has now passed Liverpool for the most league titles all-time -- 19 to 18. When I started watching soccer in 1995, Liverpool led Man Utd 18 to 9.

  7. OK, we've restarted. In the old days -- up until the 1990s -- any F.A. Cup Final that ended in a tie provoked a full replay a few days later. This was a brilliant rule, because it meant that neither team had an incentive to play for a draw -- a draw merely got you another full game. But they changed that rule because the big clubs didn't want to be messing around with a replay of the F.A. Cup final so close to the end of the season. So now an underdog like Stoke has an enormous incentive to play for a tie in the hopes of winning on penalty kicks.

  8. Stoke's players seem to be going to the ground at an alarming rate. Man City fans are starting to complain.

  9. Manchester City 0 - 0 Stoke City (55th minute)

    Man City will not want to go to penalties, so they are starting to put more pressure on Stoke. But so far this has come to naught.

  10. Manchester City 0 - 0 Stoke City (60th minute)

    Now both teams are going for it. Man City was pressing forward, Stoke stole the ball and launched a long pass to the other end to Kenwyne Jones, the Stoke striker. Jones only had to beat Joe Hart (the Man City keeper), but Hart made an excellent save.

  11. Manchester City 0 - 0 Stoke City (66th minute)

    Man City keeps getting the ball into Stoke's box, but Stoke is pulling everyone back to play defense.

  12. Manchester City 0 - 0 Stoke City (73d minute)

    Since 2001, there have only been two Cup Finals in which both teams have scored. On the other hand, there has only been one scoreless tie. So usually whoever scores first wins.

  13. Manchester City 1 - 0 Stoke City (75th minute)

    Man City kept pressing and pressing and finally got a result. After a wild scramble in the box, Yaya Toure -- who is from the Ivory Coast and is therefore known as an "Ivorian" -- blasts home a shot from about 10 yards in front of goal to give Man City the lead.

    The powder blue fans are singing now.

  14. Manchester City 1 - 0 Stoke City (78th minute)

    This would be a very fair result. Man City has been the better team all along, and they deserve the win -- at least so far.

  15. By the way, Stoke's manager is wearing a baseball cap and track pants. He looks like he's managing a Little League team.

  16. Manchester City 1 - 0 Stoke City (83d minute)

    Watching this game, you can see where J.K. Rowling got the idea for her quidditch matches. Right now, the Man City fans -- all in powder blue -- are singing and waving flags, while the red-and-white Stoke fans are screaming for their team to fight back.

  17. Manchester City 1 - 0 Stoke City (85th minute)

    Now they're showing three of the players from Man City's 1969 Cup winners, who are sitting in the stands wearing suits with powder blue ties. They look pleased and nervous.

  18. Manchester City 1 - 0 Stoke City (90th minute)

    There will be three minutes of injury time.

  19. Manchester City 1 - 0 Stoke City (91st minute)

    Stoke has a corner kick, which will probably be their last good chance. They send their goalkeeper down to the other end to play offense.

  20. Manchester City 1 - 0 Stoke City (92d minute)

    The Potters have a few good chances, but can't score. They get another corner kick.

  21. Manchester City 1 - 0 Stoke City (93d minute)

    Stoke's corner fails. Man City has a goal kick.

  22. Manchester City 1 - 0 Stoke City (Final)

    And that's it! Manchester City wins the F.A. Cup for the first time since 1969.

    What a year for Manchester. United take the league, City take the F.A. Cup, and in two weeks, United will play for the European Cup.

  23. Here's how Man City won the Cup:

    3d Round:
    01/09/11: Leicester City 2 - 2 Manchester City
    01/18/11: Manchester City 4 - 2 Leicester City

    4th Round:
    01/30/11: Notts County 1 - 1 Manchester City
    02/20/11: Manchester City 5 - 0 Notts County

    5th Round:
    03/02/11: Manchester City 3 - 0 Aston Villa

    6th Round:
    03/13/11: Manchester City 1 - 0 Reading

    Semi-Final (at Wembley Stadium, London):
    04/16/11: Manchester City 1 - 0 Manchester Utd

    Final (at Wembley Stadium, London):
    05/14/11: Manchester City 1 - 0 Stoke City