Lifelong suffering fan TOM JACKSON recalls the goal that brought Man City their all-important first silverware of the Sheik Mansour-era.
Cup finals days are always tense for the fans but for the 25,000 Manchester City fans in attendance at Wembley, and surely any blue watching at home or in the pubs, the nerves were palpable. A semi-final victory against Premier League champions-elect and arch rivals United had put City tantalisingly close to the FA Cup title. The eager anticipation of the clubs’ first trophy in a generation had been swelling since the Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008. The false starts of Robinho and the failed attempt to sign Kaka had been supplanted by the stubborn flair of Roberto Mancini, who assembled a number of genuinely talented and hungry young players in the summer of 2010. The old, typical, City needed to be erased and replaced by a new ethos. A winning City was expected by fans and owner alike and a first cup final since the now defunct Full-Members Cup in 1986 was their chance to deliver.
The first-half proved largely uninspiring, dampening the early buoyancy of both sets of fans. Few chances were carved out by either team and tension was gripping the stadium. Mancini’s men were cautious in facing a resolute and organised Stoke side built on brawn and hard work. The second-half began brighter, opening up with both sides in search of glory. Kenwyne Jones forced a save from Joe Hart in the first clear cut chance, giving the game a second wind. Noise levels rose with fans pushing each player to find the moment of magic.
With the game edging closer to extra time it was illuminated on the 74th minute. Man of the match Mario Balotelli back-heeled to David Silva on the left side of the penalty box, a sublime one-two-three with El Mago giving Balotelli a chance to get a shot off. On the stretch he fired towards goal. A block. A rebound. The ball drifted into a little nook of space in the crowded box towards the penalty spot and up stepped Yaya Toure.
Time stood still. Can he compose himself? Can he get it through the horde? Can the wait finally be over? All the years of misery, mediocrity and mismanagement all transmitted from the fans to the pitch side in a collective pause for breath. The Ivorians left boot connected sweetly and exploded the fans into elation. Thomas Sorenson never stood a chance. The shot was hit so ferociously it would have likely wounded a City fan behind the Wembley goal if not for the net. The execution was not certainly not subtle or sublime. It was blunt force trauma. A thunderbolt struck straight through two defenders, Carlos Tevez and a despairing Stoke goalkeeper.
The packed West end became a blur of blue and white, overcome with emotion as Yaya set off to celebrate. Yaya’s face contorted with the passion of knowing he’d scored the winner came to join them and was swiftly swamped by teammates. 35 years in the waiting the remaining minutes until the final whistle blew felt like an eternity. At the final whistle equal measures of joy and relief emitted from the Manchester faithful. For those who had stuck by the club in the bleak and bleaker moments the significance of what was happening only just sinking in. The weight of expectation lifted and a moment of bliss to truly savour.
Questioned upon signing for City as an “Ok midfielder” and with a £250,000 a week wage packet round his neck its undeniable he has answered his critics. Both he and his goals have written himself into folklore and the very fabric of the clubs recent success. In an interview in 2017 Yaya was quoted as saying of the FA Cup win “From that, everything started” – he wasn’t wrong. City fans were not treated to a spectacular goal to win the FA Cup that day but any goal that can bring fans to tears of joy to hardened Mancunians deserves its place in legend. With the club in the midst of its most successful period the revolution began with that moment and that goal in May 2011.