Chelsea 1 Manchester City 2
Chelsea 1 Manchester City 2
SAMIR NASRI and Sergio Aguero sent Manchester City roaring to the FA Cup final after this Wembley cracker.
Both teams cast aside their season of under-achievement with a frenzied feast of attacking.
But Roberto Mancini’s men had too much power and energy for Chelsea.
Nasri’s poached goal and Aguero’s rising header underlined City’s control either side of half-time.
And, though, Demba Ba volleyed a brilliant reply to set up a fierce finale, City’s ultimate joy was richly deserved after a display mocking the 15-point Premier League gap between them and leaders Manchester United.
Nonetheless, Chelsea were doubly aggrieved late on. First, Aguero escaped a red card for a sneaky but shocking stamp on David Luiz. Then City skipper Vincent Kompany evaded punishment when he helped pull down goal-bound substitute Fernando Torres in the box.
City’s breakneck start was summed up after just six minutes when Gael Clichy surged 70 yards to win a corner. Gareth Barry’s resulting shot was helped on by Yaya Toure for Aguero to poke a six-yard shot that Petr Cech plunged low to brilliantly keep out.
Carlos Tevez buzzed in and outside the penalty area, notably when his near-post cross-shot was tipped behind by Cech.
And Chelsea had barely edged their way back into this long-awaited clash by the time their midfielder Eden Hazard suddenly saw a 23rd minute half-chance cleared from the line by the head of Kompany.
Ba soon had another glimmer of an opportunity but failed to control a dangerous long pass right into the heart of City’s rearguard.
By now, Rafa Benitez’s skilful midfielders were beginning to find time on the ball.
And, at last, Chelsea started to match City for possession in what was a fast, open contest seemingly devoid of typical semi-final nerves.
But City’s 35th minute opener was still merited, albeit fortunate, as Nasri glided onto two rebounds before slotting an easy finish past Cech.
Juan Mata swung a left-footer well wide when Chelsea responded by counter-attacking in numbers.
Nontheless, as a unit, Tevez and Aguero were the liveliest raiders on the field.
And it was rebound off Aguero that gave James Milner the opportunity to tee up a clear 15-yarder that he fired wastefully straight at the same Argentine hitman.
Milner then showed strength and hunger to break clear of a mid-pitch tackle down the left to leave four City attackers bearing down on three defenders. But the England midfielder picked his final delivery poorly, enabling Cech to palm out a cross-shot, Kompany mis-cueing the follow-up wide when well-paced.
City, though, needed just two second-half minutes to put Benitez and his big-name bench, including Torres, John Terry and Frank Lampard, even more down in the dumps.
Barry, outshine until now by the rest of City’s midfield, flighted a right-wing cross for Aguero to loop a fine header inside Cech’s near upright.
After that, Chelsea rarely threatened the type of pressure or incisive break needed to revive their hopes against City’s all-round class and solidity in which Toure was the major influence.
So it took a piece of improvised brilliance to give the Londoners hope, Ba twisting in mid-air to hook a low 66th minute right-footer well beyond Costel Pantilimon.
That was the first FA Cup goal City have let in this season.
And, just after Mata was just squeezed out of danger from an excellent position, Pantilimon showed just why. His darting tip-away thwarted a point-blank swivel-shot from Ba.
Aguero should have seen red 10 minutes from time after he kicked out in revenge after a niggly exchange with Luiz.
And newly-introduced Torres went close with a snap-shot as City defended the closing stages in numbers.
Torres was soon screaming in vain for a spot-kick, arguing Kompany had held him back as he wriggled through. TV replays backed up Torres’ claim but also suggested referee Chris Foy was unsighted.
Few could assert, though, that justice was not done overall as Mancini eyes the trophy that might just re-ignite his City future.
His side face Wigan in the Wembley final on May 11.
DREAM TEAM STAR MAN — YAYA TOURE (Man City)
CHELSEA: Cech 7, Azpilicueta 6, Ivanovic 5, Luiz 6, Bertrand 6, Ramires 6, Mikel 5 (Torres 7), Hazard 6, Mata 7, Ba 6, Oscar 5. Subs not used: Turnbull, Lampard, Moses, Terry, Benayoun, Ake. Booked: Ramires.
MAN CITY: Pantilimon 6, Zabaleta 7, Kompany 8, Nastasic 7, Clichy 6, Milner 7, Y Toure 8, Barry 7, Nasri 7 (Lescott 5), Tevez 7 (Garcia 5), Aguero 7. Subs not used: Hart, Dzeko, Sinclair, Kolarov, K Toure. Booked: Barry, Y Toure, Kompany.