LONDON - Manchester City's 35-year wait for a trophy ended when Yaya Toure's ferocious shot sealed a deserved 1-0 win over Stoke City in the FA Cup Final on Saturday.
On the day Manchester United won a record 19th league title, City fans can finally hold their heads high at the end of a week in which they also secured a place in the Champions League qualifiers for the first time.
City's fifth FA Cup and first since 1969 was the first tangible reward for Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Al Nahyan, who bought the club in 2008 and has spent around 300 million pounds on new players.
"We won the FA Cup. It is an important trophy. We need to improve more to do another step but it was important to start to win because when you start to win, afterwards everything will be easier," City manager Roberto Mancini told reporters.
The meeting of arguably the richest club in world soccer and one who have just one League Cup in well over a century of mediocrity summed up the romance of the cup and helped produce a wonderful atmosphere.
Appearing in their first final after thrashing Bolton Wanderers 5-0 in their semi, Stoke launched an attack from kick-off but then it was generally one-way traffic in the opposite direction.
Thomas Sorensen made two diving saves to keep out shots from Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli, Toure sent a 30-metre screamer whistling inches past a post and David Silva bounced a volley over the bar as City took total control.
Stoke were unrecogisable from the team who thrashed Bolton Wanderers 5-0 on the same ground to reach the final for the first time and when they finally got sight of goal after 62 minutes City keeper Joe Hart blocked Kenwyne Jones's mis-hit close-range shot after a long ball caught out the City defence.
It proved a costly miss as City quickly regained control and eventually found a way through. After a neat backheel by Balotelli and a half-cleared Silva shot the ball fell to Toure 12 metres out.
The mighty Ivorian, who also scored the goal which knocked out Manchester United in the semi-finals, put all his considerable power into a sweetly-struck half-volley and the result was surely one of the hardest shots to grace any of the 130 finals in the world's oldest cup competition. Stoke were unable to find a response and will have to settle for a place in the Europa League, a new adventure in itself.
"We've reached a level of performances over the last six or seven weeks," Stoke manager Tony Pulis said. "The greatest disappointment is that today we have not reached that level.
"They are disappointed with themselves for not reaching that level. Manchester City were the better team. They deserved to win the game."
City's long-suffering fans have their eyes on bigger things and will hope Saturday's success and their top-four finish are merely the launchpad for a new golden era to surpass their brief spell in the limelight more than 40 years ago.
"We want to try to match United," Mancini said. "We have got to the Champions League, that was our first target and we won the FA Cup. It is very important for this club."comments