Saturday, 14 May 2011

FA Cup Final live

It's a weird situation - grandmother passed away 12 hours ago, the relatives contacted, and there's an odd lull in the proceedings - filled by the FA Cup Final. She didn't die for 98 years, then picked Stoke's only Cup Final day since it was founded in 1863. How disobliging. Typical of a Watford fan. Can I enjoy it? I hope so, though I'm aware that sounds horribly selfish. What are we meant to be doing?

First impressions: why are the army involved? They're all over the pitch before kick-off. An RAF officer is carrying the cup. Odd, unsettling propaganda. Is it meant to imply that playing well on the pitch equates to military bravery?

Liam Gallagher is still excited to be on the big screen: that's rather endearing.

Stoke's Welsh manager is wearing a daffodil, but his trademark baseball cap is inexplicably missing. Perhaps it's being cast in bronze as next year's trophy. Kenwyne Jones seems to have styled his hair with epoxy resin. It looks like someone's taken a blowtorch to a time-trial cycle helmet.

Some of Stoke's mascot kids are porky little numbers. No idea about the Man City ones - not looking at them. I've just muted the TV for the British national anthem. Is it true that a lot of fans sing 'God Save Our Greatest Team'? I hope so.

15.05: That's better, Tony's back in his cap and tracksuit. Legend has it that if it falls off during a match, we get relegated. Balotelli's playing: I'm sure we can wind him up and have him sent off in short order.

15.11: Sorenson saves a Man City shot. I'm quite nervous. And sober. Perhaps that's what's wrong. Man City do seem a bit calmer. At least we have one advantage: they can only play pretty football. If style doesn't work for us, we can fall back on violent disruptive play. There's a lot to be said for dour hard work. When is Rory going to get a long throw?

1514: Subbuteo in the box followed by a Manc corner and lots of Manc shots. Brilliant strike on the floodlights by De Jong. He may have bounced the shot off the 3.00 BA flight to Dallas. Perhaps our strategy is to let them run around a lot with the ball until they're tired. Oh dear, another Manc corner. Not very good, but they're getting far too many. Yaya Touré just smashes another shot just the wrong side of the goalpost. We really need to keep the ball for a few seconds.

1518: At last: a Rory Delap trebuchet shot. Nothing off it, but at least we're getting into their half.

1519: And another throw. Slightly more promising. Etherington's struggling though, and Man C are all over him. Manc are really pushing though. Balotelli's down with a head injury. Huth elbowed him in the face, the moron. He'd have been off if the ref had seen it.

Soft free kick for us. We're good at set pieces: undeserved goal coming up? No. Easy catch by Joe Hart.

1525: Tevez almost has a clear shot, then Barry but Sorensen and Huth get us out of trouble and Walters is streaking down the side but the move peters out. Man City are passing it around in our half like they own it.

1527: Kenwyne Jones gets into their box and causes trouble for the Man City defence, but they manage to take it off them. I almost got excited there. Now we've got another set-piece - a free kick which flies into Row Z. I assume the Japanese calligraphy on Wilson's(?) forearm is flight coordinates.

1530: Brilliant save from Sorensenn saves a Balotelli shot that was definitely going in. Corner now. Oh dear. Lots of handbags in there. No real shot there, then another one from further out. It's all a little ragged and hopeful, but Man City are putting moves together and taking shots. Our strikers aren't reduced to spectators.

1533: Walters tries to head across their goalmouth but it goes into the side netting. We're not intimidating them they way we did with Bolton and Arsenal. Stoke's last (and only) major trophy was the League Cup in 1972, 3 years before I was born. We did win the Auto-Glass Windscreens Trophy though. Twice, I think.

1537: Great shot from Kompany thankfully saved by Sorensen and it's down their end for a very good corner from Pennant which Hart saves. Rory's got another chance with a long throw. He fools everybody by making it a short one, and it's out again for another go. Our strikers arse up a shooting opportunity and we all womble out in midfield for a while. Man City throw looks short and weak after seeing Rory's 3-mile rocket launchers. The crowd's quite quiet now. Dare I say even bored?
1542: They aren't now: goalmouth scrambles as Balotelli and da Silva miss sitters. We're hugely lucky not to be down 1-0.

Apparently there's someone called Tevez on the pitch, but he's not been seen much. He cost Man City roughly the same as Stoke's entire team.

1545: More goalmouth scrambles courtesy of Balotelli. I wonder what the atmosphere's like in Stoke today. As I walked through, every other person wore a shirt and flags were flying. Strangers nodded to each other or shouted Goooarrrn at each other. Which was nice.

Very silly tackle from Huth. Yellow card and a dangerous free kick. Dangerous if you're sitting in the top row behind the goal, that is.

1548: De Jong sidefoot eludes everybody but goes out wide. I'm hanging on for half-time now. We're hanging on nervously. Kolorov boots another one into orbit. We get a free kick in a useful area but De Jong clears it. Tevez and Pennant are injured. That could be very bad news for us. We're really not playing at our best and Pennant's the best Stoke player on the pitch.

Half time. And not a moment too soon. Back in 15 minutes.

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