Bernardo Silva atones for midweek penalty miss as Man City reach FA Cup final

By Sports Desk April 20, 2024

Bernardo Silva made amends for his midweek penalty miss as holders Manchester City returned to the FA Cup final with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Chelsea.

Silva badly fluffed his lines as City were agonisingly knocked out of the Champions League on penalties by Real Madrid on Wednesday but he was the match winner as they bounced back at Wembley.

The Portugal international turned home the only goal of a tight encounter six minutes from time to keep alive City’s hopes of retaining the domestic double.

Chelsea were left to rue wasting a host of chances, with Nicolas Jackson particularly culpable, on what proved a bad day for the Senegal forward in front of goal. The Londoners were also frustrated not to be awarded a penalty.

City, without the injured Erling Haaland, were not at their best – perhaps still feeling the effects of their draining encounter with Real.

With former City midfielder Cole Palmer instrumental, Chelsea made most of the running.

Palmer played in Jackson early on but his shot was too easy for Stefan Ortega.

City’s first opportunity came as Kevin De Bruyne slipped in Phil Foden with an inch-perfect pass but he went too wide attempting to go round Djordje Petrovic and Chelsea escaped.

Pep Guardiola’s side had a huge let-off when Jackson raced clear from an Enzo Fernandez long ball. Jackson only had Ortega to beat but he hesitated on the edge of the area and failed to shoot or go round the goalkeeper.

City were caught out again when Malo Gusto escaped down the right but he could not pick out Jackson in the centre. Palmer also dug out a chance for himself with some neat footwork but did not get any power on his shot.

At the other end, Marc Cucurella cleared off the line after Silva got on the end of a Jack Grealish cross but the flag was then raised.

Jackson failed to deliver again early in the second half after breaking clear in the area but shooting tamely at Ortega. The ball came back to him as Palmer whipped in a cross but his header was weak and straight at Ortega.

City had another let-off when a Palmer free-kick struck the arm of Grealish. The contact was missed by referee Michael Oliver, with Chelsea’s frustration at not getting a penalty compounded by the official awarding a goalkick.

Jackson also wanted a spot-kick after going down following a race with Kyle Walker but nothing was given.

Grealish suffered a heavy blow to the knee in a challenge from Felipe Caicedo and was withdrawn moments later. The England international voiced his frustration to the officials as he left the field, maybe suggesting Caicedo – already on a booking – should have been dealt with more severely.

Grealish’s replacement Jeremy Doku made a lively entrance and immediately tested Petrovic.

As time wore on, the game became a test of City’s resolve and the lively Doku made a notable difference.

He was involved as the deadlock was finally broken, playing in fellow Belgian De Bruyne with a clever ball. De Bruyne pulled the ball back across goal and a deflection took it into the path of Silva, who made no mistake.

It was a sweet moment for the Portuguese, who celebrated vigorously out of relief and joy.

There was no way back for Chelsea as City, befitting their champion status, held out.

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  • James advises Slot to block out Man City and target 90 points in first Liverpool season James advises Slot to block out Man City and target 90 points in first Liverpool season

    Arne Slot should block out any noise around trying to catch Manchester City and instead set his sights on compiling 90 points in his first season in charge of Liverpool.

    That is the view of former Liverpool goalkeeper David James, who believes securing Champions League football should be seen as the minimum requirement for former Feyenoord boss Slot, who is replacing Jurgen Klopp at Anfield.

    While Klopp lifted the EFL Cup in his final campaign as manager, James feels it is very difficult for Premier League teams to set any targets relating to any silverware due to the consistent dominance of City under Pep Guardiola.

    City have won an unprecedented four straight Premier League titles and will face rivals Manchester United this weekend at Wembley in an attempt to win back-to-back FA Cup crowns. Guardiola also has four EFL Cup trophies to his name.

    James feels Slot should therefore focus only on what he can control and believes 90 points is an aspirational target that will at least put the Reds in contention.

    Liverpool made it to 82 points in 2023-24, which saw them finish nine behind Man City and seven adrift of second-placed Arsenal.

    That tally was comfortably enough to seal a return to the Champions League for next season, a status which James says Slot must ensure he maintains.

    "As we have seen under Jurgen Klopp, the fantastic manager, there are teams around in the Premier League who don't really care what you think you want to do, namely Manchester City," James said to Stats Perform when asked what Slot's minimum target should be.

    "There could invariably be a situation where whatever it is, such as if Pep decides it is his last season, then it might be fairytale stuff again, that he goes for the quadruple and he does it.

    "Then it doesn't matter [what your targets are], no one wins anything domestically. 

    "The minimum requirement, which Pep can't stop you from doing, has to be qualifying for the Champions League of course. But beyond that, I think it's just getting the performances. 

    "If you get 90 points, and I know this has happened to Liverpool and they have got records to prove it, but if you get 90 points or even more and still don't win the league, then it's not down to you doing something wrong, it's down to the excellence of whoever finishes above you. 

    "I would say minimum Champions League qualification and then just going for 90 points and see where it takes you. As I say, 90 points is the benchmark in the Premier League.

    "You know, it isn't that difficult to achieve when you think about it. You can literally lose to the four best teams, again subjectively, four best teams, home and away, and as long as you beat the others, the other 30 games, that's 90 points.

    "Who cares [which teams you beat]? You don't get an extra three points for beating the teams above you. It's just winning."

    James expects to see plenty of movement in the transfer window now that there have been substantial changes to the staff, but says Slot and his coaching team may not always get their own way.

    He added: "I do [expect a lot of movement]. There are a couple of things to say. The analysis department will have their numbers, they'll know who they need to keep, they'll know who they need to replace and obviously they'll know who they need or want to bring in. 

    "This wasn't just about Jurgen leaving, this was the whole staff going. This is a massive shift, and everybody [left at the club] has their opinion [on the squad], even the analysis guys.

    "[Those opinions] might encourage or discourage the manager from making choices, whether it's selection choices in games or whether it's selection choices for transfers. 

    "The conversation with Slot will be a whole room of [new] opinions added to a data analysis group [trying] to find replacements because some of the players are leaving. 

    "With transfers I think it will cause a little bit of a ruffle. It will be done for the right reasons but I don't think there'll be a situation where Slot will just bring the ones he likes in. 

    "It will be a group decision with the analysis department. It will need to be the right players and, as Liverpool have proven under Jurgen's tenure, when they get it right, they are very successful."

  • Wirtz will stay at Leverkusen amid transfer interest, Rolfes insists Wirtz will stay at Leverkusen amid transfer interest, Rolfes insists

    Florian Wirtz will stay at Bayer Leverkusen next season despite interest from Europe's elite clubs, says Die Werkself's managing director Simon Rolfes.

    Wirtz has been in irresistible form throughout Xabi Alonso's first full season at the BayArena, which could yet end with an unbeaten treble.

    Leverkusen won 28 of their 34 games as they became the first team to go unbeaten through a Bundesliga campaign, and they face a pair of finals this week – against Atalanta in the Europa League and Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal.

    Wirtz was named Bundesliga Player of the Year earlier this week, having scored 11 goals and provided 11 assists throughout the campaign. He has also been involved in eight goals (four goals, four assists) and created 28 chances from open play in the Europa League this term.

    That form has reportedly put the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and Manchester United on alert, but Leverkusen are not entertaining a sale.

    "He will stay. His father and agent said it before. He has a contract here and he's really happy," Rolfes told Sky Sports.

    "This is the right place for him to develop as a player and person. His future is bright, that's for sure. He is such a good player and shows a great will to win and to work. 

    "It's not normally the attribute of a number 10 but he combines talent with the work rate of a six or a defensive player along with producing special magic moments."

    When Bayern Munich last failed to win the Bundesliga title in 2012, they responded by raiding rivals Borussia Dortmund for the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze and Mats Hummels over the next few years.

    Asked if Leverkusen had any concerns about that happening to them, Rolfes said: "For sure 10, 15 or 20 years ago that was a normal thing but things are changing. The European environment has changed a lot. 

    "It's an international market now with the Premier League, and clubs in Spain, Italy and France as well."

    Bayern were, alongside Liverpool, unsuccessful in attempting to lure Alonso away from Westphalia, and Rolfes says he was always convinced the Spaniard would stay.

    "Maybe that was a little more special but I'm always convinced you have to concentrate on your strengths," he said. 

    "I was convinced we could offer a lot to him and our players with other interest in them. That's why I was always calm."

     

  • Guardiola wins fifth Premier League Manager of the Season award Guardiola wins fifth Premier League Manager of the Season award

    Pep Guardiola has been named Premier League Manager of the Season for the fifth time after leading Manchester City to a fourth straight title.

    City edged out Arsenal by two points on the final day of the season to win their eighth Premier League title, their sixth under Guardiola and their fourth in a row.

    They are the first team in English football history to win more than three consecutive titles, while Guardiola is just the fourth manager to win six English top-flight crowns. 

    Alex Ferguson leads the way with 13, while Guardiola has matched former Aston Villa manager George Ramsay and Liverpool legend Bob Paisley.

    With 11, Ferguson is also the only person to win the Premier League Manager of the Season award more often than Guardiola, with his fifth dragging him further clear of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger (three each).

    Guardiola also claimed the prize after overseeing title-winning campaigns in 2017-18, 2018-19, 2020-21 and 2022-23.

    Having seen off competition from four other nominees, Guardiola said they deserved to share the honour with him.

    "I want to share it, especially with Mikel [Arteta] for the incredible job he has done until the last game, bringing us to our limits," said Guardiola.

    "Of course, for Jurgen [Klopp], for the unforgettable battles for many, many years. And Unai Emery, making something unbelievable again to bring Aston Villa to the Champions League.

    "And Andoni Iraola, with Bournemouth, being his first season in the Premier League, doing what he has done and coming back from a tough start to the season.

    "It is an honour to be alongside all of them and to win this trophy. We will defend this award as best as possible in the future."

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