Toure wrecks United treble dream as City advance

LONDON, April 16, 2011 (AFP) - Yaya Toure shattered Manchester United's treble dream here on Saturday as Manchester City beat their bitter local rivals 1-0 to reach next month's FA Cup final.

Ivory Coast midfielder Toure kept City on course for their first piece of silverware in 35 years after punishing a mistake by United midfielder Michael Carrick to settle a pulsating semi-final derby at Wembley after 52 minutes.

League leaders United, who last week advanced to the Champions League semi-finals, had Paul Scholes sent off for an ugly challenge on City defender Pablo Zabaleta as their hopes of repeating their 1999 treble were dashed.

City manager Roberto Mancini could not hide his delight at the final whistle, dedicating victory to the club's army of fans, who revelled in their first day out at Wembley for more than a decade.

"I'm very happy, but I'm very happy for our supporters because they deserve to have a day like this afternoon," Mancini said.

"For us it's important but we mustn't forget we have to play another game. We only won a semi-final today."

Goalscorer Toure was ecstatic at downing United.

"Winning against our biggest rivals is fantastic," Toure said. "When you played like we did in the second half, it was just fantastic.

"I was so happy to score the goal for the fans -- they have waited 35 years to win anything and it's beautiful for Manchester City.

"We know we have to be strong because it is not finished."

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson blamed slack defending for the defeat.

"The first 15 minutes after half-time cost us the game," Ferguson said.

"Slack moments. Edwin (van der Sar) had a bad kick out and Michael Carrick couldn't hold it and it was a goal. It's disappointing as we should've been ahead in the first half as we were the better team," he told MUTV.

City, who will play either Stoke or Bolton in the final, were worthy winners after raising their game in the second half to dominate their opponents.

United might have taken the lead after an extraordinary passage of play on the quarter-hour mark that saw Berbatov -- starting in the absence of the suspended Wayne Rooney -- miss two glorious chances in the space of a minute.

AFP - Dimitar Berbatov (L) controls the ball in front of Manchester City's Belgian player Vincent Kompany (R) during the FA Cup semi-final

A wonderful passage of one-touch passing between Carrick, Scholes and Park Ji-Sung put Berbatov clear on goal only for Hart to pull off a stunning close-range save to deny the Bulgarian.

Seconds later Portuguese winger Nani turned Zabaleta brilliantly on the left flank before racing to the byline and squaring for Berbatov, who scooped his shot over the bar from point-blank range.

Those were United's best moments of the half and gradually City came into the match, with Gareth Barry, Mario Balotelli and skipper Vincent Kompany all having shots on goal towards the end of the half.

City started the second half as they finished the first, pressing high up the field and threatening to over-run United at times.

It was not long before City -- looking far hungrier in the tackle and pressurising United relentlessly at every turn -- took the lead.

But City's opener owed everything to a dreadful piece of play from Carrick, casually gifting the ball to Toure with a slack pass on the edge of the area before the former Barcelona player surged into the box and scored.

A few minutes later Adam Johnson forced another jittery stop from van der Sar after cutting to the byline and lashing in a low cross before Joleon Lescott sent a glancing header flashing wide as City tightened their grip.

United forays into City territory were fewer and fewer, although Hart was pressed into action when he tipped a Nani free-kick onto the bar.

An increasingly tense encounter saw Balotelli become the second City player to earn a caution when he clattered into Carrick.

Referee Mike Dean's patience finally wore thin on 72 minutes, however, when Scholes was given a straight red for sinking his studs into Zabaleta's thigh.

United rallied desperately but City were not to be denied.

City celebrated at the final whistle but Balotelli and United defender Rio Ferdinand needed to be separated by players and coaching staff in an ugly melee.

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