Manchester City defeated Reading 1-0 in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday to set up a semi-final showdown with arch rivals Manchester United.
Roberto Mancini’s side were frustrated by their Championship (second division) opponents for long periods, but a second-half header from Micah Richards finally broke Reading’s resistance at Eastlands.
Richards’ goal means there will be a Manchester derby in the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1926, when City beat United at Bramall Lane in Sheffield.
It will also be City’s first FA Cup semi-final since 1981, when they defeated Ipswich before losing the final in a replay against Tottenham.
The all-Manchester clash will take place at Wembley on the weekend of April 16 to April 17, with Stoke facing Bolton in the other semi-final.
Mancini said: “We have played two games against Manchester United this season and played very well.
“I think we have a good chance to go in the final. For sure the semi-final will be very hard but I think to play at Wembley is always fantastic.”
West Ham lose to Stoke
Brian McDermott’s Reading, who defeated Liverpool last year, had claimed a shock 1-0 win at Everton in this season’s fifth round and they made it tough for City as well.
Shaun Wright-Phillips saw his powerful shot saved by young Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, who then blocked David Silva’s effort from the rebound.
City were denied again when Jay Tabb cleared off the line after Aleksandar Kolarov’s shot deflected off Shane Long.
But the breakthrough finally arrived in the 74th minute when right-back Richards rose highest to meet Silva’s corner with an unstoppable header.
In the day’s other quarter-final, Stoke secured their first FA Cup semi-final appearance since 1972 with a 2-1 win against West Ham at the Britannia Stadium.
Tony Pulis’s side was beaten 3-0 by the Hammers in the Premier League last weekend, but they got their revenge, and earned a trip to Wembley in the process, thanks to Danny Higginbotham’s second-half winner.
‘A hell of a lot of credit’
Pulis said: “For two and a half years at this club, since we were promoted, we have been written off.
“We have got to three quarter-finals of cup competitions, now we have a semi-final. The players and chairperson deserve a hell of a lot of credit.”
Stoke took the lead in the 12th minute with yet another goal from one of Rory Delap’s trademark long throws as Robert Huth muscled his way through to power a header past Robert Green.
West Ham drew level in controversial circumstances in the 30th minute.
Referee Mike Jones and his linesman failed to spot that Frederic Piquionne had controlled Thomas Hitzlsperger’s pass with his arm and the French striker was allowed to surge clear of Huth and clip in the equaliser.
Jones gave Stoke a chance to regain the lead with another poor decision when he ruled that Scott Parker had fouled Matthew Etherington in the penalty area in the 46th minute.
Replays showed Parker had actually pulled out of the challenge, although Green came to West Ham’s rescue anyway as he kept out Etherington’s spot-kick.
Despite that save, Green still finished as the villain. Higginbotham’s 63rd-minute free-kick was powerfully struck but Green should have done better than allow it to creep over the line.
West Ham boss Avram Grant claimed James Tomkins should have had a penalty late on instead of being penalised for a foul on Jon Walters.
“It was a penalty for us at the end which he [the referee] didn’t give. What happened with Tomkins was more bushido [the Japanese code of conduct for samurai warriors].
“Maybe he felt a little bit guilty. I think it was the effect of the first goal for us.”
Manchester United booked their semi-final spot with a 2-0 win over Arsenal on Saturday after Bolton defeated Birmingham 3-2 to reach the last four for the first time since 1975. — Sapa-AFP