Gündoğan volleys City closer to historic treble

Encountering one another in a maiden Manchester derby in an FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, United and arch-local adversaries City took to the pitch in the English capital on a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon seeking their respective second piece of silverware of the 2022/23 campaign. 

After dispatching Premier League-bound Sheffield United 3-0 at the semi-final stage, courtesy of Riyad Mahrez’s hat-trick, Pep Guardiola restored big hitters Kevin De Bruyne, John Stones, Rúben Dias and Rodri to Manchester City’s starting XI. Meanwhile, most noticeably for the Red Devils, top-scorer Marcus Rashford started in place of the injury-stricken Anthony Martial.

MUN: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Lindelöf, Shaw; Casemiro, Fred; Eriksen, Fernandes, Sancho; Rashford

MCI: Ortega; Walker, Dias, Akanji; Stones, Rodri; Silva, De Bruyne, Gündoğan, Grealish, Haaland

Making their first final appearance in England’s oldest and most historical competition in four years, Manchester City wasted no time in making up for their prolonged absence, as İlkay Gündoğan sensationally volleyed Kevin De Bruyne’s flick-on past David de Gea after only 12 seconds to become the fastest-ever goalscorer in a FA Cup final – beating Louis Saha’s record of netting for Everton against Chelsea after 25 seconds in 2009.

A persistent visitor to referee’s shirt pockets since his arrival to Manchester from Madrid in August, the tough-tackling Casemiro was left breathing a huge sigh of relief shortly before the quarter-hour mark, as Paul Tierney surprisingly decided to take no action against the midfield maestro despite it appearing he had stamped on Manuel Akanji’s ankle.

Fast forward to the 29th minute, and Tierney was again the centre of the attention, as the man in the middle at Wembley Stadium brought play back, via the assistance of VAR, to award Manchester United a penalty after consulting his on-field monitor to witness Jack Grealish handling the ball in the area. Ever-so reliable from 12-yards out, Red Devils captain Bruno Fernandes casually strode up to the spot, sending Citizens’ deputising FA Cup goalkeeper Stefan Ortega the wrong way to level up proceedings. With the momentum now in their sails, United should have been ahead with two minutes left of regular time in the first half, but Raphaël Varane could only disappointingly fire his spontaneous effort from inside the area high into the stand behind the goal.

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Possessing an unblemished record under Pep Guardiola in domestic English final appearances, City restored their lead with only six minutes gone in the second half, as in a carbon copy of the game’s opening goal, Gündoğan again volleyed, this time off his shin, the ball past De Gea – courtesy of another De Bruyne’s assist. Determined to get his name onto the scoresheet, the talismanic midfielder came close in the 62nd minute, nonetheless, this time, De Gea stood tall to deny the Belgian from all but securing his side’s journey up the Wembley steps to subsequently lifting the 2022/23 FA Cup.

Keen on taking the match-day ball home with him, Gündoğan thought he had achieved that prestigious accolade in the 71st minute, however, the offside flag crucially brought a premature end to the Citizens’ captain celebrations, ruling he had strayed marginally ahead of the last defender prior to slotting the rebound from Erling Haaland’s effort into an unexposed net. 

Late drama was to ensue as Ortega instinctively rushed off his goalline to deflect substitute Scott McTominay’s close-range strike onto the crossbar, before the follow-up effort landed agonisingly on the top of the net, as Manchester City survived, to subsequently remain on course to complete the same treble – Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League – that incidentally United lifted in the 1998/99 campaign. Meanwhile, Manchester United will have to wait at least another year to complete the FA Cup and League Cup double within the same season for the first time in the club’s 145-year history.

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