Chelsea’s love affair with the FA Cup and Wembley Stadium came to an abrupt halt as Manchester City march on to the Final.
Two goals by City put them in a commanding position, but Chelsea’s FA Cup top scorer Demba Ba pulled one back as the West Londoners surged. Chris Foy denied Chelsea two penalties and failed to send Sergio Aguero off as time wore on and City booked another Wembley date for next month.
It was the first time Chelsea have been defeated in a FA Cup match in 30 attempts, excluding penalty shootouts. That long run has lived strong through six Chelsea managers, from Scolari to Di Matteo, but Benitez could not help Chelsea through a strong Manchester City side.
The Citizens are, in fact, yet to concede thus far in the FA Cup 2013 campaign, and it was no surprise therefore that Mancini kept his faith in Pantilimon.
It was Cech who was the busiest keeper, though, in the opening stages. The Blues have played 15 more matches than their rivals this term, and the lethargic side got the better of them as City dictated the early passages thanks to the Argentinian double of Aguero and Tevez. Ivanovic and Bertrand were there to make the necessary blocks.
As the game developed, it was to unravel into an absolute spectacle. A long-range volley hit into the ground looped goalwards and needed clearing off the line by Kompany, but City were resolute.
Chelsea were less so, and Nasri’s opening goal was indicative of such. Weaving inside the box, the Frenchman looked to make one extra pass to Aguero, but his luck was in as Azpilicueta’s block presented the chance back to the former Arsenal man, and he rifled home for 1-0.
Chelsea have won each of their last eight FA Cup matches played at Wembley Stadium, but Mr Wembley, Didier Drogba, is no more. The side that had lifted the trophy four times in the last six years looked dramatically different, especially with Terry and Lampard benched.
It ought to have been two from a Chelsea free-kick. Manchester City counter-attacked and were four-on-two, but Vincent Kompany perhaps was the lesser of the preferred men given Aguero’s presence, and Chelsea were just the one behind, thankfully, going into the break.
That changed straight after the restart. City had taken their time in getting out from their half-time team-talk, but whatever took them so long brought the next goal. Barry’s cross found Aguero, who drifted into space between Ivanovic and Azpilicueta, to knock home number two.
It was case of 2011 winners City versus 2012 winners Chelsea, and the current holders needed to show more fight.
That was shown as soon as Torres entered the fray. His added presence gave the City back-line one more to think about, and Ba was free to acrobatically pull one back. It was a staggering goal, of similar magnitude to his United one in the previous round, and similarly precious.
After that, it was all Chelsea. Mata was brought down by Pantilimon, but Foy reckoned the ball was gotten first. Luiz dipped in a free-kick that went narrowly wide, whilst Torres was proving to be a handful, heading goalwards and also getting in for the equaliser, but Foy failed to spot Kompany nearly rip his shirt off.
Aguero ought to have been sent off for a two-footed challenge on Luiz’s behind, but Foy once again failed to stamp down his authority.
Lescott and Garcia had come on for Nasri and Tevez as City ran down the clock and now will face Wigan in the Final.