Fan favourite Zabaleta puts City through
By Aaron Leggott
After grabbing his third goal of the season at the Britannia Stadium yesterday, Pablo Zabaleta once again staked his claim as one of the greatest model professionals in the world at the moment. And this just isn't the opinion of Manchester City fans.
|Zabaleta celebrates after grabbing the winner against Stoke|
Photo: Christopher Lee/Getty Images Europe
Ian Ladyman, Northern Football Correspondent at the Daily Mail, was quick to praise the Argentinian full back with the following tweet:
"I'm supposed to be neutral but Pablo Zabaleta is a wonderful man and a very valuable footballer."
And Ladyman wasn't the only one. On the ITV FA Cup highlights show last night, both Clarke Carlisle and Gordon Strachan agreed with the sentiments of presenter Matt Smith, who said that every manager would love a team of Zabaleta's.
Despite the 28 year old not being the most gifted full back in world football, he will always give his team 100% when picked, and that is one of the greatest traits that a footballer could possibly have.
There is a feeling amongst many pundits and spectators that Zabaleta truly does play for the fans, and it would be hard to disagree with them. His goal, which gave City their first win at the Britannia since 1999, was the only finish in a display which saw City deservedly go into the draw for the 5th Round of the FA Cup.
However, victory came at a cost for manager Roberto Mancini, who saw captain Vincent Kompany limp off injured, but early signs show that it isn't too serious as first thought.
The home side's performance, both on and off the pitch was lethargic. With only 15,000 Stoke fans deciding to turn up, it was no surprise that their team barely showed up either.
Despite having a goal disallowed, the Potters rarely threatened to test reserve goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon, who kept his second consecutive clean sheet after preventing Watford scoring in the previous round. City, on the other hand, looked determined and in control from kick off. David Silva was unlucky to hit the post midway through the first half, whilst Stoke City were fortunate not to be down to ten men after Glenn Whelan's two footed lunge on Javi Garcia.
Although the Blues started off brightly, the determined performance by Stoke's ten man defence meant it was becoming increasingly difficult to find a way past Thomas Sorensen. Mancini decided to bring on Sergio Aguero in an attempt to break the deadlock, and his ability was giving Ryan Shotton a number of problems, forcing Tony Pulis to switch the full backs around.
But it was to be Zabaleta who found the spotlight, as he finished off a move which was started by none other than himself. With a neat counter attack, Aguero crossed the ball in for Dzeko's, whose unintentional touch fell perfectly into the path of Zabaleta, who slotted the ball past Sorensen to delight the City fans behind that goal.
It topped off a rather miserable month for Stoke City, but the visitors were continuing to impress after making it five wins out of five in 2013, without a goal conceded.
Below is a video of goalscorer Zabaleta speaking after the game: