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[GOALS HIGHLIGHT] Early Strike Sends Man City to Emirate FA Cup final

Posted By:  on  April 6, 2019

Be it one trophy, four trophies or anything in between, the extent of Manchester City’s success this season hangs on the individuals.

[GOALS HIGHLIGHT] Early Strike Sends Man City to Emirate FA Cup final

Pep Guardiola said as much in the build-up to this FA Cup semi-final victory, claiming their final run of games – as City chase historic glory – hinge on his big players standing tall.

He wants them to grab hold of responsibility, to make sure that even on days like this, when Brighton threatened to derail the Quadruple, City somehow manage to edge through.

Aymeric Laporte stood up when it mattered, hooking off his own line shortly after half-time. So too did Kevin De Bruyne with his wicked no-look cross to set up the opener.

Yet there was also Kyle Walker, who could really have cost them a place in next month’s final. Riled following a naughty challenge by Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Walker pushed his head towards the Brighton winger.

It was not malicious, and probably did not constitute a headbutt per se, but that is not quite the point here. Walker’s reaction was silly, petulant, stupid. Or all of the above, whichever way you wish to label it.

On another day, with another VAR official, he might have seen red more than 10 minutes before half-time. Many would have agreed had Paul Tierney decided that was justifiable punishment for the handbags. As it was, Tierney advised referee Anthony Taylor to continue as normal.

As it always seems to, VAR took a while to reach a definitive decision. City would have had to defend that one-goal lead a great deal longer, two-thirds of this match, had it gone the other way.

Walker was substituted at half-time due to a hamstring problem, but could have received his marching orders prior to that.

It is not the first time Walker has been involved in a heated moment over the last month, either. Guardiola had to resort to dragging the right back away from a confrontation with Bournemouth’s Josh King during the slender 1-0 win down at the Vitality Stadium on March 2.

Again, that game was finely balanced at the time. Again, things could have ended differently for Walker.

Injured or not, it was proven correct. Would Walker react like that again? This is what makes City’s final few weeks of the season so fascinating. One slip or one ill-judged reaction could well bring the whole pursuit for complete perfection crashing down in an instant.

Heads need to be clear – clinical, almost – and the majority of those fielded against Brighton displayed that quality. Walker’s indiscretion demonstrates just how much of a knife-edge this season is on for both City and those around them.

That was evidenced by Guardiola’s crazed celebrations towards his own bench when Bernardo Silva won possession in stoppage time when Brighton looked like forcing an equaliser.

So far so good though, despite all that. Another final, their first in this competition since 2013. The domestic cup Double is now that bit closer before they even start thinking about the rest.

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