Riyad Mahrez scored the first FA Cup semi-final hat-trick since 1958 as Manchester City eased into the final with a 3-0 defeat of Sheffield United.
The Algeria international put Pep Guardiola’s treble-chasing side ahead with a penalty late in the first half before striking twice more after the hour.
Championship high-flyers United failed to trouble the imperious City, who made light of their draining schedule in the week they also reached the Champions League semi-finals with a commanding performance.
It was their 11th win in 12 games and they now go into Wednesday’s crucial top-of-table Premier League clash with leaders Arsenal with considerable confidence and momentum.
The loss made for an anti-climatic end to the Blades’ superb run in the competition but their main goal of promotion back to the top-flight should soon follow.
Full report to follow
Man City 3 Sheffield Utd 0: as it happened
Pep Guardiola speaks
Excellent performance. We cannot forget that three days ago we were in Munich. It was a demanding game and it took a lot to be here.
We suffered a little bit against the long balls because they are masters at it. In the end the quality of Riyad and the rest of the guys, we did it.
The quality of Riyad we have seen for many years in this country. From his Leicester [days]. He never feels the pressure. he is ambitious to score goals.
Momentum…The question is not to be at this stage of the competition winning trophies, the value I give is where it comes from. For many years we have been fighting for titles and still we are there. In one year we can win, maybe two years but to be here for six years every year shows the mentality of the club and the players to push each other. The last player and last backroom staff help us to be here. It is an honour to be in the FA Cup final.
Here’s Mahrez’s favourite goal
Riyad Mahrez speaks
It’s very good [the hat-trick] but the most important is coming here after two or three years in the semi-final and not playing good and today we really wanted to make sure we put in a good performance and get to the final. And we did put in a good performance to get to the final.
I don’t know [which goal I liked best]. The second was good, coming from far away. But the collective performance was good. We took the game really seriously. That’s why we are good, yeah? It means a lot to be in the final. Every season with the coach and staff that we have we want to go as far as we can in every competition. Going to the final in the FA Cup is a great thing in this country.
Now we have to concentrate on the league and our next game against Arsenal.
We have a very good squad, a very good team. Everyone pushes each other and that’s the way to have success. We have to keep going like this.
Full time: Manchester City 3 Sheffield United 0
So Mahrez’s treble keeps City’s Treble dream alive. They will play Manchester United or Brighton in the FA Cup final back at Wembley on June 3.
90+3 min: Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0
City corner worked out to Palmer on the left and he flashes a cross through the six-yard box. Foden was at the back post for the pass but didn’t gamble with a slide. Palmer throws his hands to his head.
90+1 min: Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0
The first of three minutes of stoppage time begins with the announcement that Riyad Mahrez is the man of the match.
90 min: Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0
Foden feeds Alvarez, dribbling in from the right before lifting off the cloche and putting his pass on a plate to the right of the D. Alvarez drags it wide.
88 min: Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0
Walker robs Coulibaly and then barges him over but without Haaland he doesn’t cross and eventually United chase them all the way back to Ortega.
86 min: Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0
Basham knocks the ball past Laporte and runs into him. He wants a penalty, as do the Blades hordes. The referee waves all the shouts away and turns on his heel.
84 min: Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0
Billy Sharp wants a corner. But in every way, it’s not his day.
82 min: Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0
Palmer drives past Norwood to the byline much to his manager’s delight. But he can’t keep his cross in.
79 min: Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0
Lewis comes on for Bernardo. Five subs are killing games. The last 10 minutes are like shadow play with half the team not up to speed. 69,603 is the official attendance.
77 min: Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0
Coulibaly ⇢ Berge. Sheffield United switch to 4-4-2. Stuart McCall, Sheffield United coach/assistant manager, is urging his his men forward.
75 min: Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0
Sorry for the large gap between the two previous posts. My PC crashed. Didn’t miss much. The air has gone out of the Blades’ tyres. Norwood being booked for a late one to scythe down Palmer was the only notable occurrence.
74 min: Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0
Phillips ⇢ Gundogan for City and Basham ⇢ Ahmedhodzic, Bhogle ⇢ Baldock.
69 min: Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0
Well … that escalated. City subs: Foden ⇢ Grealish and Palmer ⇢ Haaland. For the Blades: Sharp ⇢ Fleck.
Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0 (Mahrez) Hat-trick! Fine run by Grealish, soft-shoe shuffling in from the left after being fed by Gomez. Grealish’s pass was on a silver platter for Mahrez who nipped ahead of Lowe as he stepped in off the right wing to thump a stinging left-foot shot that Foderingham could only parry into the bottom right corner.
That’s the first FA Cup semi-final hat-trick since the Black Prince, Alex Dawson, scored one for Manchester United’s Munich-ravaged side in 1958 against Fulham.
Man City 2 Sheff Utd 0 (Mahrez) Mahrez tackles Lowe on halfway and drives towards the box. Egan and Robinson back off, playing ‘After you, Claud’. Mahrez spins their heads as they backpedal and Haaland draws Ahmedodzic out of his way. Mahrez feints to dart to his right but carries on trough the middle, draws the keeper and slots his shot past him.
60 min: Man City 1 Sheff Utd 0
First Sheffield United substitution: McBurnie ⇢ Jebbison.
59 min: Man City 1 Sheff Utd 0
Mahrez seems to have the freedom of the right wing at the moment and, although he betrays signs of greed by not playing Walker in on the overlap, he does eventually work it to Mahrez who swivels on to his left and blazes over from 22 yards.
57 min: Man City 1 Sheff Utd 0
Haaland chases a seemingly lost cause at the back post from a left-wing cross and almost catches Robinson napping.
55 min: Man City 1 Sheff Utd 0
Mahrez sends this corner deep as well but Akanji is penalised for a shove to win the header.
54 min: Man City 1 Sheff Utd 0
Another City corner on the right as pressure starts to mount on Sheffield United. He swings it deep, beyond the box but Ndiaye gives it back to City who switch it back to the right and earn another corner off Gundogan’s shot.
52 min: Man City 1 Sheff Utd 0
City corner after a Walker shot is deflected behind. Foderingham backpedals and plucks Mahrez’s corner out of the Middlesex sky. Jebbison and Ndiaye bomb forward for the long punt but Alvarez boxes the keeper in and stops him releasing early.
50 min: Man City 1 Sheff Utd 0
Both Mahrez and Gundogan try to slalom their way through the Sheffield United box but can’t break through. the attack was sparked by a fine Akanji pass into Haaland’s feet and a bullocking run from Hotshot Hamish.
48 min: Man City 1 Sheff Utd 0
Foden and Palmer are warming up early. City are playing it out from the back and Sheffield United seem to be in two minds about whether to press or not.
46 min: Man City 1 Sheff Utd 0
City kick off in front of the ‘rattle your jewellery’ seats which are very sparsely populaeed now.
Half-time: Man City 1 Sheff Utd 0
Bold strategy from Sheffield United with and without the ball but they have been undone by a rather reckless swipe by Jebbison, ‘a centre-forward’s tackle’. Prior to that City huffed and puffed but had found a house of Sheffield steel rather than straw and wood and United were dangerous on the break. But City always seem to have another gear.
45 min: Man City 1 Sheff Utd 0
We’re going to have two minutes of stoppage time.
43 min: Man City 1 Sheff Utd 0
Hard to tell whether Jebbison actually brushed the ball with his toe before swiping Bernardo’s legs away. Hence not a clear and obvious error and VAR keeps his beak out. One replay suggested there was a touch, another that there wasn’t.
Man City 1 Sheffield United 0 (Mahrez, pen). Buried unstoppably into the bottom right.
42 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
Bernardo goes down after Jebbison hooks his leg round him and catches him after defending a free-kick on the right. VAR agrees with the ref that Jebbison didn’t first touch the ball.
40 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
City penalty? VAR check?
38 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
Alvarez tries to dribble down the inside-left channel but United have so many players back, two banks of five when they don’t have the ball, that he gets lassooed in congestion. Sheffield United’s tactics without the ball are smothering City so far. The champions are trying to make the pitch as big as possible with both Mahrez and Grealish ploughing the whitewashed furrows. But they can’t find any space in the middle.
36 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
A might Steel City roar when United break up the left and have an overload but Ndiaye is hunted down by Walker and can’t force the shot past the full-back.
34 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
Haaland rises to meet the corner but was so well marked he couldn’t get a run at it so he imparts more vertical distance on it than horizontal. Jebbison lashes it clear when it dropped.
32 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
City are dominant now and Walker joins in on a raid down the right but shrugs that he ha no passing options after firing a cross into a packed penalty box that hit a black-socked shin and cannoned out for a corner.
30 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
Baldock crashes into Gomez after the City left-back had released his back-pass. He sends him flying. A veritable freebie.
28 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
City break at speed down the right and pierce the United midfield. But Robinson hurls himself in front of Bernardo’s cross and concedes a corner. Foderingham flaps at the corner but his defenders bail him out.
26 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
Robinson is penalised for wrapping his leg round Bernardo Silva to stop him effecting a one-two with Mahrez down the City right. Free-kick parallel with the 18-yard line. Mahrez whips a cross/shot towards the back post and Norwood heads it behind.
24 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
City corner after Grealish mirrors Mahrez by cutting in from the left with a right-foot bender. This one was bothering the goal far more and Foderingham and his defence see it behind for a corner that United defend well.
22 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
Mahrez cuts in from the right on to his left as we have seen him do umpteen times. He wraps his instep around a shot, aiming for the bottom left corner but can’t find enough curl to turn in towards goal
22 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
Alvarez darts between Lowe and Robinson and into the box on the City right but gets the ball stuck under his feet and them moves it too far ahead of himself when he eventually digs it out.
20 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
18 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
Robinson saves the day for Sheffield United with a good defensive header, having tracked Alvarez’s run down the inside right. The World Cup winner is dovetailing well with Haaland.
16 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
Berge diddles Gomez on the right and crosses. No near-post run though and City scramble it away to their right. Robinson, cutting in off the left flank, shoots tamely.
13 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
Haaland hammers a shit from 40 yards into the bottom left corner of the goal, a second after the referee had blown his whistle for a foul. Foderingham must have heard the whistle as he didn’t dive. Sweet strike, though.
11 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
Grealish, Alvarez and Gomez work a triangle on the left for the left-back to get round the back and flash over a cross that Ahmedhodzic heads behind for a corner. Mahrez fires the outswinger long for Haaland but Egan got in front of him to head behind for another which the Blades defend solidly again, this time at the price of a corner.
9 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
City have been disjointed so far but are beginning to find some poise.
7 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
Another chance for Nidaye from another ball over the top from Foderingham and a heading battle won. It’s difficult, he has to hit it on the half-volley from the right of the box as it dipped over his shoulder but he can’t connect truly and drags it wide. Akanji did well to get very tight to him to stop him making the right contact.
5 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
That ball over City’s high line is a productive tactic. Always hard to tell how full Wembley is because the plutocrats’ setas, opposite the camera, are often sparsely filled … as they are today.
3 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
Baldock flies down the right on to ball clipped over the top and gets to the byline. He tries to centre but Laporte is back to block it out for a corner.
Norwood bends in the inswinging corner. Egan flicks it on and it lands at Ndiaye’s feet six yards out. But he takes a touch with his left and then fires a shot straight at Ortega. Had he hit it first time with his left, Ortega would not have had time to scramble to his right.
1 min: Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
United kick off, overloading on the right. They play it back to Ahmedhodzic who launches it up the wing. Gomez heads it clear.
Out come the sides
Man City in light blue, white and light blue, Sheffield Unitd, Kyle Walker’s boyhood Blades, in red and white stripes, black shorts and socks. The ITV director cuts to a commercial before they reach the field.
Sheffield United fans belt out the Greasy Chip Butty song
As the teams assemble in the tunnel.
Pep Guardiola speaks
It is the fourth time in a row we are here. We have lost the previous three but hopefully we can perform well today and reach the final. This is a special day at Wembley for supporters of both teams, a beautiful sunny day.
Sheffield United have the same style they had in the Premier League with Chris Wilder. They are really good. They’re a Premier League team, almost ready.
Sheffield United unable to field two City loanees
Tommy Doyle and James McAtee have to sit this one out against their parent club.
Your teams in black and white
Man City Ortega; Walker, Akanji, Laporte, Gomez; Gundogan, Bernardo Silva; Mahrez, Alvarez, Grealish; Haaland.
Substitutes Ederson, Dias, Phillips, Stones, Rodri, De Bruyne, Foden, Palmer, Lewis.
Sheff Utd Foderingham; Ahmedhodzic, Egan, Robinson; Baldock; Berge, Norwood, Fleck, Lowe; Jebbison, Ndiaye.
Substitutes Davies, Basham, McBurnie, Sharp, Coulibaly, Bogle, Clark, Arblaster, Brooks.
Referee Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire).
This is a nice story: ‘Bowler hats, sandwiches and a flask of tea – my memories of 1932 FA Cup final’
By Tony Bugby
Roy Ashton has just turned 100 and, ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final, he has a message for his beloved Sheffield United: “Win it for my birthday.”
Roy, a season-ticket holder at Bramall Lane, believes the Blades can pull off one of the greatest cup shocks by beating Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering side on Saturday at Wembley.
He is not going on Saturday but is certain he will get the chance to watch United in the final come May. “When we win, and we shall win, I would love to be there for the final. United is my team and I’m going to be backing them all the way,” he says.
Roy was taken to Bramall Lane for the first time 96 years ago, aged just four, and was at Wembley in 1936 when the Blades reached the last of their six finals – a 1-0 defeat by Arsenal.
He was 13 years of age when his father John took him to the match, his first-ever trip to London, a day he can still vividly remember.
“I can still picture it now, being on the train going down to the game, like it was yesterday,” he said.
“There were two tables of four and I was by the window sitting next to dad. Across the aisle, some chaps were playing Pontoon and before we arrived at our destination, one of them gave up the game because he said he’d lost too much money so dad joined in.
“He did really well and towards the end of the journey was sharing the winnings with one of their group. The man asked if they wanted to cut for the whole lot and dad ended up winning enough to cover the price of our fares and entrance.”
Roy and his dad went on a special train which took them direct to Wembley. “We walked from home to the London Midland Station, as it used to be called, and when we got there, we just wandered around and took everything in before going into the ground,” Roy continues.
“Because Arsenal played in the same colours as us, it was just a sea of red and white. Like a kingdom of people from Sheffield. All the scarfs and bowler hats. I’d never been to London before, and we took a flask of tea and sandwiches with us.”
Roy celebrated his 100th birthday two days before the Good Friday home game against Wigan Athletic when he was taken on to the pitch and presented with a special shirt to mark the landmark by Chris Basham, his favourite current player.
He cites Jimmy Hagan as the best-ever Blades’ player he has seen closely followed by Tony Currie, another club legend.
Roy, who served in the 56th Division during WWII and was posted to Egypt, Palestine and Italy and had one lucky escape.
“There was one time when we were in the back of a truck and we started being shelled as we moved up the country,” he explained.
“I jumped out of the back and laid down near one of the wheels. A bullet went through the tyre, and I’ve thought from that moment that someone is looking over me.”
Roy, who worked in the motor spares trade, added he is most proud that his son and daughter, five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren have all followed in his footsteps in supporting the Blades.
Paul Heckingbottom’s starting XI
City make six changes
🔵 𝗧𝗘𝗔𝗠𝙉𝙀𝙒𝙎 ⚔️
XI | Ortega Moreno, Walker, Akanji, Laporte, Gomez, Gundogan (C), Bernardo, Mahrez, Alvarez, Grealish, Haaland
SUBS | Ederson, Dias, Phillips, Stones, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Foden, Palmer, Lewis#ManCity | @HaysWorldwide pic.twitter.com/qUVG87hbje
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 22, 2023
‘No one else on the planet thinks we can win’
By James Ducker
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom has claimed “no one else on the planet” expects his side to be able to beat Manchester City in their FA Cup semi-final on Saturday.
The Blades, who confirmed on Thursday that their transfer embargo from the EFL had been lifted, are bidding to pull off a huge upset against Pep Guardiola’s team at Wembley.
Heckingbottom’s side can secure their promotion to the Premier League with victory against West Bromwich Albion at Bramall Lane on Wednesday and the manager hopes the club will also have a first Cup final since 1936 to look forward to.
“Looking at the odds, there is probably no one else on the planet thinking we’ll be in the final, but that’s not to say we can’t do it,” Heckingbottom said. “We have to approach the game in that way and with the intention of causing an upset.
“This season so far has been great, the position we are in in the league, the FA Cup semi-final, it could end up being a really memorable season in this club’s history, but we have to achieve something for that.
“To do that in the FA Cup, we have to get past one of the best teams on the planet. It’s the most intense test you can probably have in world football. You could ask Bayern Munich and they’d probably say the same.”
City overcame Bayern on Wednesday to set up a second successive Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid and can boost their hopes of a fifth Premier League title in six seasons by beating leaders Arsenal at the Etihad on Wednesday.
Guardiola’s team are aiming to become only the second club in English football history, after Manchester United, to win the treble, and Heckingbottom is relishing the prospect of watching his side take on supreme opposition.
“We know who we are playing, we know their calibre of player and we need them to have an off day and us to be at our very, very best game,” he said.
“This is the calibre of player we want to play against every week so it’s pointless hiding away from it and being scared of it. If we achieve promotion this season then that’s where we’re at, that’s the level so let’s go and see what the standard really is.
“There’s no getting away that City are the very best. It’s a case of measuring us against that and not shying away from the fact that these are the players you want to be playing against all the time.”
Heckingbottom is wary of the threat posed by City’s 48-goal striker Erling Haaland but says they are asking for trouble if they train all their focus on the Norwegian.
“I don’t think you can ignore him because he’s that dangerous but he relies on others to supply him because of his game so there will be certain spaces you have to defend differently when he’s in the team, whether that’s space in behind or when the ball is wide,” he said.
“But if we solely focus on that there will be other areas that hurt us. You can overcomplicate it. We know how we play and want to deal with that threat. It’s an extra special test but we’ve got players who have faced City before and there have been some strong performances.
“Lots of teams have played City in totally different ways. We have to make sure we do it in our way, with the ball and without the ball.
“We have been really clear and disciplined about when and where we go after the ball and how we do it. But also what we do when that goes wrong.”