Riyad Mahrez scored the first FA Cup semi-final hat-trick since 1958 to fire Manchester City through to the final at the expense of Sheffield United.
The Blades defended admirably in the first half but were undone by a penalty from Mahrez shortly before the break, after which the Algerian bagged two more in a much-improved City performance.
It could have all started so differently, however, as the first chance fell to the Blades 90 seconds in. Iliman Ndiaye found a yard of space close to City’s goal, but his off-balance effort was right at the grateful Stefan Ortega.
City themselves had to wait a comparative eternity for their first chance. Erling Haaland drilled into the bottom corner from range 15 minutes in but the whistle had been blown before he struck the ball for a foul.
Mahrez’s curling effort later drifted wide of the post, before United stopper Wes Foderingham had to tip a strike from Julian Alvarez past the frame of the goal, adding to City’s growing frustration.
With five minutes to go in the first half, City got the break they needed as Daniel Jebbison tripped Bernardo Silva in the box, and Mahrez made no mistake from 12 yards as he bent his effort into the bottom corner.
The extra freedom made a major difference after the break as City began to exert their dominance, and Mahrez slotted home an excellent solo effort on the hour mark to give some extra breathing room.
Five minutes later and Mahrez was celebrating his hat-trick. Jack Grealish’s cut-back found the Algerian and his first-time effort drifted perfectly into the bottom corner.
With the game all but done, a wave of substitutions saw the tempo of the game drop off, allowing City to cruise to victory.
GK: Stefan Ortega – 6/10 – Did well to deny Ndiaye early on but was otherwise a spectator.
CB: Kyle Walker – 6/10 – A poor first half going forwards but the Sheffield native benefited from the extra space in the second half.
CB: Manuel Akanji – 7/10 – Powerful and alert to Sheffield United’s attempted breaks. One of his better games in the past few weeks.
CB: Aymeric Laporte – 6/10 – A little shaky in the first half but calmed himself down after the break.
DM: Ilkay Gundogan – 7/10 – Pulled the strings from the base of City’s midfield. Constantly passed the ball around looking to stretch United’s defence.
RM: Bernardo Silva – 7/10 – Could see his frustration building as City struggled to break United down, but he went on to win the penalty to open the scoring.
LM: Sergio Gomez – 6/10 – A noticeable weak link in City’s midfield in the first half, but the extra space after the penalty helped him grow into the game.
AM: Julian Alvarez – 6/10 – A real threat with his shooting and the tempo of his pressing caused countless issues.
RW: Riyad Mahrez – 9/10 – The top performer in an ugly first half, Mahrez blew United away after the break by completing his famous hat-trick.
ST: Erling Haaland – 5/10 – Barely touched the ball as United worked to mark him out of the game.
LW: Jack Grealish – 7/10 – Caused problems regularly and his cut-back for Mahrez was perfect.
Cole Palmer (68′ for Grealish) – 6/10
Phil Foden (68′ for Haaland) – 6/10
Kalvin Phillips (75′ for Gundogan) – 6/10
Rico Lewis (82′ for Silva) – N/A
Pep Guardiola – 6/10 – Not City’s cleanest performance but the biggest positive from Guardiola was keeping a number of his big names fresh for the Arsenal game.
GK: Wes Foderingham – 5/10 – Made a handful of decent saves to ensure City couldn’t run away with proceedings.
CB: Anel Ahmedhodzic – 5/10 – Stubborn defending in the first half but City’s extra swagger proved far too much for him.
CB: John Egan – 6/10 – Enjoyed his battle with Haaland. Didn’t give the City striker any room to breathe.
CB: Jack Robinson – 5/10 – Part of an organised back-line in the first half but lost his grip on Mahrez after the break.
RM: George Baldock – 5/10 – Defended resolutely up against Grealish.
CM: Sander Berge – 6/10 – His physicality in midfield proved a problem for City. Happy to add to the number of bodies behind the ball.
CM: Oliver Norwood – 7/10 – An absolute pest. Did whatever he needed to do to disrupt City’s flow and was clearly having the time of his life doing so.
CM: John Fleck – 5/10 – Didn’t offer a whole lot aside from being another body to get in City’s way.
LM: Max Lowe – 5/10 – Had a tricky time dealing with Mahrez.
ST: Daniel Jebbison – 5/10 – A solid performance from the youngster which was tainted by the moment of madness to concede the penalty.
ST: Iliman Ndiaye – 5/10 – Missed the early chance and was predictably isolated afterwards.
Oli McBurnie (58′ for Jebbison) – 5/10
Billy Sharp (68′ for Fleck) – 5/10
Chris Basham (75′ for Ahmedhodzic) – 5/10
Ismaila Coulibaly (75′ for Berge) – 5/10
Jayden Bogle (75′ for Baldock) – 5/10
Paul Heckingbottom – 6/10 – Got everything perfect in the first half but the penalty ruined his game plan. Was no match for City in the second half but deserves credit for trying to go for a comeback win.