- Daniel Gallagher-Parker
Review and Player Ratings as Mahrez treble fires City to FA Cup final – Man City 3-0 Sheffield Utd
Manchester City progressed to their second FA Cup final in four years, with Riyad Mahrez's hour of magic too much to handle for Sheffield United as he became the first player to score an FA Cup semi-final hat trick since 1958 to hand Pep Guardiola's side a 3-0 win.
This was City's fifth FA Cup semi-final in as many seasons and their sixth since Guardiola took over - with the only season they didn't make it to Wembley being the 17/18 campaign. However, the club have only made it past this stage once under the Catalan, where they went on to win the competition with a 6-0 win over Watford in what was Vincent Kompany's last game for City.
John Stones, Ruben Dias, Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri were all handed a well-deserved rest as they started and remained on the bench, whilst Nathan Ake remains sidelined through injury; Stefan Ortega, Kyle Walker, Sergio Gomez, Aymeric Laporte, Julian Alvarez and Mahrez were the six changes to the starting XI in Munich.
Ortega was called upon almost immediately as Sheffield United had the first chance of the game inside 90 seconds. The Championship side came out of the blocks fast as they won a corner which Iliman Ndiaye nearly converted from, but the City goalkeeper was equal to the task.
After the early scare, the Blues dominated possession for the opening quarter of an hour, but they couldn't find any sort of opening. Erling Haaland thought he had scored one of his goals of the season as he let fly from 40 yards; it nestled into the bottom right corner – the referee had, however, already blown his whistle for a foul committed by the Norwegian just seconds before.
Mahrez was the next City player to try his best from outside the box, but after cutting inside, his left-footed attempt to curl into the far corner was wide of the mark.
City were beginning to click as this time it was Alvarez who tested Wes Foderingham and forced his first save of the game. The Argentine cut in from the left and tried to curl one into the far right corner, but the Sheffield United goalkeeper tipped it around the post for a corner.
The first half was an incredible defensive display by the Blades as they restricted City to a handful of chances from outside the box until Daniel Jefferson's attempted clearance resulted in him fouling Bernardo Silva for a penalty.
Despite Haaland being on the pitch, Mahrez was the man to take the penalty, and he executed it brilliantly into the bottom right corner to give the six-time FA Cup winners the lead as five minutes of the first half remained.
It was more of the same in the first 15 minutes of the second half, Sheffield United sat back and let City have the ball, and once again, Guardiola's side struggled to create any clear-cut chances. Haaland attempted to latch onto Gomez's blocked effort, but the angle was too tight for the centre forward.
Right on the hour mark, Mahrez dribbled right through the heart of Sheffield United's defence, from the halfway line, with no one wanting to engage with the Algerian who slotted the ball into the same side of the net where he scored his first goal of the game.
The chance came so easy to City's winger because the defence didn't know what was more dangerous, leaving one of Haaland or Alvarez unmarked or letting Mahrez have a straight run on goal – it's hard to argue there was a correct option in that situation, to be honest.
Just five minutes later, Mahrez created history as he scored the first FA Cup semi-final hat trick since Mick Conroy did so for the red side of Manchester in 1958. Jack Grealish provided a beautiful assist for an equally beautiful goal.
City's #26 was patiently waiting for the Englishman to pick him out so he could place it once again into the bottom right corner, this time on the volley from just above the penalty spot before he wheeled away in celebration.
Mahrez also became the first City player to score a hat trick at Wembley.
An all-around stunning hat trick by Mahrez, who does usually step it up a notch towards the back end of seasons, so this performance will not have come as a surprise to City fans.
After that, neither side really threatened either goalkeeper. Second-half substitute Phil Foden combined brilliantly with Alvarez, but the Argentine dragged his weak-footed effort just wide of the mark in the 90th minute.
Some smart play from Cole Palmer, who was impressive in the 30 minutes he played, resulted in a teasing ball being played across the goal, but his fellow academy graduate in Foden couldn't quite reach the ball to tap it in.
Even though Guardiola is not entertaining a treble just yet, surely, with his side having progressed to the final, and a huge game coming up against Arsenal next week, it's hard to ignore such prospects for much longer.
The important fixtures never end for Guardiola's side as they head back to Manchester and look to take a huge leap towards the Premier League title. The Blues host Mikel Arteta's Arsenal on Wednesday 26th April, live on BT Sport in the United Kingdom at 20:00 BST.
Man of the Match
The Man of the Match award for today could only ever be going to one man: Riyad Mahrez. The 32-year-old put on one of the displays of the season as he produced two sensational goals and one amazingly taken penalty.
ITV's commentators were keen to note that Mahrez frequently opted against using Walker as an outlet on the overlap, but when you have such ability to win a game on your own, who needs a fullback?
The City forward hasn't been on the team sheet in his side's biggest games recently, but he sure showed Guardiola why he could be.
Ortega - 7
Walker - 6.5
Akanji - 7
Laporte - 7
Gomez - 6.5
Gundogan - 7
Bernardo Silva - 7.5
Mahrez - 10
Alvarez - 7.5
Grealish - 8
Haaland - 7
Substitutes: Foden - 6.5, Palmer - 7, Phillips - 6, Lewis - 6
Written by: @DanGP17_
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