LONDON - Manchester City reached the FA Cup final by beating defending champion Chelsea 2-1 in a free-flowing game at Wembley on Sunday to maintain its only remaining hope for a trophy this season.
City dominated much of the first hour and went 2-0 up through goals by Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero, before Demba Ba pulled Chelsea back into the game with an acrobatic finish in the 66th.
That led to a nervous finish for City, but Ba wasted his team's best chance to equalize when he fired straight at goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon from close range minutes later. Chelsea then appealed for a penalty after Vincent Kompany's challenge on Fernando Torres in the area, arguing that the City defender had pulled his shirt, but referee Chris Foy waved it off.
Chelsea had even stronger appeals for a red card when Aguero tangled with David Luiz and delivered an ugly two-footed stamp into the back of his opponent's thighs as he fell to the ground in the 85th, but Foy missed the incident.
City will be a huge favourite in the final against Wigan, which beat Millwall 2-0 on Saturday, as manager Roberto Mancini looks to win the competition for the second time in three years. Chelsea beat Liverpool in last year's final but interim manager Rafa Benitez's only hope for a trophy is now in the Europa League, where it has reached the semifinals.
"It is another great day for the club," said Kompany, whose team is 15 points behind Manchester United in the Premier League and has given up hopes of defending that title. "We never doubted the fact that we wanted to win trophies. This was an important game and it will be an even more important game in the final against Wigan. That is what we are looking forward to now."
A day after Wigan's victory was marred by Millwall fans fighting in the stands at Wembley, City and Chelsea combined to put the focus firmly back on football as they produced an entertaining end-to-end game played at a relentless pace.
City dominated the first 20 minutes as Yaya Toure's surging runs repeatedly caused problems for Chelsea, although Aguero and Carlos Tevez both failed to test Petr Cech with shots from tight angles.
Chelsea's first chance came in the 23rd, when an inswinging free kick was only cleared out to Eden Hazard, whose bouncing shot from outside the area went over Pantilimon but was cleared off the line by Kompany. Mancini maintained his policy of playing Pantilimon in the cup competition, with Joe Hart on the bench.
The opening goal in the 35th was set up by another run by Toure, who found Aguero free in the area. The Argentine laid off to Nasri, who tried to play a 1-2 with Aguero, only for the ball to ricochet back to the Frenchman off Cesar Azpilicueta and he calmly slotted it past Cech.
Chelsea nearly replied immediately when Oscar laid the ball off to Juan Mata, but his shot from the edge of the area sailed just wide.
City could easily have been ahead by a bigger margin at the break, as James Milner's shot in the 39th beat Cech but was inadvertently blocked by Aguero. Kompany then fired wide in first-half injury time after Milner's poor cross on a counterattack was pushed out to him by Cech.
A lot of fans were still making their way back to their seats after the halftime break when Barry sent a cross into the area and Aguero rose to send a looping header in off the post.
Chelsea looked unlikely to find a way back, but Ba's brilliant finish gave the team renewed hopes. Just seconds after manager Rafa Benitez put on Fernando Torres as an extra attacking threat, Ba met a high bouncing ball in the area and turned in the air to slot the ball past the diving Pantilimon.
He nearly scored a second moments later after Eden Hazard chased down the ball by the byline and fired a cross in toward Ba, but Pantilimon was able to block the effort.
Toure nearly made it 3-1 in the 80th when he held off two defenders to break into the area, but fired wide as he lost his balance.
Hazard had one final chance for Chelsea, but blasted a shot high from distance in the third minute of injury time.
"I'm disappointed because we could have scored another goal, we had one or two clear chances," Benitez said. "The main one is the penalty not given. The consequences could have been a red card and a goal for us, and it could have changed the game."