Manchester City to Meet United in F.A. Cup; Stoke Plays Bolton

Manchester City will play local rival Manchester United in the F.A. Cup semifinals after a 1-0 win over Reading yesterday. Stoke City defeated West Ham 2-1 to set up a game with Bolton.

Fullback Micah Richards gave City its win at Eastlands as the club seeks to win the competition for a first time since

1969. Stoke last reached the final four in 1972.

Robert Huth and Danny Higginbotham scored for the Potters at the Britannia Stadium, with Frederic Piquionne getting a goal for West Ham.

“It’s a fantastic achievement,” Stoke manager Tony Pulis told reporters. “We’ve got tremendous character and spirit and that was evident again.”

Both semifinals will be held at Wembley Stadium in London on April 16/17.

Pulis’s team had chances to take the lead in the opening minutes, including a header from ex-Hammer Matthew Etherington that forced goalkeeper Robert Green to make a diving save.

Stoke was ahead after 12 minutes as the visitors struggled to defend against a long throw by Rory Delap. Huth arrived unmarked to head the ball into the net from six yards.

The Hammers were struggling to create chances, but did tie the game in the 30th minute. Thomas Hitzlsperger lifted a pass over Stoke’s defense for Piquionne, who lobbed over Thomas Sorensen.

Piquionne, who was injured in scoring the goal and had to be substituted, appeared on TV replays to have used his upper arm to control the ball.

Penalty Save

Stoke had an opportunity to re-establish its lead in the opening minute of the second half. Etherington fell in the penalty area, although replays showed little contact by Scott Parker, and referee Mike Jones awarded a spotkick. The winger’s penalty was saved by Green.

Higginbotham fired in from a 20-yard free kick after 63 minutes, with Green only able to push the ball against a post then into the net.

Victor Obinna and Robbie Keane had shots saved by Sorensen as West Ham looked for an equalizer, while Matthew Upson headed against the bar.

Four-time champion City faces 11-time winner United as it attempts to win a first major trophy since the League Cup in

1976. It overcame Reading, which plays in the second-tier Championship, on a 74th-minute header from Richards.

The goal came from a David Silva corner, with Richards firing his header past goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to settle the match.

“It was very difficult,” Richards told ESPN. “As the game went on it got harder and harder. Reading defended very well.”

Two days ago, United beat Arsenal 2-0, and Bolton defeated Birmingham 3-2.

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