In Pictures: Manchester City 3 Arsenal 0
Published 03/12/2009 | 00:00
Manchester City reached their first cup semi-final since 1981 after humbling Arsenal's youngsters in a decisive victory at Eastlands.
Carlos Tevez, man-of-the-match Shaun Wright-Phillips and youngster Vladimir Weiss did the damage, sending the Blues over the moon and into Carling Cup orbit, with genuine hopes of emulating their Wembley triumph in this competition under Tony Book in 1976.
At the same time, Arsene Wenger was left staring at the wreckage of a wretched week which may beg the question of whether his grand plan is that grand after all.
Twelve months ago, at exactly the same stage of the competition, Tevez scored four times as Manchester United romped past Blackburn on the way to providing the South American with a winners' medal at Wembley.
Yet his presence in Sir Alex Ferguson's side that day emphasised that he was not part of the best United team, a fact that became more obvious as the season wore on.
The outcome was a controversial move across town to City, whose supporters initially gloried in the capture of a man Ferguson had tried to keep.
However, that enthusiasm - and the infamous "Welcome to Manchester" poster - has given way to a more sceptical view as City's season has headed downhill.
Yet even if the hustle and bustle can sometimes have no meaningful end product, Tevez remains a difficult man to subdue.
And when he nicked the ball away from Tomas Rosicky and played a one-two with Craig Bellamy, Tevez embarked on a crab-like run across the box before pulling the trigger on a shot that crashed in off the underside of the bar.
City's long-suffering fans were ecstatic. And they had even more to celebrate 20 minutes later when Wright-Phillips collected Kolo Toure's short pass and galloped at Mikael Silvestre, who failed to get tight enough.
It was an open invitation to shoot. And the little England winger obliged, Lukasz Fabianski again left clutching at air, with absolutely no hope of getting near the ball.
For Hughes and his City team, the pressure valve applied by seven straight Premier League draws has been released, until next month's semi-final at least.
It has been a very bad week for Wenger. He might argue that this defeat is not on the same scale as Sunday's hammering by Chelsea.
But after four years without a trophy, the Gunners are desperate for some - any - silverware. And they are not getting this.
In fact, no matter what the respective managers might have said beforehand, there were a few clues as to how important this match was to the general well-being of both clubs.
City fans are never normally short of an excuse to get behind their team.
But by turning out the lights five minutes before kick-off to display a massive blue moon that was superimposed on the stand opposite the players' tunnel, the hosts ensured the noise level was at its maximum as the game began. They had lost out on their seven most recent attempts to reach cup semi-finals, and were determined it would be different this time.
Then, towards the end of the half, Hughes and Wenger, who had watched virtually the entire contest next to the touchline, exchanged angry words after the City chief had encroached into the Arsenal technical area to retrieve a ball he felt had not been returned quickly enough.
The sight of Bellamy berating referee Chris Foy as they made their way back into the dressing rooms was more predictable.
But, with both teams appealing for everything even marginally debatable, it provided an indication of the desperate need for victory.
As Hughes astutely observed yesterday, Arsenal's Carling Cup team is not quite the youthful XI Wenger would have us believe.
The frantic first half was full of meaty challenges and plenty of thrills, even if clear-cut chances were few and far between.
Craig Bellamy had the best one, set up by Wright-Phillips, whose pace was a constant threat.
The Welshman, preferred to record signing Robinho, could only drag his shot wide, which hinted at a night of frustration for City and Emmanuel Adebayor, picked to face the Gunners for the first-time since that stormy affair back in September.
But Tevez changed the course of history and ended so many years of last-eight misery.
Weiss popped up to tap home a third in the final minute, but long before that a whole generation of City fans were expectantly looking ahead to that long-awaited semi-final.