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Elano proves Man City matchwinner in Cup replay

Elano was back to his best as Manchester City defeated West Ham 1-0 in their FA Cup replay.

Elano dispensed with the silky skills and resorted to English-style bravery to earn Manchester City an FA Cup trip to Sheffield United.

After a superb start to his City career, Elano has suffered a noticeable dip in form recently, not helped by a niggling injury which has proved difficult to shake off.

But after substitute Rolando Bianchi saw his header bounce off a post, Elano dived in where it hurts, netting a goal Alan Shearer would have been proud of as he nodded home amid a mass of raised boots.

It was only the former Shakhtar Donetsk man's second goal since October but could prove very timely as it sent 2006 finalists West Ham out of the competition and retained City's hopes of ending a 32-year trophy drought.

Yet the man who gained most from the contest was City goalkeeper Joe Hart, who edged out Matthew Upson and Micah Richards as the best Englishman on view and certainly came out on top in his battle with Dean Ashton.

Although Fabio Capello was not present, he did despatch trusted advisor Franco Baldini to the north-west.

And, with Richards virtually guaranteed a start in the first game of England's new era against Switzerland on February 6, Baldini was presumably focussing more on Ashton than any of the other 10 English-qualified starters.

Injury has twice wrecked Ashton's hopes of making a much-anticipated international debut and with Capello's options in attack fairly limited, if the former Norwich man is fit, he must have a chance of being in the squad for the Swiss encounter, which is due to be named at the beginning of next month.

Yet any objective analysis by Baldini at the end of a largely forgettable first-half would have offered Hart high praise indeed.

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Tribal Football Staff

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