Manchester City 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1: Battling Owls are made to suffer by Milner

THE chance of both Steel City clubs causing FA Cup shocks against Premier League sides on the same afternoon was almost as likely as Meadowhall tumbling down amid an earthquake.

AGONY: Sheffield Wednesday's players show their dejection after Manchester City's James Milner scores his second goa. Picture: PA.

Yet, for anyone in the S9 vicinity yesterday, they may have felt what they thought were tremors of some kind.

It could easily have been the reverberating noise from ecstatic supporters rippling all the way from Manchester and London. For a time, at least.

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With more than an hour gone at the home of the Premier League champions, Sheffield Wednesday, so full of discipline and energy, led a bemused Manchester City 1-o courtesy of a superbly-taken first-half goal from Austrian striker Atdhe Nuhiu.

With Sheffield United having completed a fine victory down at QPR just minutes before kick-off at the Etihad, the Owls realised they would have to produce something truly stunning to overshadow that achievement.

They came so close to doing just that but, despite a brilliant effort, were unable to replicate the Blades’ heroics.

Instead, Yorkshireman James Milner, the England midfielder celebrating his 29th birthday, finally broke down the Championship side’s stubborn resistance in the 66th minute with his first goal at home in more than two years.

Then, after Chris Kirkland had brilliantly denied David Silva in the 90th minute, former Leeds United star Milner popped up again a few seconds into stoppage time, latching onto Jesus Navas’s through ball to deny Owls what would have been a richly deserved replay at Hillsborough.

With one of their most characterful performances in recent history, Stuart Gray’s side proved a nuisance most of the afternoon.

Wednesday were well-organised in defence, continually nullifying City attacks before they reached crisis point, and captain Glenn Loovens was superb in the middle, supported ably by Tom Lees.

With Jose Semedo and Kieran Lee tireless in front of them, and Jaques Maghoma able to inject pace to relieve the pressure, the struggling hosts looked like running out of ideas.

Midfielder Yaya Toure, the usually influential City captain, spent most of the afternoon waving arms in disgust after another – by Premier League standards – agricultural challenge had left him on the floor or scrapping to keep hold of possession.

City did not like Wednesday’s approach. Such was the visitors’ desire and stamina, particularly in the first half after Nuhiu’s breakaway strike in the 14th minute, City’s all-stars grew increasingly erratic.

Given Wednesday had lost 7-0 here in the Capital One Cup in September, they could easily have been expecting another embarrassing lesson.

The sight of the teamsheet would not have assuaged any fears. City fielded Toure – perhaps no surprise given he now heads to the African Cup of Nations – in a midfield that also included Milner and the evergreen Frank Lampard.

Silva – who came on and almost instantly slipped Milner through for the equaliser – Fernandinho and Samir Nasri were also waiting in the wings for a side that had not lost a game since slipping up againt CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Bonfire Night.

So, Gray knew his side would need some fireworks of their own and it was Nuhiu, the former Rapid Vienna striker, who provided the cracker.

The 25-year-old ended a 13-game barren run to score the winner at Wigan last Tuesday night – Wednesday had claimed six points from six over Christmas and sit 10th in the Championship – and added another against more revered opponents.

It was his side’s only real chance of the half but perfectly executed as Lee found Stevie May bending a run down the right into space and his pull-back saw Nuhiu strike with aplomb to 
silence the home crowd.

In response, Fernando sailed a free header over the crossbar, Toure dragged a tame shot wide and Lampard mis-hit a pass into touch as City spluttered.

Lampard got closer with one trademark strike, but Kirkland – in for his first game since that 7-0 mauling, Keiren Westwood absent with a calf injury amid continued speculation he could be heading for the Premier League – was rarely troubled.

Indeed, Fernando was called upon to produce a timely sliding tackle to prevent Jacques Maghoma pulling the trigger at the other end.

The second half was, as expected, largely played out in the Wednesday half, but still Manuel Pellegrini’s men toiled with little success.

Lampard could not slide quick enough to get to Navas’s cross along the six-yard box before Bacary Sagna then wildly overhit their next delivery to leave home fans increasingly agitated.

It was no surprise Pellegrini turned to Silva and Nasri on the hour, the former’s clever pass on the edge of the box giving Milner the chance to fire a low left-footed drive past Kirkland.

However, both Fernando and, especially so, Navas were required to track back desperately and deny Palmer and Maghoma respectively as they each threatened to respond on the break.

That meant, although Kirkland prevented Silva, Wednesday were helpless once Milner – out of contract this summer – emerged to knock in yet more good work from Navas in the 91st minute.

It was heartbreaking for the visitors, but it is the South Yorkshire side who will take more positives out of this performance.