Albion 0, Manchester City 1

Mathew Ryan gave more away after the match than Albion did throughout their FA Cup semi-final examination against the team described by Chris Hughton as "arguably the best in the world".

The Australian keeper, maintaining his habit of spending time with supporters and handing out mementos, eventually walked off at Wembley wearing just his shorts.

Albion could have been similarly exposed after conceding what turned out to be the only goal by Gabriel Jesus after just four minutes.

The Argus: They were not because, as Pep Guardiola observed, they are "incredible defensively", a remark which can also be applied to the Spaniard's quadruple pursuers.

City are feted for their attacking talents, less so for their work without the ball. Like all great sides, they have both aspects of the game in their armoury.

They have only conceded 21 goals in the Premier League this season, one more than title rivals Liverpool, 13 fewer than the next-best defences of Spurs and Chelsea.

There are occasions when it has been valid to question a toothless-looking Albion attack. This was not one of them.

Hughton said: "It's the two sides of the game. What we have to remember about the top teams like Man City is that they have such incredibly wonderful offensive players but also how good they are defensively. What good athletes they are, the big distances they cover.

"When we worked to the halfway line there are two or three players around the ball. They work incredibly hard.

"When the best teams play the best they are good enough to work out situations. When they are being pressed they have the quality to work it out.

"It's difficult for us. In the areas where we were being pressed, with the quality we've got, it's hard to retain possession. That would be no different to other teams not in the top six."

This assessment of the reality of facing City was overlooked by Jermaine Jenas, who informed the nation on BBC's live coverage that Albion had "missed an opportunity" because City were so "poor and sloppy in certain parts of their game".

It is worth noting there was not a defender amongst the BBC studio panel. If there had been, the inquest might have been more balanced. It was not a pulse-racer but, for the purist, the contest was a lesson in the undervalued art of defending by both teams and the expertise of Guardiola.

Albion, Guardiola admitted, had City worried for a period at the start of the second half. His response, bringing on Fernandinho for goal-provider Kevin De Bruyne, settled the hot favourites down again.

The Argus: Hughton said: "He is an outstanding manager. When you watch him on the touchline, it doesn't matter whether he is playing against a top team or a team of our level. he is animated, very passionate. He wants to win and you can tell that by everything he does and he makes good enough decisions.

"We had a bit of momentum, certainly in the second period, albeit mostly from set plays and wide free-kicks which we have been very good at. It looked like we might get something, but it's very hard. They'll make the changes that they need to."

It was not for the want of trying on Hughton's behalf. He brought on Florin Andone, Jose Izquierdo and Jurgen Locadia in the final quarter of the game, the latter's introduction prompting a switch to 4-4-2.

Both teams were mean in conceding chances. Most people would have predicted a landslide when City pounced so early. Albion did extraordinarily well from there to be the only side apart from Saturday's visitors Bournemouth to stop them scoring more than once in their last 12 Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup encounters.

Ryan was so well protected that he was only seriously called upon twice, denying Raheem Sterling with a diving save from his second half shot and then from a close range volley on the break in stoppage time as Albion chased improbable parity.

Ryan's opposite number Ederson was required even less, a shot from Izquierdo in the Colombian's quest for sharpness after severe injury setbacks giving the Brazilian a routine catch.

The Argus: Aymeric Laporte, bought from Athletic Bilbao for more than Albion's entire summer spending, epitomised the high class in Guardiola's ranks.

It was the Frenchman's cross field diagonal that launched City's stunning decider. A cushioned volley inside by Bernardo Silva, a wonderful cross bent in by De Bruyne for Jesus, arriving behind Shane Duffy, to convert with a sprawling header as the ball bounced with pinpoint accuracy into his path.

Jesus is some deputy for the injured Sergio Aguero.

Hughton said: "With any goal you concede you can always pick out somebody who could have dealt with it better, but ultimately they have such quality that it is very difficult to stop those moments."

Albion had their moments as well, two of them in the 'if only' category. Laporte's outstretched boot under his own crossbar prevented Glenn Murray hooking in Duffy's header from the outstanding Anthony Knockaert's corner.

The Argus: The only defender that let himself down was Kyle Walker. The England full-back's touching of heads with Alireza Jahanbakhsh after the Iranian caught him could easily have resulted in a red card from Anthony Taylor, rather than the yellow confirmed by lenient VAR Paul Tierney.

The difference between a very similar incident when Richarlison was sent-off at Bournemouth for Everton earlier in the season was that Adam Smith reacted as if hurt. Jahanbakhsh, a gentleman like his manager, did not.

Walker was replaced at the interval, Guardiola said due to injury rather than the risk of dismissal.

It is hard enough as it is when you are such huge underdogs against City. Albion needed the marginal moments like that to go in their favour, but if they reproduce anything like this level of performance in the next five matches within a fortnight they will be confronting City again next season with plenty to spare.