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MOTD: Manchester City 3-1 Everton (4-3 agg)
They were the finest of margins as Manchester City beat Everton 3-1 in their Capital One Cup semifinal second leg and 4-3 on aggregate. Say, for example, the ball crossing a few millimeters over the byline when Raheem Sterling cut it back to set up Kevin de Bruyne’s critical second half go-ahead goal. The replays caught it, but the referees unfortunately did not (though to be fair, neither were there any protests from Everton players).
But that wasn’t the only reason City won. Their victory was once again a triumph of their outstanding depth in the attack and perennial danger up front, the key moment being Yaya Toure’s substitution for Kevin de Bruyne in the second period. De Bruyne turned the game on its head, bagging a go-ahead goal in the seventieth minute and setting up Sergio Aguero’s finish six minutes later to book a spot for City at Wembley next month in what will be their fourth major final in the last six seasons.
Yet the sense of injustice will haunt Everton’s memories of the match and manager Roberto Martinez lamented, per the BBC: “Everyone that has seen the replay can clearly see the ball is out of play when the ball is crossed in for City’s second goal. The tie was a real good football game. You don’t expect to concede a goal in that manner. It’s very, very hard to take.”
On the other side of the touchline, however, Manuel Pellegrini had an equally valid point. “We won because we scored three goals and Everton had just one chance,” he said. The Sky Blues have now scored in all but one of their last twenty-seven home matches and tonight, it made up for their defensive instability.
Ross Barkley gave the Toffees an early opener in the eighteenth minute, slicing a low, clinical finish into the bottom corner of the net from twenty yards out at the end of a blistering counter-attack. Yet it was to be one of their two shots on target throughout the entire ninety minutes and City threatened their 3-1 aggregate lead from the outset.
Just five minutes later, Fernandinho saw a deflected effort loop over Joel Robles and into the back of the net to pull City level. The hosts pushed forward for another goal to level the tie on aggregate and Aguero smacked the post with a powerful effort in the thirty-sixth minute and Robles tipped David Silva’s follow-up effort over the crossbar.
City, however, were vulnerable on the attack and it wasn’t until De Bruyne’s introduction in the sixty-sixth minute that they found the right formula. De Bruyne buried Sterling’s cut-back four minutes after coming on, his fifth goal in his five League Cup appearances this season, and then curled a pinpoint cross onto Aguero’s head in the middle of the penalty area, where the Argentine forward arrowed a low header into the bottom left corner of the net.
Yet De Bruyne’s night was cut slightly short, as he was carted off with an injury late on, his lower leg in a brace. It put a damper on the home crowd’s jubilation, but only a little. With a loaded attack strong standing in the Premier League, they’ll be singing all the way to a League Cup final meeting with Liverpool next month.
Homepage photo credit: Higor Douglas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons