City booked a place in the Carabao Cup final after a thrilling 3-2 win over Bristol City. Goals either side of half-time from Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero put the Blues firmly in command and though the Robins fought back to level in the closing stages, Kevin De Bruyne won the game with the last kick of the game to secure a 5-3 aggregate victory. The Blues will now take on the winners of Wednesday evening’s tie between Arsenal and Chelsea with a chance to land the first piece of silverware under Pep Guardiola’s tenure.
What happened? City began the game looking for the early goal that would quieten a packed and noisy Ashton Gate. The opening 20 minutes was spent almost entirely in or around the Bristol City penalty area with an Aguero cross caressing the crossbar on 13 minutes and John Stones going close a couple of minutes later as the Blues pressed for the opening goal. The hosts, adventurous and on the front foot in the first leg, could hardly get a touch as a business-like City dominated possession. Yet the Robins stood firm, defending in numbers and the Blues’ final pass was not quite on the money and as the half progressed, it looked like the break would be reached without either side scoring. Then, a minute before half-time, the breakthrough. Bernardo Silva looked to have lost possession inside the box and Bristol City’s Hordur Magnusson attempted to see the ball out of play – but Bernardo refused to give up, kept the ball in play and slid it into the path of Sane who drilled a low shot into the back of the net from close range. Sane, given plenty of stick by the home fans behind the goal, celebrated in front of them while advising them to maybe calm down a tad. It gave the Championship side a mountain to climb and the Blues, a vital two-goal cushion overall. Within three minutes of the re-start, the tie was all-but put to bed as City broke forward with devastating effect - led by who else but De Bruyne – who played a pass to Aguero on the edge of the box and the Blues’ top scorer did the rest, burying a shot past Luke Steele to the delight of the travelling City fans behind the goal. The Blues began picking apart the home defence at will for the next ten minutes or so, creating several half-chances, but Bristol City - a credit to their division throughout the competition - gave themselves a glimmer of hope as Paterson’s cross was headed firmly past Claudio Bravo by Marlon Pack on 64 minutes. Another quick goal would have made things interesting for the neutrals, but the Blues never allowed the Robins to build up a head of steam and instead continued to pour forward at every opportunity and denying the home side possession. Sub Danilo grazed the post in the last minute and Ilkay Gundogan put the ball wide with the goal at his mercy before the home side launched an attack deep into added time and Aden Flint sent Ashton Gate wild with a close-range finish to level the score on the night. There were just seconds remaining, and City responded in the best way possible, counter-attacking after the Robins were caught out committing bodies forward in one last attempt and Sane, racing into the box fed De Bruyne to slot home from six yards to complete a breathless finish to a game that didn’t disappoint. Wembley here we come!
Key moment? Bernardo Silva’s persistence to create Leroy Sane’s goal proved the turning point in this game with the first blow always going to be crucial on the night.
What it means: City book a place in the first domestic final of the season and will face the winners of the Arsenal v Chelsea semi-final. The game will be played on Sunday, 25 February and means the Premier League fixture against Arsenal that was due to be played the same day, will now be re-arranged.
What’s next? City are on the Wembley trail once again with another difficult away game against Championship opposition. The Blues travel to South Wales to face Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City with a place in the last 16 of the FA Cup at stake. Then, a week on Wednesday, West Brom are the visitors to the Etihad Stadium as City resume Premier League action.