City will take on either Spurs or Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final next month after beating Burton Albion 1-0 in a more even second leg at the Pirelli Stadium. In truth, the game was over as a contest in the first-half of the first leg at the Etihad, but credit to the League One side who kept battling to the end. Sergio Aguero scored the only goal of the game midway through the first-half to seal a record semi-final aggregate victory of 10-0 over the Brewers.
What happened? On a freezing night in East Staffordshire, City resumed battle with League One Burton Albion at a sell-out Pirelli Stadium - a record home crowd, in fact. Already nine goals to the good, Pep Guardiola handed a debut to 18-year-old winger Ian Carlo Poveda and a first start to Philippe Sandler. Teenagers Eric Garcia and Phil Foden also won recalls and though there were still seven full internationals on display for the Blues, the average age of the starting XI was just 23 years, 323 days. As ever, City knocked the ball around with composure and purpose and came close to opening the scoring on 11 minutes when Riyad Mahrez cut in from the right before hitting a low shot a foot wide of the post from a narrow angle. The next opportunity fell to the hosts three minutes later as Stephen Quinn’s low free-kick found Liam Boyce whose clever back-heel was well read by Aro Muric on his goal-line. Brewers boss Nigel Clough must have been pleased with his players as they reached the halfway mark of the opening period with the score at 0-0, but a couple of minutes later, City’s overall aggregate lead went into double figures. In a move that smacked of class, it was three first-team regulars who combined to put the Blues ahead as Kevin De Bruyne sent Mahrez into the box and the Algerian’s pull-back was swept home by Aguero for his 15th of the campaign. That would be the last major talking point of a first-half that saw Burton Albion more than hold their own. City should have doubled the lead on 52 minutes after neat work by Danilo who breezed past a couple of challenges before chipping the ball across to Fabian Delph who mis-hit his shot and then saw another effort saved by Burton keeper Collins. Then, with just over an hour played, a collector's item as Aguero, De Bruyne and Foden combined superbly only for Aguero to put the ball wide with the goal at his mercy from six yards. Benjamin Mendy returned form a two-month absence shortly after, replacing De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus came on for Aguero. Felix Nmecha was also handed a senior bow on 67 minutes, replacing Oleksandr Zinchenko. Burton had a glorious chance to level on 70 minutes as Sandler's slip allowed Boyce a clear run on goal - Aro Muric kept the initial effort out but the rebound fell to Will Miller who saw his effort scrambled off the line by Garcia. Nmecha was then unlucky not be awarded a penalty after being bundled over by Harness. In the dying minutes Danilo worked a ball through to Jesus who feigned one way then turned the other but was denied by a good Collins save - which brought the game's first corner... on 88 minutes! Danilo saw a free-kick tipped over in the final minute, but a 1-0 win for the Blues was enough for the Carabao Cup holders who now have a chance to win the trophy for a fourth time in six seasons.
What it means... City's quest on all four fronts continues with a Wembley Carabao Cup final now booked for 24 February against Spurs or Chelsea who play their second leg on Thursday evening. It is also a seventh win in succession for the Blues who also extended a run of clean sheets to five.
What''s next? More domestic cup action this Saturday as the Blues take on Burnley in the FA Cup 4th round, 3pm kick-off.