"We’re the famous Man City and we’re going to Wembley!"
Another “I was there” moment at the Etihad Stadium, but where was the game won and lost? @markbooth_mcfc picks the bones out of an incredible evening’s entertainment…
Over the line…
Let’s get this one out of the way, shall we? Yes, maybe City’s second goal should not have been allowed to stand as replays showed that Raheem Sterling carried the ball out of play.
However, to take this single incident and use it as evidence to rule that the home side were in any way fortunate to advance is surely stretching the truth past the point of plausibility.
It’s worth remembering that there were two other controversial moments in the first leg…
- Romelu Lukaku appeared to be in an offside position in front of Willy Caballero for Ramon Funes Mori’s opening goal.
- Jesus Navas was denied a penalty after his legs were swept away by Kevin Mirallas.
Adding in the Premier League clash against Everton where John Stones got away with taking out Sterling in stoppage itme and you could say that City had earned their slice of good fortune.
A night to remember…
More than 50,000 people made the pilgrimage to the Etihad in what was a record domestic cup attendance at the stadium and City’s third-highest in the competition ever.
The inflatable bananas left on the seats of supporters only added to what was an incredible, memorable atmosphere, especially in the second half as the fans did their level best to send the ball over the line through sheer force of collective will.
Away from any cliché discourse about “decisions evening themselves out” and focusing on the actual football for a moment, City were clear and deserved winners of this tie.
Sergio Aguero and David Silva both hit the inside of the post as City peppered Everton’s goal in the second leg, causing Everton to start time-wasting and trying to keep the ball in the corner with 30 minutes still left to play.
Over 180 minutes, City had 23 shots to Everton’s 11 and had 53% of the possession. Although stats tell us little without context, it's fair to say that we could have won this tie by an even wider margin in the end.
The boy from Brazil…
Although Sergio Aguero won the fan vote to claim the Man of the Match award in the stadium, Fernandinho took the Sky Sports accolade for another hugely impressive showing.
On his return from injury, the 30-year old made four interceptions, made two successful dribbles, won one tackle and scored the all-important first City goal of the night.
Is he City’s best player of the season so far? One thing is for sure, Fernandinho can surely now be considered as one of this team's most important, core players, if he wasn't already.
A final to savour…
Although many in the media were mourning the loss of an all-Merseyside day at Wembley (not naming any names), we’re set for a final laced with narrative and intrigue.
Much of the pre-match discussion is likely to centre on ex-Liverpool man Raheem Sterling but there are exciting storylines to follow elsewhere…
Jurgen Klopp is out for his first silverware in English football, Yaya meets his brother Kolo in a Wembley final and City are out to avenge their 4-1 November defeat to the Reds.
As if it couldn’t be any more appetising, the final will also take place on the 40th anniversary of our League Cup win in 1976… is it written in the stars?
This Charming Man…
Manuel Pellegrini proved yet again that he is willing to rip it up and start again if something is not working as he made two decisive substitutions to turn the semi-final in City’s favour last night.
First, bringing on Jesus Navas at half-time and switching to a 4-2-3-1 helped to give City more bodies in midfield, providing more of a shield for the defence and allowing us to pin the Toffees back inside their own third.
The second decisive alteration saw Kevin De Bruyne enter the action with 30 minutes left and his impact could hardly have been more telling.
De Bruyne scored the goal to level the tie and then provided the winner with a pinpoint cross that Aguero did not even have to move for in order to turn it into the bottom corner with his head.
This will be City’s eighth trip to Wembley in five years – an incredible run, but how does our record stack up?
We’ve played seven, won four and lost three of our seven games there since 2011… one more win and it's a fifth major domestic honour in as many years.
We can't wait!