It has been an interesting and eventful evening at the Etihad stadium in the return leg of the Capital One Cup semi-finals between Manchester City and Everton.
The visitors headed into the clash with a 2-1 lead from the first leg and their swift opening of the game through a solo goal by Ross Barkley after 18 minutes suggested an easy progression to the final.
The game, however, offered a lot of excitement as Manchester City managed to over-turn the lead with goals from Fernandinho, Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero for a comprehensive 3-1 result that has booked Manuel Pellegrini’s men the ticket for the final game against Liverpool on 28th February at the Wembley stadium.
Here are the five things we learned from tonight’s encounter:
Poor defending at both ends
Manchester City and Everton have been among the most efficient Premier League sides so far in the season and no one should be surprised with the four goals on the scoreline.
We have seen plenty of defensive flaws and poor defending, however, right from the start.
Everton opened the scorings through Ross Barkley, who scored from a magnificent solo effort, but Manchester City’s backline did little to prevent the Everton man from getting into the shooting position.
Unmarked and not closely followed, Barkley sliced through the centre of the pitch, running past Manchester City players, who failed to block his shot past the helpless Caballero. At this stage of the season there is no denying in it, Manchester City have a lot of problems back without their captain Vincent Kompany.
The towering Belgian has hit another stumbling block in his recovery and will be forced out for another few weeks, which will leave Manchester City’s defences vulnerable as it was evident tonight.
On their own part, Everton have also been pretty leaky in their backline. They have shipped in too many goals this season and their flaws were left exposed against City as well.
With John Stones not at his best, Roberto Martinez left Jagielka and Mori exposed and unable to tightly mark their rivals. The fact that Sergio Aguero scored a header to seal the game speaks volumes of the poor positioning.
Pellegrini outwitted Martinez
Both managers have been under a lot of pressure in recent weeks and getting into the finals has been their main aim and the way to gain some ground beneath their feet.
It seemed that Martinez will get the best out of his counterpart in the first half, but Pellegrini’s tactical changes have left the Spaniard scratching his head and fearing the axe following back-to-back defeats and a four-match winless run.
Pellegrini changed his formation in the second half with Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne on the wings, which left Everton unable to answer to the challenge.
Quick pace of the two Manchester City players stretched the play from left to right and two Citizens’ goals came exactly from the crosses by the aforementioned players.
Manchester City first levelled the score through Fernandinho, whose deflected ball tricked its way past Robles, but the other two goals which killed the game were direct results of Pellegrini’s change in tactics.
Second goal from Manchester City completely changed the game.
Raheem Sterling picked up a ball on the left, slicing his way into the box and picking up the loft cross to Kevin de Bruyne who tapped the ball in for 2-1.
Still, it was the moment of Sterling cross that has attracted a lot of attention already. The ball appeared out of play which Everton players unsuccessfully attempted to signal to the referee Martin Atkinson.
Everton players were left devastated with the call, unable to mentally get back in the game. It wasn’t the first time that Everton players were victims of misjudged calls as they crash out of their fifth semi-finals so far in the competition.
De Bruyne the difference
The Belgian came off the bench on 66 minutes for Yaya Toure in another defining moment of the game.
Kevin de Bruyne’s introduction completely changed the pace and rhythm of the game and the talented winger was directly involved and credited for the win.
With the first half ending in 1-1, Everton did attempt to get back and get their noses in front, but De Bruyne was simply a handful for Everton defenders. His run-ins from the wings and into the area, strides from left to right were too much for his rivals.
De Bruyne scored City’s second of the game, while he also set up Sergio Aguero for the third goal. His pinpoint cross from the right side of the field was picked up by Aguero, who was another one of the most prominent players of the night.
Mixed night for the City fans was ended with De Bruyne getting stretchered off late on in the game with an unfortunate injury, though.
Aguero the class
The Argentine dynamo has once again proved that he is the big-game man.
Sergio Aguero had a fantastic attempt in the first half, but his shot met the frame of the goal as his thunderbolt attempt rattled the post.
City striker still scored his seventh goal in as many games, and he also managed 16 in all competitions for his club this season, when he latched up on De Bruyne’s cross with a wonderful header late in the game.
His influence goes beyond just scoring goals as Aguero’s on pitch presence is a constant threat to the opposing team.
He kept piling pressure to Everton defenders for the entire 90 minutes never allowing them to let their guard down. Lurking behind them and waiting for the single mistake to turn to his own advantage, Aguero did have a fantastic game he rounded off with a crucial goal.
MANCHESTER CITY: Caballero 6 – Zabaleta 7, Otamendi 7, Demichelis 7, Clichy 7 – Fernandinho 7.5, Delph 6 (Navas 6.5) – Silva 6.5 (Fernando 6), Toure 6.5 (De Bruyne 7.5), Sterling 7 – Aguero 7.5.
Unused subs: Angelino, Hart, Iheanacho, Sagna.
EVERTON: Robles 6 – Stones 6 (Coleman 6), Jagielka 6.5, Mori 6, Baines 6 – Cleverley 6, Barry 6.5, Deulofeu 6.5 (Kone), Barkley 7.5, Osman 6.5 (McCarthy 6) – Lukaku 6.5.
Unused subs: Howard, Lennon, Oviedo, Pienaar.
REFEREE: Martin Atkinson