Blues will face Arsenal at Wembley
Manchester City have secured their place in the English Football League final after a stunning performance away against Bristol at Ashton Gate. They had already won the first leg, with a slim but comfortable 1-0 win at Etihad, but Bristol were certainly not a team to be underestimated, having already knocked teams like Watford and Manchester United out of the competition. There is much to celebrate.
Though they were the favourites going into the match, Pep Guardiola showed that he was taking the match seriously, presenting a near full-strength line-up in the starting 11 with players Aguero, Silva and De Bruyne, who has just signed a new five-year contract. Sterling and Ederson were noticeably absent.
In the end, Manchester City took a 2-3 away victory, making the semi-final result 3-5 on aggregate. They were the better side throughout, though Bristol made valiant efforts in defence, and had the occasional genius moment in the attack.
City are now the favourites to win the EFL Cup, though we will have to wait and see how the result of the semi-final between Chelsea and Arsenal influences these odds. They are also around 4/1 favourites to win the FA Cup. City fans who know how to play casino games and are looking to get into sports betting, take the opportunity to make an outright stake on the team to win these competitions.
Brutal Build Up
City made their mark within the first few minutes of the game, pressing hard in the Bristol third, with Walker and De Bruyne playing roles in pushing the attacks. Bristol were defending well with a 4-4-1-1 formation, though they struggled to keep the ball out of their half.
In the 13th minute, Bristol made their first push, and it looked like Bravo was in trouble, but Stones backed him up with solid defending and fed it through to De Bruyne. The counterattack was on, and De Bruyne found Silva, who flicked it on to Aguero, but the strike rebounded off the crossbar! Stone failed to break free of his tight markers as Silva flung a cross in the 15th minute. Still, it looked like this was City’s game, and at this point, they held around 70-80 percent of the possession.
Bristol found a couple of opportunities in the coming minutes. Fernandinho, who has recently resigned his contract with City, committed a foul on Reid and got himself booked. This led to a kick. Bryan crossed one in high, and Flint nearly got his head to it before Bravo gathered up the ball. A few minutes later, Paterson nearly found his position by the back post, but Bravo parried it safely away. In the 34th minute, Bravo made a small fumble and was drawn out of position, but eventually leapt to collect a cross.
Yet it was still Manchester City who dominated the game and held the most possessions. By the 30th-minute mark, only 2 percent of Bristol’s touches were attacking, with most of their play based in defence. City were consistent with the pressure, chances coming in from Zinchenko on the break, a Silva cross deflected away from Aguero and a Fernandinho 30-yard shot that sailed over the crossbar.
In the 35-40th minutes, Bristol were looking better, but the pressure quickly returned to them, and in the 43rd minute, Manchester City finally broke the ice and scored. Magnusson messed up when he tried to shield the ball away for a goal kick, allowing Bernardo to run back on to the ball. Bernardo went down, and the question was whether it would be a penalty, but the ball landed at the feet of Sane, whose first-time strike quickly found the back of the net! Just like that, City went 0-1 up. Moments later, the half-time whistle blew, and it was time for the teams to get their pep talks.
Thrashings and Comebacks
Manchester City were clearly the better team in the first half, but they didn’t seem to find their form, despite holding 72 percent of the possession. Bristol had been left on the back foot for most of the game so far. They started the second half with two changes. Walshoff and Magnusson, whose slip up had cost Bristol a goal, came off, and Baker and Diedhiou came on. Would it be enough? Probably not…
Aguero kicked off the half by getting a shot away, and Manchester City followed up with the attack from the outset. In the 49th minute, De Bruyne sprinted into the Bristol half and found Aguero, who took a touch and then smashed the ball straight into the back of the night: 0-2!
The play moved from one side to the other as both teams started reacting to the second goal. Another De Bruyne counter attack was pushed wide, and Sane shot over the crossbar in the 56th minute. Bravo was put to the test for only the second time in the match so far when Diedhiou found a shot with his left foot in the 58th minute.
It was Bristol who were to score next with a smart play leading to Jamie Patterson finding an opening to cross it in high to Marlon Pack. Pack’s header found the back of the net, and Bristol pulled one back — were they about to make magic happen? Probably not…
Injury Time Madness
Though the match seemed all but over, Bristol had the heart and spirit to boldly push on, even into inury time. With five minutes of injury time to play, anything could happen, but it wasn’t until four minutes in that a goalkeeper clearance found Reid, who headed the ball into the box where Flint finished the job with a neat strike. It was 2-2 now, though Man City were still ahead on aggregate.
Not content with a draw and aggregate win, Man City made a final push. Sane laid it on to De Bruyne from the left, and De Bruyne was never going to miss from the position he found himself in — final score, 2-3 to Manchester City (2-4, aggregate). Manchester City now progress to the EFL Cup final at Wembley on 25th February and will play either Arsenal or Chelsea. Will they take home the first domestic cup of the season?