It is advantage Everton heading into the decisive Capital One Cup semi-final second-leg later this month after the Toffees’ entertaining 2-1 first-leg victory over Manchester City at Goodison Park on Wednesday night.
Romelu Lukaku’s 19th goal of the season just 12 minutes from time proved to be the winner to give Roberto Martinez’s side the slight upper hand when they travel to the Etihad Stadium for the return leg on January 27.
Spain international Jesus Navas did look to have salvaged a draw for Manuel Pellegrini’s men in Merseyside last night, just moments before in-form Lukaku’s 12th strike in as many games for the hosts, after defender Ramiro Funes Mori opened the scoring during first-half stoppage time.
The Argentine, who joined Everton from River Plate back in September for a reported fee of £9.5m, pounced quickest upon City goalkeeper Willy Caballero’s parried save from Ross Barkley’s initial effort to gobble up the rebound just seconds before the interval.
However; the game’s opening goal of the game did not pass without controversy as City protested to referee Robert Madley that eventual match winner Lukaku was clearly standing in an offside position whilst obstructing the visitors’ ‘keeper’s line of vision.
Nevertheless; brilliant work by Mori’s’ fellow countryman Sergio Aguero then carved open Everton’s last line of defence on 76 minutes by threading through the onrushing Navas one-on-one with Toffees shot stopper Joel Robles, who calmly side footed the ball into the far corner with his left foot to net his first goal for the club since September 2014.
But with the Premier League’s joint-top goalscorer amongst your ranks; the Goodison Park faithful always believed they could outscore their opponents, and so it proved as Belgium hitman Lukaku rose highest to head home man of the match Gareth Barry’s pinpoint delivery shortly after the restart to establish a delicate first-leg lead.
Last night’s outcome was the first time Pellegrini has lost to Everton as City boss in six attempts (W4 D1), meanwhile it was opposing boss Martinez’s second-ever triumph over the Citizens following his illustrious 2013 FA Cup final victory with Wigan Athletic.
After defeating their opponents for the first time since March 2013; the Toffees edge a step closer towards staging a League Cup final against fierce Merseyside rivals Liverpool after the Reds similarly edged past Stoke City by a one-goal margin (0-1) on Tuesday night.