Manchester City will face Liverpool in the 2016 League Cup final next month after the Citizens overturned their one-goal deficit to defeat Everton 3-1 (Agg 4-3) in a four-goal thriller at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.
However it was the Toffees, who won the first-leg 2-1 thanks to goals from Ramiro Funes Mori and Romelu Lukaku earlier this month, who struck first during the second-leg through Ross Barkley’s mazy run and low drive past City goalkeeper Willy Caballero after just 18 minutes.
However the visitors’ fortunes soon switched dramatically as Everton manager Roberto Martinez was left ruing a crucial refereeing decision that flipped their entire Capital One Cup semi-final tie on its head.
Firstly; Fernandinho pulled the hosts level with a deflected effort that cruelly beat Joel Robles from 20 yards out, before substitute Kevin De Bruyne coolly slotted home Raheem Sterling’s left-flank cross with just 20 minutes remaining.
However; replays clearly showed that the England international had in fact ran the ball out of play before assisting the Belgian ace for City’s second goal, leaving the visiting boss, players and supporters with a sunken feeling of injustice.
To add insult to injury; Sergio Aguero, who had earlier rattled the woodwork alongside teammate David Silva, then sealed City’s place in their fifth League Cup final with a decisive third goal of the night, expertly heading in De Bruyne’s cross into the far reaches of Robles’ right-hand corner on 76 minutes.
It was jubilation for the hosts manager Manuel Pellegrini; whilst his opposing number Martinez was left seething, “Everyone that has seen the replay can clearly see the ball is out of play when the ball is crossed in for City’s second goal,” he said.
“The tie was a real good football game. You don’t expect to concede a goal in that manner. It’s very, very hard to take.
“City are a very good side. If they score three goals in the right way then you accept it. The first goal was a deflected shot, but for the second goal the ball was clearly out.
“We have a very good group of young players. I hope we take this display as inspiration.”
However City’s second-leg victory, where they will now face Liverpool in the final at Wembley Stadium on February 28, came at a cost as midfielder De Bruyne was stretched off with a serious-looking knee injury late on.
“I’m optimistic he won’t be out for the rest of the season,” Pellegrini commented.
“We’ll see how important the damage is. It’s not the cruciate ligament.
“The doctor thinks, but he cannot be sure, that it’s a problem in his medial ligament.”