Five talking points as Manchester City beat Everton to reach Capital One Cup final
By Sam Drury
Last Updated: 27/01/16 11:31pm
Manchester City booked a Capital One Cup final date with Liverpool thanks to a 3-1 victory over Everton at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
Ross Barkley had given the visitors the lead with a fine individual goal, putting them 3-1 up on aggregate before Fernandinho levelled it up on the night.
Second-half goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero secured a 4-3 aggregate win for Manuel Pellegrini's side, although Everton were furious with the decision to allow De Bruyne's goal to stand after the ball appeared to run out of play before Raheem Sterling's cut-back assist.
Here, we round up the talking points from the game as Manchester City secured their place at Wembley and a second Capital One Cup final in three years.
An entertaining tie was finely balanced with Everton leading 3-2 on aggregate with a little over 20 minutes remaining. City were pushing for the goal to level the tie but had so far been kept at bay by a resolute Toffees defence.
The goal eventually came in the 70th minute but it was not without controversy, replays showing Sterling took the ball out of play before his cut-back found the unmarked De Bruyne to score.
"Goals are big calls and the second goal was heart-breaking," said Everton boss Roberto Martinez. "When you watch the replay, it is incredible that you don't get that decision right.
"It is impossible to describe how you feel when you see a decision so clear and so big in how the game was developing. It is heart-breaking, I don't think that anyone in the stadium would argue that that goal is the major changing point in the tie."
With the game poised at 1-1, both Roberto Martinez and Pellegrini looked to the bench for players to turn the tie in their side's favour. The contrast in the sides' resources was never as clear.
While Martinez brought on the dependable duo of Arouna Kone and James McCarthy, Pellegrini was able to turn to £54m man Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgium international made all the difference, scoring City's second with an emphatic finish before producing a fabulous cross from which Sergio Aguero headed in the third. City will be hoping that the knee injury that forced him off in stoppage is not as serious as it first looked.
De Bruyne may have made the most noticeable and telling contribution, but the hosts had already introduced Jesus Navas at half-time. The winger, who himself cost in the region of £15m, instantly added to City's attacking play with his pace and direct approach. Having such options on the bench can make all the difference and so it proved.
In a team brimming with attacking talent, the Manchester City central midfielder rarely gets the plaudits he deserves. However, the Brazilian was superb, putting in an all-action display in the middle of the pitch for City.
His deflected strike brought Pellegrini's side level on the night but there was far more to his performance than that. Defensively, he made four interceptions and three clearances as well as winning 87.5 per cent of his duels, protecting the back four as Yaya Toure pushed forward from a deeper position.
He was just as impressive on the ball, completing 86.3 per cent of his 51 passes and taking three shots, crucially scoring with one of them in a man-of-the-match performance.
John Stones has rightly received plenty of plaudits for his performances this season, his composure aligned with his quality on the ball have set him apart from many other centre-backs in the Premier League.
But recently his confidence in possession has got him into trouble. The England international has received the backing of his manager, but when he lost his man, Aguero, for the third City goal, Martinez was less forgiving, substituting the 21-year-old.
The decision was as much about the need to send on a more attacking player but overall the youngster struggled. His talent is not in doubt but, as in recent weeks, tonight was further evidence that he has a long way to go to fulfil his potential.
"He's not a right-back," said Jamie Redknapp. "He was exposed today, they've got Coleman who is a better right-back than him and Stones has got to go and play centre-back."
When Raheem Sterling joined Manchester City last summer he spoke of joining a "squad that are capable of winning things year in, year out".
With City having sealed their place in the Capital One Cup final and earned the chance to compete for the first trophy of the season, his decision appears justified.
The thought of having the chance to walk out in a cup final at Wembley is sure to have been at the forefront of Sterling's mind when deciding to make the move to Manchester, but little did he know that he would have to get the better of his former Liverpool team-mates to get his hands on the trophy at the end of it.
It won't be the first time Sterling has faced his club since his £49m switch. The 21-year-old was roundly booed by the travelling Liverpool fans following the acrimonious nature of his exit as Jurgen Klopp's side romped to a 4-1 win in the Premier League earlier this season. Sterling will hope for a very different outcome at Wembley.