January 10, 2018
Sergio Aguero netted in stoppage time to give quadruple-chasing Manchester City a 2-1 victory over Bristol City in the first leg of their English League Cup semifinal on Tuesday.
Despite leading the Premier League by 15 points, Man City was given a stern test by the second-tier visitors who took the lead through Bobby Reid’s penalty in the 44th minute.
Kevin De Bruyne’s equaliser soon after the break turned the tide and City then laid siege to their opponents’ defence in the closing stages before Aguero’s goal gave them a vital advantage ahead of the return leg in two weeks’ time.
“My players were fantastic because in football you can win, you can lose, but we try until the end. We win many games in the last minutes because we don’t give up,” City manager Pep Guardiola told Sky Sports.
But the The gulf in status between the sides wasn’t always obvious.
Bristol City attacked with pace and confidence. Joe Bryan, who scored a spectacular goal in the quarterfinal win over Manchester United, was often leading the charge at Etihad Stadium.
“(We’re) disappointed to concede late on but we can hold our heads high,” Bristol City manager Lee Johnson told Sky Sports. “We played very well today, could have had a couple more goals but we pushed probably the best team in the world all the way.
“We’re still in the contest. We’re disappointed but we’re looking forward to the next game.”
With Manchester City unbeaten domestically all season and streaking clear in the Premier League it was hard to imagine them facing much of a test at home to Lee Johnson’s side, who are 14 points off the pace in the second division.
Yet the visitors had beaten four top flight sides en route to the semi-finals, including City’s arch rivals Manchester United in the last round, and were in no mood to lie down and wait for Guardiola’s City juggernaut to mow them over.
The hosts enjoyed the majority of early possession and came close to taking the lead when Bernardo Silva’s deflected effort rippled the side netting in the 15th minute, before De Bruyne forced visiting keeper Frank Fielding into a sharp save.
Yet the Championship side looked threatening on the break and, after the hosts had their own penalty appeal turned down when Bailey Wright manhandled Stones, referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot at the other end.
Stones dived into a rash challenge on Reid, who stepped up and coolly dispatched his penalty a minute before halftime.
City were almost level immediately but Raheem Sterling’s chipped effort was headed off the line and over by Aden Flint while the England winger was denied again when one-on-one with the keeper early in the second half.
The lead lasted until the 55th minute when De Bruyne drove forward and fed Sterling, who pulled the ball back for the Belgian to lash home from 15 metres.
Sterling fluffed another chance when he struck the ball straight at Fielding from close range with 20 minutes remaining, while Leroy Sane dragged an effort wide before Guardiola summoned Aguero off the bench.
It proved decisive as Silva dinked in a cross and the diminutive Argentine nipped in front of Fielding to power home a header from close range.
English champions Chelsea host Arsenal in a London derby on Wednesday in the other semi-final first-leg clash.