With the shadow of Pep Guardiola hanging over him, there appears to be very little that Manuel Pellegrini can do. The Chilean manager is widely expected to be replaced by Guardiola as Manchester City boss at the end of the season but to all watching it would appear as thought Pellegrini is not planning on going down without a fight and is looking to win the four tournaments City remain in to make his point. His first chance of reaching a final came last night with the second league of the League Cup semi final against Everton. Trailing 2-1 from the first leg, City approached the game with caution knowing that Everton have the ability to hit on the break. For Roberto Martinez, it was important for his side to burst out of the blocks and take control of the game, which is exactly what they did. Everton controlled the first half, taking the game to City and eventually finding the breakthrough thanks to sensational run and shot by Ross Barkley. Fernandinho did snatch a goal back moments later but it was very much against the play with Everton more likely to press on and win the match.
But in the second half, it was City who was very much in control. Credit where it’s due must go to Manuel Pellegrini. The Manchester City manager made two tactical changes at half time that swung the tie back in favour of his side. One of the two changes made – to push Sterling out wide leaving Aguero up front on his own with Navas coming on for Delph widened City’s play and stretched Everton to their fullest. Eventually City’s new-found width paid off with Sterling in particular causing havoc on the left flank which lead to City taking the lead in somewhat controversial circumstances. Picking up the ball wide on the left, Sterling raced towards the byline with Stones in pursuit only to reach the ball and pull it back for the waiting Kevin De Bruyne to slam home. However replies show that the ball was over the line when Sterling cut it back so the goal should not have stood.
It mattered little as less than six minutes later, City made the result clear with their third goal. A mistake by John Stones, who strangely was playing at right back ahead of Seamus Coleman, let Sergio Aguero ghost into the box to head home a perfect cross by De Bruyne. It would be one of the Belgian’s final contributions with the midfielder brutally brought down in the closing minutes by Funes Mori and now in danger of missing the remainder of the season with suspected cruciate damage. City will be hoping to have him fit in time for the final, which will be against Liverpool after Jurgen Klopp side squeezed through on penalties against Stoke. Leading 1-0 from the first leg, Liverpool looked to keep things tight at the back but with a host of first team players out injured, the task was not an easy one against a rapidly improving Stoke. Mark Hughes side pushed Liverpool back from the start and controlled the first half well eventually taking the lead at the end of the first half thanks to a beautifully crafted team goal converted by Austrian Marko Arnautovic.
Starting from the centre spot, a quick interchange of passing put Bojan clear through on the right. He beat his market Moreno before delivering a beautifully place cross for Arnautovic to power home. With the momentum now very much in their favour, Stoke pushed for a second goal to kill off the game. But the Potters found it hard to break down Liverpool’s defence with Sahko in particular in spectacular form. Despite chances for both sides, the match ended in a stalemate and would be settled by a penalty shootout. Both sides scored their first penalties before Peter Crouch missed his and Emre Can saw his effort hit the post. The remaining penalties found the back of the net before Mignolet saved Marc Muniesa’s weak penalty and Joe Allen converted his effort to send Liverpool to Wembley.
A jubilant Jurgen Klopp ran on to the pitch to congratulate his players sad Allen’s penalty flew into the back of the net. A trip to Wembley is now on the cards for Klopp only four months since taking over at Liverpool. City may be favourites based on current form however they have already lost heavily to Liverpool under Klopp this season which will give the German hope that his side have a chance come February 28th.