After Liverpool knocked off Stoke City in penalty kicks on Tuesday, the stage was set for an all-Merseyside final of the 2015-16 League Cup; all Everton had to do was see out a one-goal advantage over Manchester City on Wednesday, and the Merseyside derby would be coming to London.
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It wasn’t to be, though, as the Toffees took a two-goal aggregate lead early on at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, only to see three unanswered goals shatter their dreams of winning the club’s first piece of major silverware since 1995.
Everton carried a 2-1 aggregate lead into Wednesday’s semifinal second leg, courtesy of goals scored by Romelu Lukaku and Ramiro Funes Mori in the first leg at Goodison Park (Jesus Navas bagged City’s lone away goal), but the aggregate would remain 2-1 only briefly.
Ross Barkley put Everton 3-1 ahead on aggregate in the 18th minute, when he charged through the heart of the City midfield, into acres and acres of space, and fired a low, bouncing effort past Willy Caballero from 20 yards out. City’s midfield presence was nowhere to be found, while the center backs, Nicolas Otamendi and Martin Demichelis, were miles apart and failed to close down Barkley before he could grab a vital away goal.
It was 1-0 (3-1 aggregate) for just six minutes, though, as City pulled back to within a single goal on Fernandinho‘s fortunately deflected strike in the 24th minute. Sergio Aguer’s initial effort was blocked by Phil Jagielka, but fell to the onrushing Brazilian box-to-boxer, who fired first time and pinged the ball off the leg of Leighton Baines, wrong-footing goalkeeper Joel Robles.
12 minutes later, it was Aguero who nearly pulled City level on aggregate, but could only watch helplessly as his right-footed thunderbolt clanged off the left-hand post of Robles and back into play.
City went inches from equalizing yet again in the 54th minute, when David Silva, of all people, rose above the crowd and beat Robles with a header to the goalkeeper’s right-hand post, only to see his effort clang off the post and back into play, where a sea of Toffees defenders was waiting to clear the ball away.
City’s equalizer eventually arrived, and it wasn’t without controversy, as Raheem Sterling appeared to have let the ball roll over the endline before cutting it back into the penalty area, where Kevin De Bruyne would be waiting at the penalty spot. The Belgian’s first-time strike was flush and evaded the outstretched arms of Robles, sending the Etihad faithful into raptures on 70 minutes.
With all the momentum behind them, City went on and grabbed their winner six minutes later, as Aguero headed home De Bruyne’s out-swinging cross. In the controversial theme of their equalizer, Aguero appeared on replay to have been just offside as the De Bruyne whipped the ball in from the right wing.
Having broken the blue half of Merseyside’s hearts, City will now face Liverpool in the League Cup final, on Sunday, Feb. 28, at Wembley Stadium.