Manchester City overcame Everton in the semi-final of the Capital One Cup at the Etihad Stadium, winning the second leg 3-1 on Wednesday to progress 4-3 on aggregate.
A superb Ross Barkley effort gave the Merseysiders the lead in the first half, but Fernandinho levelled the score before the break. City then took control of the game in the second half as substitute Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero sealed a spot in the final against Liverpool.
City gave a masterclass in attacking play as the game proceeded, but Everton will be disappointed by elimination after scoring first. De Bruyne was stretchered off in injury time at the end of the match to the grave concern of the home fans.
Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta were given the nod at full-back by City manager Manuel Pellegrini, while goalkeeper Willy Caballero rotated into the starting XI for the Cup. Yaya Toure, Aguero, David Silva and Raheem Sterling were all present for the home side as they looked to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg.
Joel Robles replaced Tim Howard in goal for the visitors, as Everton coach Roberto Martinez played his strongest outfield selection with only Seamus Coleman dropping out of the starting lineup.
City’s overtly attacking selection looked dangerous in the opening minutes, but Everton looked dangerous on the breakaway.
Gerard Deulofeu initially tormented City down the right, sprinting past the full-back as he looked to supply Romelu Lukaku in the penalty area.
The Toffees took the lead after 18 minutes after a world-class finish from Ross Barkley. The England international burst through the City defence with pace and precision, firing a long-range drive past Caballero.
Presenter Mark Pougatch tipped his hat towards Barkley’s classic finish:
Fabulous goal from Ross Barkley, driving into the heart of the City defence before shooting home. Too strong for Otamendi
The lead did not last long for the visitors, as City stepped up a gear to grab an equaliser just six minutes later.
The Sky Blues poured forward, turning the screw on Everton, and Fernandinho let it fly from the edge of the area. The Brazilian watched his effort hit the back of the net after a wicked deflection off Leighton Baines.
Sky Sports Statto highlighted a home achievement for City:
Fernandinho has scored Man City’s 50th home goal this season, in their 18th game
Aguero hit the inside of the woodwork as City looked certain to level the scores on aggregate, but the Toffees survived until the half-time whistle.
The hosts appeared to have the advantage when in possession of the ball and feeding Aguero’s magical talent, but they looked fragile at the heart of their defence.
The second half saw City once again go on the attack as Everton looked to contain Pellegrini’s men.
City almost took the lead, with the brilliant Aguero causing havoc in the final third, but the Argentina international couldn’t follow up as Silva saw his header hit the upright of Robles’ goal.
Sir Alex Ferguson sat up and took notice after Silva’s effort, per BBC 5 Live:
He was yawning in the first half, but Sir Alex Ferguson will have woken up now – Silva's hit the post. 1-1 (2-3) https://t.co/YW4muV14JR
Martinez opted to bolt the stable door as his side were pulverised by City, replacing the creative but wasteful Deulofeu for the hardworking Arouna Kone.
The striker immediately began to hold the ball up for Everton, offering relief for the defence and midfield.
BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty commented on the substitution of Deulofeu and the direction Everton needed in the final part of the match:
Everton substitutes Kone & McCarthy on for Deulofeu and Osman. Everton fans not too enamoured by the young Spaniard's replacement.
Everton needing more from Lukaku here – an outlet to relieve some pressure.
City’s pressure paid off after 70 minutes as substitute De Bruyne—on for Toure—scored for the hosts.
The former Chelsea player lashed a low finish into the bottom corner from a Sterling cutback, as the Etihad crowd celebrated in unison.
However, the goal was marred by controversy, as TV replays showed Sterling’s assist was out of play when he crossed.
Henry Winter of the Times confirmed the incident:
City 2-1. De Bruyne scores after Sterling crossed ball over line. Scott Ledger did not see it. Another one for the video tech campaigners
The Sky Blues deservedly took control of the tie with 14 minutes on the clock as Aguero converted a wondrous header for a 3-1 lead.
De Bruyne crossed from deep on the right, and his curling cross was met with power by the Argentinian, directing his header down past the goalkeeper.
It was a truly world-class moment from one of the planet’s great strikers, who had threatened to produce a special moment all night.
The night ended on a sour note for City as De Bruyne was stretchered off with his leg in a brace after an innocuous challenge.
The City fans applauded the Belgian as he received extended treatment and was taken off, clearly worried about the impact the injury might have on their campaign.
The hosts had done more than enough as the final whistle blew, but the 3-1 win was bittersweet after De Bruyne’s injury.
Everton will rue their luck from Wednesday night, but City showed their collective ability and class to book a date with Liverpool in the final at Wembley.
Aguero was at his very best as his team-mates fed and supplied him, and the visitors simply had no answer for the striker’s mercurial skill set.
Pellegrini was happy to reach the final but gave an update on De Bruyne’s injury:
Pellegrini on De Bruyne: "The Doctors think it could be his medial ligament, we'll know more tomorrow" https://t.co/VPVGpgBPvN
The Capital One Cup final is due to take place on Sunday, Feb. 28.