Everton 2 Manchester City 3

FA Premier League
Saturday 3 May 2014, 17.30 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Milner, Garcia, Toure (Kolarov 66), Nasri (Silva 74), Dzeko Aguero (Fernandinho 28)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Negredo, Jovetic
Goals: Aguero (22), Dzeko (43, 48)
Booked: Garcia, Demichelis, Dzeko

Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the Match: Joe Hart

Zabaleta under a challenge from Naismith.

Zabaleta under a challenge from Naismith.

The game had quite a muted start, with both teams just testing the water and seeing what was what. The visitors had the better of the early chances, but Garcia’s header from a corner was straight at the goalkeeper, before Zabaleta skied an effort from just inside the box, following a very cute ball from Aguero.

But Everton’s first effort of the match found the net. It was a superb effort on ten minutes from Barkley from 20 yards out, as he curled it over and around Hart and into the top corner. The City goalkeeper didn’t stand a chance and the visitors had it all to do.

Five minutes later, Toure should probably have equalised. Some neat build-up between Clichy and Nasri found the Ivorian inside the left corner of the box. Holding off Osman, Toure worked it towards the centre of the goal and blasted for the top corner – Howard was beaten, but it flashed over the bar.

The home side wanted a penalty for a Kompany tackle on Barkley, but the referee ruled the Belgian had won the ball and from that the visitors broke. The ball fell kindly for Garcia who slid it through to Toure in the middle. There, the Ivorian played it through for Aguero in space on the right and his effort beat Howard at the near post for the equaliser. It was joy short-lived, though, as Aguero injured himself in scoring.

It looked like the game was going to trundle to half time as City looked well below par, but the Blues somehow got themselves in front. Dzeko took too many touches when played through and his low cross was blocked by Howard. Milner picked up the rebound and produced a lovely turn to get a cross in, where Dzeko’s header found the bottom corner.

Demichelis battles with Lukaku in the air.

Demichelis battles with Lukaku in the air.

In the opening minute of the second half, Hart pulled out a brilliant save to keep the visitors in front. Barkley broke with the ball past Garcia – who couldn’t stop him on a yellow card – and played in Naismith, who went through on a one-on-one. Hart was out quickly and tipped the placed effort around the post.

Immediately, though, City went on to boost their advantage. Nasri did brilliantly to keep possession on the right and cut inside. The Frenchman drilled a ball across the face of goal and Dzeko stabbed it into the roof of the net. The home players appealed for offside, but he was level and the goal stood.

There was a response from Everton: City sat on their laurels and allowed the hosts to control possession. Happy to allow the hosts more of the ball, on 64 minutes they were punished. A ball in from the left from Baines was well met by Lukaku and his header hit the inside of the post and hit the back of the net. City wanted offside, but the linesman kept his flag down.

With 20 minutes to play, City had a golden chance to add to their lead again. A cute ball inside by Milner allowed Zabaleta to run clean through on goal, but his left footed drive was blocked by Howard. The rebound, picked up by Kolarov, was curled over the bar.

Ten minutes later, there was a truly bizarre passage of play. Dzeko, clearly needing medical attention, wasn’t allowed it by the referee and was instead booked for timewasting for not getting up from the ground. The referee remained steadfast and wouldn’t allow the physio on and Dzeko wasn’t moving. Eventually, he allowed the striker to get treatment and showed him the yellow card.

City were under immense pressure – Deulofeu wriggled through most of the City defence after Demichelis blocked Barkley’s cross to the edge of the box. He got through to a one-on-one with Hart, who pulled off another good save to get the ball behind.

Despite the late pressure and six (becoming seven through timewasting) added minutes, City held on to the rare win at Goodison Park and went back to the top of the table.

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Manchester City 4 Viktoria Plzen 2

UEFA Champions League Group D
Wednesday 27 November 2013, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Richards, Kolarov (c), Demichelis, Lescott, Garcia, Fernandinho (Toure 64), Milner, Nasri (Negredo 74), Aguero (Navas 45), Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Boyata, Huws
Goals: Aguero (pen 33), Nasri (64), Negredo (78), Dzeko (89)
Booked: Milner, Toure, Demichelis

Referee: Firat Aydinus
Man of the Match: Samir Nasri

Milner puts his body on the line.

Milner puts his body on the line.

With a much-changed line-up and a chance for a dropped goalkeeper to impress, City ran out 4-2 winners in a game that could – quite easily – have ended goalless. A damp squib… A dead rubber… Call it what you want: One side was out of the competition and the other was already through.

The game took a while to get going (some would argue it never did), but the first real chance fell to the hosts, despite the visitors having more of the ball in the opening stages. Nasri played a free kick low to the penalty spot, where Garcia connected to it and prodded it just wide.

Dzeko had a shot easily saved by Kozacik, before Nasri – who was settling into the creative role without Silva in the team very well – cracked a great shot from range against the crossbar. The Frenchman then volleyed wide from an Aguero cross, when he might have done better. Aguero had a goal disallowed as he latched on to a long punt from Hart, after he was caught tugging the defender’s shorts. City were unlucky not to have been leading.

Just before the half hour, the visitors should have gone ahead. Rajtoral wriggled through challenges from Lescott and Kolarov and – with the home side’s defence like statues – rolled a side-footed effort wide of Hart’s far post, as he faced the goalkeeper for a one-on-one. He should have netted.

The game had turned in favour of the Czech side by the stage the Blues went ahead. City broke quickly down the left and Rajtoral handled a ball into the middle, leaving the referee to point to the spot. Aguero sent the keeper the wrong way and the home side were ahead.

However, three minutes before half time, Plzen drew level. Horava rifled a shot past Hart from outside the box, as the home side’s defence were caught napping. The England keeper had no chance with the effort and, in truth, the visitors deserved to be on equal terms.

Hart is disappointed to concede.

Hart is disappointed to concede.

A different City side came out for the second half. This one was more involved in the game and looked much more dangerous than they had before the break: Navas clipped the post, after Dzeko had a shot deflected into the keeper’s arms, and Fernandinho had a flicked header superbly pushed over by Kozacik.

The Blues re-took the lead just after the hour mark. Yaya Toure – on for Fernandinho – did well to keep possession on the by-line and flick it back to Navas, who chipped a neat cross into the middle. There, waiting, was Nasri, who coolly slotted the ball into the net at the back post with his first touch.

The lead, though, lasted just four minutes. There had been a warning sign, as Hart excellently flicked a shot from range over the bar, but the warning wasn’t heeded. Kolar slipped the ball to Tecl inside the box and he slotted it past Hart from four yards out.

On 78 minutes, substitute Negredo scored for his sixth successive game at the Etihad, as he arrived late at the back post to slot the ball into the empty net from Navas’s low cross. It had been missed by both Dzeko and the goalkeeper at the front post and it was a simple finish.

Plzen almost hit back immediately once more. The ball was played through on the right flank and it needed quick reactions from Hart to be off his line speedily and spread himself in order to block the shot.

With only a matter of seconds left on the clock before stoppage time, the home side secured their three points. Milner crossed deep into the box where Dzeko was available to nod the ball home and give City a two-goal lead for the first time all evening.

It wasn’t a pretty game, but it got the job done – leaving City with a chance (however small) of topping the group after the final game.

Manchester City 1 Borussia Dortmund 1

UEFA Champions League Group D
Wednesday 3 October 2012, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Clichy (Balotelli 81), Y Toure, Garcia (Rodwell 34), Nasri (Kolarov 58), Silva, Aguero, Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Milner, Tevez
Goals: Balotelli (pen 90)
Booked: Kompany, Y Toure

Referee: Pavel Kralovec
Man of the Match: Joe Hart

City started the game brightly. Nasri had a low drive well saved by Weidenfeller, as the home side looked to get themselves on the front foot early on. Aguero had an effort well saved, before Zabaleta skied a shot from inside the box. It had been described as a must-win fixture and it looked like the blues were taking those words to heart. But soon it all started to slow down and the game swung towards the German opposition’s favour.

With 12 minutes on the clock, Hart pulled off his first world class save of the evening. Gotze seized upon a loose ball in the middle of City’s defence and found himself one-on-one with the home side’s goalkeeper. He drove the shot at the far post, but Hart was equal to it, fingertipping it onto the upright.

City tried to respond: Silva slipped Aguero through on goal, but the Argentine was stretching to get his shot away and could only direct it down the middle of the goal. It almost crept through Weidenfeller’s legs, but he got down well to block with his knees. The rebound fell just behind Nasri, as he tried to adjust to slot the ball into the net. Aguero then forced a great save from the Dortmund keeper from well outside the box.

But, once again, the game swung towards the visitors. Subotic fired a shot just wide of Hart’s goal, before Zabaleta had to scramble across the box to block a through ball. City were pinned in their own area and the pressure almost told when Gotze got through once again. He fired at the top corner, but Hart got his fingers to it and pushed it onto the underside of the bar.

Despite the pressure, it could have been City who went into half time in front. Aguero slipped the ball to Zabaleta as he broke into the six-yard box and he delivered a great cross to the middle, where Silva was arriving. The Spaniard, though, couldn’t control his volley and side-footed it over the bar with his right foot.

The final say of the half, though, went to Joe Hart again. Gundogen found himself with time and space eight yards out from goal, but the City keeper was off his line quickly to block his shot. It was, somehow, goalless at the break and thanks in no small part to the home side’s number one.

It was the visitors who settled in the second half the quickest. City’s right full-back Zabaleta was again in the right place to put in a crucial, last-gasp challenge to deny Reus the chance to shoot at goal, before Hart again pulled out all the stops to keep the ball out of the home side’s net. Hummels was inches away from flicking a header into the net, but Zabaleta did enough to put the Dortmund centre-back off.

But, as the hour mark came up, the visitors took the lead. A slack pass in the centre of midfield from Rodwell gifted the ball to Dortmund. With the City numbers depleted, the away side broke quickly and efficiently, with Reus going one-on-one with Hart. He got a hand to the shot, but this time the City keeper couldn’t prevent the ball from crossing the line. It had been coming.

Ten minutes later, it was beginning to feel like Joe Hart was taking on the German side on his own, as he produced yet another stunning save to block a low shot, before getting up quickly to turn an effort bound for the top corner over the bar. Lewandowski should have put the visitors further ahead, but he managed to slide the ball wide when it seemed easier to score.

With three minutes to play, City looked like they had an unlikely way back into the game. Zabaleta crossed to the back post where Aguero connected with a header. It looked destined for the net, but Weidenfeller got across his goal well to palm the ball behind. City had been struggling for chances in the second half and that looked like the best it was going to get.

But, as the clock ticked to 90, the home side were handed the chance to steal a point – a handball in the box gifted the hosts a penalty. Balotelli stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way coolly, pulling the blues level.

City could have edged ahead minutes later as they were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. Kolarov was on the scene first and there was never going to be any other taker – he stepped up and tried to curl the ball into the near post, but it clipped the top of the wall and bounced away to safety.

The final say of the game, though, went to man of the match Joe Hart. With City caught out still riding the high of the equaliser, the visitors nearly won the game in stoppage time. Lewandowski fired an effort at goal from the edge of the box and it looked like it would sneak into the corner until Hart got across to push it behind.

 

 

 

Real Madrid 3 Manchester City 2

UEFA Champions League Group D
Tuesday 18 September 2012, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Maicon (Zabaleta 74), Kompany (c), Nastasic, Clichy, Barry, Garcia, Y Toure, Nasri (Kolarov 37), Silva (Dzeko 62), Tevez
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Rodwell, Aguero
Goals: Dzeko (69), Kolarov (85)
Booked: Garcia, Kompany, Dzeko

Referee: Damir Skomina
Man of the Match: Joe Hart

City’s trip to the Spanish champions started with the hosts offering the early possession. The visitors, though were remaining firm and the opening efforts from Ronaldo were off target and not troubling Hart. The best of the opening exchanges, though, fell to Ronaldo, who stepped inside Kompany in the box and first at goal, but Hart turned it behind.

Three minutes later, Hart was on form again as Ronaldo got inside Maicon. The hosts were beginning to control possession and play was staying in City’s half – the former Manchester United winger took the ball inside early and fired towards the top corner. Higuain got a flicked header on it right in front of Hart, but the England goalkeeper pushed it away with Kompany completing the clearance. At the other end, Yaya Toure was inches away from slipping Silva through for a one-on-one.

City were very much on the back-foot, but when they did get forward they were looking to break quickly. Maicon crossed towards Tevez, but it was just headed away as both he and Casillas challenged to meet it. Silva almost poked the ball through for Maicon, but Arbeloa stole in before him. Higuain was onside from a ball over the top, but Hart did enough to force him wide. Khedira deflected Ronaldo’s follow-up towards goal, but he couldn’t keep it down.

Yaya Toure broke up play on the edge of the City box with just under ten minutes to go to half time and, after one of his trademark runs, the visitors found themselves with a four-on-three. Toure went right to Silva, who cut back inside onto his left foot to shoot, but Alonso charged it down. Perhaps Kolarov on the left was a better option. City were growing into the game, but the hosts were still on top.

With five minutes of the half to go, Madrid should have been in front. A ball from deep into the box evaded Kompany and Hart hadn’t come for it, leaving Higuain the chance to connect to it. He didn’t get it on target, though, blazing it over and it was a let off for the away side. Maicon then block a Ronaldo effort as the hosts piled on the pressure. City had their goalkeeper to thank that the scores were level at the break.

A golden chance to get a good ball into the box early in the second half was wasted by Kolarov as he knocked it too far in front of himself after Yaya Toure had played it through to him down the left. He made up for it, though, intercepting brilliantly as Alonso looked for Ronaldo. The Serbian slid to stretch just enough to knock it back to Hart. Toure broke from midfield to unleash a shot, but it was deflected behind for City’s first corner of the match.

Nastasic almost put Hart in trouble under pressure from Higuain and his backpass was short. The goalkeeper was off his line quickly to clear, ahead of the Madrid man. A low cross from Marcelo was begging for a touch, but Clichy was aware and able to clear when staring straight at his own goal.

With the hour mark approaching, it was again all Madrid. Marcelo unleashed a vicious shot towards the top corner and it just swerved away at the last minute; Hart had thrown himself towards it, but might not have gotten there had it been on target. Ronaldo was in place to head away a City free kick at the other end, before Tevez fired over from a 30 yard snapshot.

Despite the Madrid pressure, though, City got themselves in front. Yaya Toure did brilliantly to hold off the challenges of three players on the edge of the City box and break away. Suddenly, City had a two-on-one. Toure drew the challenge, slid it in to Dzeko and he passed the ball into the back of the net with his left foot. City had been on the back foot all game, but had a vital breakaway goal.

Straight afterwards, Madrid looked to get level. A free kick was flicked over his own bar by Kolarov, before Hart was beaten to the cross from the resulting corner. But it was City who almost had a second – Kolarov smashed a ball into the box and Casillas spilled it, but neither Dzeko or Tevez were in the right place to capitalise.

Yaya Toure had the chance to grab a second goal for City with 15 minutes to play after Tevez did well to hold the ball up and slide it through to the Ivorian. It was just too far ahead of him and, stretching, he could only find the side netting.

And it turned out to be costly. Immediately down the other end, Marcello cut inside onto his right foot and shot at goal. Hart dived for it, but was cruelly beaten by a deflection and the hosts were level. Zabaleta nearly flicked the ball past Casillas, as Tevez found him inside the six yard box. It was becoming stretched and suddenly it was an end to end game.

Despite the Madrid pressure, it was City who got the next goal. Zabaleta did well to win a free kick on the right flank and, from deep, Kolarov played a ball towards the back post. Alonso challenged and several City players stretched for it, but it bounced inside the post and the away side were back in front.

The equaliser came straight away, though. Benzema turned on the edge of the box and Nastasic couldn’t get there to block. His shot was tucked inside the post and Hart just couldn’t stretch enough to save it. City were asleep after going in front. Hart was again on form to deny Benzema, before Ronaldo won the game for the hosts. A dipping shot flashed past Kompany, who should have got the block in, and Hart couldn’t keep it out – City made them work for the points, but ultimately, it was a defeat on the opening game of the group.

Manchester City 3 Sporting 2

Europa League Round of 16, Leg Two
Thursday 15 March 2012, 20.05 KO

City: Hart, Richards, Savic, K Toure (c), Kolarov, Y Toure, Pizarro (Dzeko 55), A Johnson (de Jong 45), Silva (Nasri 66), Aguero, Balotelli
Unused: Pantilimon, Clichy, Milner, Roman
Goals: Aguero (60, 83), Balotelli (pen 75)
Booked: Y Toure, Kolarov, Savic, Balotelli

Referee: Tom Hagen
Man of the Match: Sergio Aguero

Despite the home side needing two goals to get into the next round from the kick off, it was the visitors who started the brighter. Insua headed just over from an early Sporting corner, while City struggled to get any passes together, preferring instead to look for the long ball over the top. Balotelli slipped as he was played in, before he was free on the right flank and found by Silva, but the defender got a toe to the ball before he could pull the trigger.

Fernandez looked for a penalty just before the half hour, going down in the area under a challenge from Savic, but the Serbian won the ball. A minute later, he went into the book for diving in the box, this time under pressure from Kolo Toure. But then, minutes after, he made his impact on the game: He buried a free kick from the left side of the box into the far corner; Hart got a hand on it, but couldn’t do anything to keep it out.

With just over five minutes of the half to play, City’s uphill task became a mountain. Izmailov found acres of space on the left flank and crossed the ball low for van Wolfswinkel at the back post. He couldn’t miss, smashing the ball into the roof of the net and giving the visitors their second away goal and a two-nil lead. City needed to score four or they were out of the competition, but they hadn’t looked like scoring once in the first half.

But the second half was a different story. Sporting seemed happy with their two-goal haul and sat back, while City went for broke. Though, despite beginning to dominate possession, City were struggling to fashion shooting a shooting chance. Mancini introduced Dzeko and, five minutes later, his presence in the box allowed Aguero to find space. Yaya Toure picked him out and the Argentine slotted the ball home, giving the hosts some faint hope.

Kolarov curled a free kick just wide, shortly after, before he curled a corner into the box and it was narrowly missed by both Balotelli and Dzeko, as the hosts looked for their second goal. But, with 15 minutes to play, Aguero was felled in the box and the referee pointed to the spot: Balotelli stepped up and coolly rolled the ball into the net. The game on the night was level, but City still needed two more goals to qualify for the next round.

As the visitors began to waste time, Nigel de Jong tried to hurry things up as Pereirinha went down softly by the touchline – the Dutchman tried to pick the Sporting man up and roll him over the line, so the hosts’ onslaught of Rui Patricio’s goal could continue.

With seven minutes to play, a corner into the Sporting box took a touch and found its way to Aguero. The goalkeeper was wrong-footed and City’s leading scorer volleyed the ball into the back of the net. The comeback was well and truly on, despite looking so unlikely at half time and the tie was level, though the visitors were going through thanks to their two away goals.

It was almost City’s night a minute later, as Kolarov delivered a wicked ball onto Dzeko’s head. The Bosnian, though, couldn’t climb high enough and couldn’t get over the cross. The effort was just over the bar. Balotelli then got on the end of a Kolarov cross, but his header took a deflection and dropped behind for a corner. City were knocking, but the Sporting door was just about holding firm.

With the board up for stoppage time, Aguero burst into the box and held onto the ball. His momentum took him too far wide, though, and, despite firing it low and hard, his cross was swallowed up by the visiting goalkeeper, with Balotelli trying to get on the end of it.

As the game ticked to the final 30 seconds, City won a corner and piled everybody into the box – including Joe Hart. The first ball in was cleared as far as de Jong and the second cross found the City keeper at the back post. He shrugged off the challenge and headed at goal. It was going in at the back post until the fingertips of Rui Patricio pushed the ball wide. But there was no time to take the resulting corner.

City had gone out of the Europa League, but while the second half fight back wasn’t enough, it should give the blues some inspiration for the coming league games.

Swansea 1 Manchester City 0

English Premier League
Sunday 11 March 2012, 14.00 KO

City: Hart, Richards, Savic, K Toure, Clichy, Barry (Aguero 37), de Jong, Y Toure, Nasri (A Johnson 86), Silva (Dzeko 87), Balotelli
Unused: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Pizarro, Milner, Dzeko
Goals:
Booked: de Jong, Balotelli

Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the Match: Yaya Toure

The home side began the game the stronger, controlling the ball and the early possession. Taylor crossed towards the back post, where Kolo Toure could only flick it on to Routledge, but the Swansea man’s volley was well over the bar and not troubling Hart. And with five minutes played, Routledge took the ball around Hart and went down, with the referee pointing to the spot – up stepped Sinclair and missed; the England keeper blocking the low shot to his right.

A poor clearance from a Silva cross almost gave Balotelli the chance to open the scoring after some neat feet to flick the ball over the covering defenders, but he couldn’t find room for the shot. Barry and de Jong lost out from the resulting clearance and de Jong was forced to commit a foul to prevent the breakaway, taking the yellow card.

Kolo Toure blocked a cross from Sigurdsson, but couldn’t get the ball clear and it found its way to Danny Graham on the penalty spot, with his back to goal. He turned the Ivorian and got his shot in at goal, but it was wide of Hart’s post. City were struggling to get their foot on the ball. Rangel fired in a shot soon after, but Toure was in the way to block. City’s breakaway was stopped by Sinclair, who took the ball off Nasri’s toe as he tried to volley at Vorm’s goal.

A neat ball into the box from Nasri, after some good possession between Silva, Yaya Toure and Clichy allowed Balotelli to slip in behind the home side’s defence. But the defender recovered to concede the corner. From that flag kick, Yaya Toure belted the ball at goal, but it was deflected over. Two more corners were just about scrambled away by the hosts, as Balotelli and Richards tried to squeeze them in, before de Jong smashed at goal and Silva curled an effort two yards wide. It was City’s best spell of the half, but they couldn’t find the breakthrough.

City began the second half much better than they did the first: They saw more of the ball and fashioned the first good shooting chance, as the ball was given away to Balotelli on the left. He found Aguero, who shot at Vorm’s near post, but he dragged the effort wide. A low ball into City’s box then caused the visitors problems, and Richards and Toure just about squeezed the ball behind for a corner.

De Jong intercepted a Swansea pass to prevent the breakaway and fed Silva, ten minutes into the second half, but the Spaniard chose to cross for Aguero at the back post instead of taking on the shot: It was the wrong option and he misplaced the pass. A good spin from Nasri inside the area allowed him a shooting chance, but it was straight at Vorm.

Balotelli went down under a challenge from behind by Allen inside the area and the referee was unmoved, but there was little difference between the decision at the other end in the first half. Aguero was then guilty of making the wrong choice in trying to find Silva on the edge of the box, when he had the chance to shoot. A slide-rule Silva pass into the box was just about cut out by Allen, before it got to Balotelli.

Some more City pressure on the Swansea box with 68 minutes played allowed Silva to slip the ball into Richards, who turned and shot in one movement. Vorm blocked the initial effort and managed to dive on the rebound, as Balotelli closed in for the tap-in. Sigurdsson then crossed from a corner and found the head of Caulker, but the centre-back couldn’t direct his effort at Hart’s goal. Balotelli found space inside the area for a shot, as Aguero picked him out, but he didn’t connect properly and failed to test Vorm.

Savic gave the ball away on the halfway line, playing a short pass towards Yaya Toure and it handed the ball to the opposition. Swansea broke and worked the ball to the right flank, where Routledge crossed. Moore was unmarked at the back post and he nodded past Hart, with just seven minutes to play. Vorm denied Balotelli as City looked to hit back immediately, before Kolo Toure stung Vorm’s fingers from range.

City had the ball in the net with two minutes to play, as Vorm came for Clichy’s cross and missed. Richards nodded it into the net, but the flag was up for offside. It was close, but it was the correct call, as the full back didn’t get back in time. Two saves from Vorm kept City out again, as first Dzeko and then Toure were denied from crosses.

City couldn’t force another shooting chance in stoppage time and, with United winning, were off the top of the table for the first time in months.

Liverpool 2 Manchester City 2 (agg 3-2)

League Cup Semi Final Second Leg
Wednesday 25 January 2012, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Richards (c), Lescott, Savic (Aguero 45), Kolarov, Zabaleta, de Jong (A Johnson 78), Barry, Nasri, Silva, Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Clichy, Hargreaves, Milner, Rekik
Goals: de Jong (31), Dzeko (67)
Booked: Kolarov

Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Joe Hart

It wasn’t a great start from the visitors, who gifted the hosts a chance to get themselves further into the lead with just six minutes played. Enrique though could only find Joe Hart, who saved well with his feet to keep the scores level on the night. It was all Liverpool in the opening stages, with every time City got the ball clear it came straight back at them.

With 22 minutes on the clock, Bellamy forced a good save from Hart, who got across well to push the ball away, after the former City forward had escaped the attention of Stefan Savic. Bellamy had the ball in the City net shortly after, but it was flagged offside and City weren’t in any deeper trouble.

However, it got better for the visitors and, against the run of play, they pulled the aggregate score level and took the lead on the night. Nigel de Jong picked the ball up from 25 yards out and, despite slipping, he managed to curl it around Reina and find the corner of the net. The scores were level and Liverpool’s away goal had been cancelled out from the most unlikely of sources.

But the lead didn’t last long. Micah Richards was adjudged to have handled a fierce drive inside the penalty area and the referee pointed to the spot. It was a very harsh decision – Richards blocked with his foot before the ball ricocheted up onto his arm and the ball was struck from three yards in front of him – but the referee waved away the protests and Gerrard slotted the spot kick home. Liverpool had been the better team, but City had been very hard done to at the break.

City switched to a more orthodox back four for the second half in an attempt to get more ball possession further up the pitch, but it was the hosts who had the first chance after the restart. Bellamy got in behind Lescott and crossed low for Kuyt, though Richards cleared. The rebound was struck straight back at goal and Hart could only parry, but Lescott was at the rebound first. Barry then smashed a shot straight over Reina’s bar.

A Gerrard free kick then caused Hart problems as he tried to punch, but could only put it on the foot of Martin Skrtel. The Liverpool centre-back shot at goal and the England keeper re-adjusted well to fingertip the ball over the bar. Hart was then on hand to block from Downing, after he was unmarked to volley Kuyt’s cross. City were penned in.

Kolarov then picked up a yellow card after he was on the receiving end of a late challenge from Jordan Henderson, before Bellamy once again got in behind Lescott, but Richards recovered to block the City old boy’s cross. Though, after Silva had wasted a free kick on the right flank, City re-took the lead, again against the run of play – Kolarov smashed a cross low and Dzeko got in at the back post to smash the ball home from inside the six-yard box.

But, just seven minutes later, Liverpool were back in front. A poor clearance from Lescott put the hosts back on the attack and a quick one-two between Bellamy and Johnson allowed the former City man to slide the ball past Hart, giving the England keeper no chance. City were once again behind on aggregate.

Edin Dzeko played a great ball towards Johnson to set the substitute free down the right flank with just under ten minutes to go to the whistle. Johnson, though, couldn’t get the ball onto his left foot to shoot quickly and his effort was easily collected by Reina. City were struggling to create anything and Liverpool were content to defend their aggregate lead.

With four minutes to play, Johnson found Zabaleta cutting in from the right flank and the Argentine’s low ball found Dzeko on the edge of the six-yard box. He turned and shot, but Agger blocked, with the City fans appealing for handball. The referee, though, waved away the protests. A last gasp chance from City wasn’t enough to retake the lead, as Aguero’s overhead kick from a long kick from Hart was straight at Reina.

City could feel hard done to with a fair few refereeing decisions, but they could have no complaints as to who was going to progress to the final – the visitors had given themselves far too much work to do after the defeat at the Etihad Stadium.