Manchester City once again struck late to dampen Bristol City’s high spirits. The Robins were a thorn in City all game long but Sergio Aguero again popped up with an important finish at the depth.
The Premier League unbeaten leaders showed their dominance in the opening affairs as within the first 10 minutes, the Citizens created a few chances for themselves. Like all games they have played in this season, City dominated possession, retaining the ball and not letting Bristol City have a sniff of it. Consequently the Championship side had their players sat behind the ball at all times during the early exchanges.
The best effort presented itself in the 16th minute when Bernardo Silva came in from the right-hand side but his shot on goal was deflected up and over the bar. City were already realizing that the team that have already caused 4 Premier League sides problems in the Carabao Cup weren’t going to roll over just because they were playing against the league leaders.
The game soon found more flow as moments later and up the other end, left-back Joe Bryan stuck an effort goal-wards from 20 yards, only to sting the gloves of Claudio Bravo.
As time continued, so did Manchester City’s pressure. In the 25th minute, City and Kevin De Bruyne thought they had the lead. After a cross from Leroy Sane reached the Belgian playmaker just outside the area, he attempted to lift the ball over Fielding in net but the keeper saved tremendously, tipping the ball over.
Next it was Bristol City going forward. The Championship side broke forward with a fast counter attack, Joe Bryan’s cross from the left is a good one but is cleared away although straight to Marlon Pack. He hits a stinging shot from range and it’s straight at Claudio Bravo, who does well to kill the ball and not spill it out to any oncoming forwards.
The Robins were making it through to half-time unscathed but even better was still to come for the away side. As Bristol City broke forward, John Stones made a fatal mistake in diving in and taking down Bobby Reid in the penalty area. No VAR was needed to judge that one as a penalty as the away side had the perfect opportunity to take the lead in the semi-final.
Bobby Reid faced up to Bravo, the keeper who has been the hero in two penalty shoot-outs this season but nothing stopped Reid’s 14th goal of the season even if Bravo got a hand to it. Almost 8,000 Robin fans went crazy at the Eithad. Bristol City, the competitions surprise package continued to send shock waves and should they hold on to this lead, it would be the biggest victory of them all.
Despite having 12 shots and the majority of possession, City found themselves 0-1 at half-time.
Just 10 minutes after the restart though, City found their equalizer through the ever-reliable Kevin De Bruyne. It was clever build up play from Guardiola’s side as the Belgian star played a one-two with Raheem Sterling, them thumped the ball low past Fielding in net.
After their goal, the ‘shark team’ were after more blood but the resilience and character shown by Bristol City was impressive. They were certainly holding their own against one of the best teams in world football right now.
In a bid to take a lead to Ashton Gate, Pep Guardiola turned to Sergio Aguero off the bench in the 70th, hoping for another last minute winner that the Argentine is so familiar with.
Just 3 minutes were added on at the Eithad and that was the time were Bristol City had to strong mentality and physically in defence.
Heartbreak for them as 2 minutes into added on time, Sergio Aguero stole the show as the little forward bravely got in front of Frank Fielding to nod home. With practically the last kick of the game, City proved again how a team should never give up. Bristol City gave a brilliant defensive effort but right at the depth, their hard-work was undone.
All hope is not lost though as the second leg is another chance for Bristol City to prove they aren’t just here to make up the numbers; they have genuine aspirations of reaching the Carabao Cup final. For now though, Man City take a 2-1 lead to Ashton Gate.
Lee Johnson’s Bristol City have already had a season to remember. As well as currently occupying 2nd position in the Championship, Man City just had the ability to turn up the intensity that in the end Bristol City couldn’t control. Under the Ashton Gate lights, the surprise package have already beaten one Manchester side, what’s saying they can’t do it again?