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One Step Closer
They left it very late, but Manchester City got the job done Saturday, defeating Everton 2-0.
In what looked like a friendly match at times, Pep Guardiola’s second-half substitutions made all the difference as Kevin De Bruyne helped set-up Ilkay Gundogan’s game-winner before scoring the insurance goal in injury time.
With the win the Sky Blues advance to the semi-finals for a third successive season.
It was a typical start to a City game with the Sky Blues patiently kicking the ball around the pitch.
No side was really able to generate any real clear-cut opportunities early on.
Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling had an excellent exchange of passes in the 18th minute as the latter got away from his marker inside the Toffees penalty area.
The Englishman drilled a decent right-footed effort that Joao Virginia saw all the way and smothered.
Everton had a half-chance a minute later after a lovely cross towards the back post was met well by Ben Godfrey, who got above Kyle Walker and heading it into the path of Richarlison in the box.
The Brazilians acrobatic overhead strike went just over the bar.
The best chance for either side in the first-half came Everton’s way just before the interval.
A lovely corner from Lucas Digne at the near post as Yerry Mina got above Fernandinho, heading it towards the far corner.
Oleksandr Zinchenko though was perfectly positioned on the post to head it clear.
The first dozen minutes of the second half was like a carbon copy of the first as both sides lacked that quality in the final third.
A Gylfi Sigurosson free-kick on 58 minutes wasn’t dealt with effectively by City as the ball fell to Richarlison, who poked a right-footed volley wide.
City answered right back as captain Fernandinho made a nice run to the byline, pulling it back towards the penalty spot for Sterling.
Virginia did well to turn aside the shot, though and keep the match scoreless.
Just when the match seemed destined for extra-time Pep Guardiola’s men found another gear.
In the 84th minute substitute, Kevin De Bruyne found space in the box as he was dispossessed on the edge of the area; the ball fell to Aymeric Laporte, who bent a nice first-time shot that Virginia deflected onto the crossbar.
The rebound, though, bounced perfectly to Ilkay Gundogan, who just had to direct his header into the open net to give City the breakthrough at long last.
Kevin De Bruyne put the game to bed in the 90th minute.
Some nice vision from Rodri who played him through down the middle of the field.
Mina and Everton were caught out of position, thinking the referee would call a high boot on Riyad Mahrez, but as they protested, City carried on, and De Bruyne took a touch onto his left foot and put it past Virginia for City’s second.
Man of the Match
He was only on the field for ten plus minutes, but that’s all Kevin De Bruyne needed to turn the tide in City’s favour.
The Belgian’s entrance brought the Sky Blues to life in what was an uncharacteristically stagnant performance by his side.
He drew a lot of attention, particularly on the game-winning goal with the Toffees seemingly forgetting about Laporte and Gundogan as City took full advantage.
De Bruyne coolly finished off the match with a beautiful strike in the 90th minute for his second goal in his last two games.
On a team full of stars he showed he’s still among the brightest.
Setting the record straight.
The Sky Blues were able to set a new standard in away wins following this one.
It’s the 17th consecutive road match for City without a defeat which sets a new club record.
Ilkay Gundogan has easily been the best player in English football since the Christmas break and continues to make a difference.
The German now has 16 goals in all competitions.
Twelve of those goals have come in 2021, which is more than any other Premier League player.
On the right track
Today’s victory keeps City on course for a historic quadruple and puts them into this competition’s semi-finals for a third successive season.
That’s a feat this team hasn’t achieved in quite some time.
From 1931-32 to 1933-34, they made three successive final four appearances, eventually winning the tournament on their third try.
The Sky Blues have won 25 of their last 26 fixtures in all competitions.
They’ve now played 16 non-Premier League games this season, winning 15 times and drawing once.
The wait continues
Everton fans have waited a long time to see their side clutch some silverware.
The Toffees last won a major trophy in the 1994-95 season when they captured the FA Cup.
It’s been 26 years since that triumph.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men haven’t reached the final four of this competition now in five successive campaigns.
Despite the win, City manager Pep Guardiola admits today’s game was a real struggle for his side.
“Tough, tough game. We knew it. We saw the commitment and how focused they were.
“They defend aggressively, in a good sense, winning duels. They are so strong in set-pieces – every throw is a corner.
“We concede nothing, and at the end, we win it.
“That was one of the toughest games we have played in the last year.”
We won’t know until tomorrow who the Citizens will face in this competition’s semi-finals, but we do know it’ll be a top-flight side.
Southampton advanced to the semis with a 3-0 win over Bournemouth today ensuring a Premier League side would win the trophy this season.
Tomorrow Man United face Leicester City and Chelsea battle Sheffield United.
The semi-finals take place on April 17 and 18 at Wembley Stadium.
City will enjoy a well-deserved break with the upcoming World Cup qualifiers next week.
Man City don’t play again until Saturday, April 3, when they travel to Leicester City.
The kickoff from King Power Stadium is at 5:30 pm. (JSL).