BRISTOL – Pep Guardiola saw his Manchester City side pushed hard before defeating second-tier Bristol City in an entertaining League Cup semi-final on Tuesday to leave him one game away from winning his first major trophy in English football.
Guardiola’s runaway Premier League leaders, eyeing an unprecedented quadruple in the one season as they remain involved in both the FA Cup and Champions League as well, won 3-2 on the night for a 5-3 aggregate win over the Championship side.
They kicked off with a narrow advantage at Ashton Gate after a 2-1 first-leg win at the Etihad Stadium.
But goals either side of halftime from Leroy Sané and Sergio Aguero effectively gave the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager Guardiola’s side a win over the two legs and saw them into a first final under the celebrated manager.
But Bristol City kept going, with Marlon Pack pulling a goal back in the 64th minute before Aden Flint scored deep into stoppage time.
However, there was still time for Kevin de Bruyne to round off the scoring for Manchester City.
Guardiola’s men will now face the winners of Wednesday’s Emirates Stadium semi-final between their Premier League rivals Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley on February 25, with the two London clubs deadlocked at 0-0 after a first-leg stalemate.
It looked as if Bristol City would deny Manchester City a goal in the first half of Tuesday’s match.
But three minutes before the break, Hordur Magnusson made the mistake of trying to shepherd the ball out of play rather than clearing, and was dispossessed near the byline by Bernardo Silva.
His cross was fired in by Sané, the ball deflecting off a covering defender before finding the back of the net.
That left Bristol City, chasing promotion to the lucrative Premier League, with a mountain to climb at 3-1 down on aggregate.
And four minutes after the restart, Aguero, City’s all-time leading goal-scorer, all but put the overall result beyond doubt.
The Argentina striker, fresh from a hat trick in a 3-1 league win at home to Newcastle United last weekend, received an excellent cross-field pass from De Bruyne.
Aguero still had plenty to do, but made light of a tight angle by letting fly with a shot into the top corner from 18 yards out.
It would have been easy for Bristol City to be overwhelmed from then on in but, to their credit, it was the south-west side who scored next, in the 64th minute.
John Stones made a mess of a clearance and when it came back into the box, Pack guided a well-directed header across Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and into the top corner.
Flint turned in a header late on to give Bristol City fans hope of extra time but, pressing for that goal, their side were wide open to a counter-attack, with Sané cutting the ball back for De Bruyne to fire home.