FULL TIME: Manchester City 2-1 Bristol City
And that’s that! Aguero’s winner is the last act of a highly entertaining David-versus-Goliath battle. Bristol City would have taken this result at the start of the evening, but it’ll sting right now. On the touchline, Pep Guardiola theatrically congratulates Lee Johnson for his team’s performance. It’s a bittersweet moment for the Bristol City boss; his side were magnificent tonight and he’s earned that praise from one of the most successful managers in the game. But they need to win at Ashton Gate in the second leg now. Having gone toe to toe with the runaway Premier League leaders, pushing them to the limit, Bristol City will still think that they can do something special in a fortnight’s time. But how close they were to a very precious result tonight!
GOAL! Manchester City 2-1 Bristol City (Aguero 90+2)
Heartbreak for Bristol City! The hosts stay patient, pinging the ball around the edge of the box. Suddenly, out on the right, Bernardo Silva curls a delicious cross into the box. It’s falling onto Aguero’s head, 12 yards out. Fielding comes, but can’t get there. Aguero rises and glances a header into the middle of the empty net!
90 min: Bristol City are pinned back in their own area again. Walker and De Bruyne probe with great insistence down the right, again and again, but there’s no way in. Sterling opts to put his head down and run down the same wing like the clappers. He reaches the byline and pulls back, but can’t find a blue shirt. Bristol City hack clear. There’s going to be three added minutes.
88 min: Paterson finds a little bit of space to the right of the Manchester City box. He can’t get a shot away. But Bristol City come again, and the hosts are unable to clear a high ball. It drops to Walsh, just to the right of goal, 12 yards out. He attempts a no-backlift whack into the top right, but slices it high and wide right.
87 min: De Bruyne suddenly bursts down the inside-right channel and into a small pocket of space. Enough space to line up a shot from the edge of the box. He lashes a stunning shot towards the bottom left; it’s deflected an inch wide of the post. De Bruyne takes the resulting corner himself, but he seriously overcooks it and the danger is gone.
85 min: Stones faffs around 30 yards from his own goal, and is very nearly stripped of the ball by the brilliant Reid. The striker would have been free on goal. So nearly so very careless.
84 min: Manchester City pin the visitors back in their own area. This really is defence versus attack. Walker probes down the right side, Danilo down the left. Sterling buzzes around. But Bristol City hold their shape and there’s no way through.
82 min: But Bristol City keep on the front foot. Out on the right, Wright flicks a ball inside for Brownhill, who helps it on to Reid. An ambitious effort to curl one across Bravo and into the top left goes all wrong. But the clock ticks on. Bristol City can see the finishing line now. The next ten minutes or so will seem like ten years to the Championship side.
81 min: A throw for Bristol City deep in Manchester City territory down the right. Brownhill flings it into the area. Mangala is forced to concede a corner. Nothing comes of it.
80 min: Walker comes on for Zinchenko.
78 min: Danilo powers down the right but can’t force his way into the Bristol City box. The visitors have recovered their equilibrium since rocking in the immediate wake of conceding. Manchester City’s fans are getting a little frustrated.
76 min: De Bruyne tries to trick a way through a packed Bristol City defence with a flick down the inside left. Sane doesn’t read the clever dink and the ball bounces through to Fielding.
74 min: Manchester City’s desperation betrays them for the first time, Gundogan trying his luck from 30 yards. The ball flies 30 yards high and wide. Pep Guardiola springs off the bench, presumably to tell his players to calm down. Plenty of time left for the victory they desperately desire.
73 min: Liam Walsh, Bristol City’s new signing from Everton, comes on for Magnusson.
70 min: Aguero comes on for Toure.
69 min: De Bruyne turns on the gas down the right and reaches the byline, cutting a ball back for Sterling who smashes straight at Fielding. Then another wave of attack as Sane glides down the inside-left channel before teasing as low diagonal effort wide right of the goal.
67 min: Manchester City win a corner down the left as Wright denies Sane space with a last-ditch defensive header. The corner’s cleared, and soon enough Reid is battling with last-man Danilo, high up the pitch in Manchester City’s half. Danilo very nearly loses possession dangerously, but a trick later sees him wander away from bother. The chances of this ending 1-1 have to be quite slim.
66 min: It may just be that the best form of defence for Bristol City is attack. Reid, Paterson and Brownhill are all involved in some crisp and confident triangulation down the middle. A lovely sweeping move which ends when Magnusson is caught offside down the left.
64 min: A little respite for Bristol City as Paterson beats Zinchenko down the right. But his low cross, bumped into the area in the hope of finding Reid, is easily snaffled by Bravo.
63 min: A couple of corners for Manchester City; a lot of concern for Bristol City. They can’t get out of their final third right now. They just about deal with the set pieces.
61 min: Sane loops the free kick into the mixer. Fielding goes down to gather and makes a mess of it. The ball nearly drops to Toure. Eventually, after some rat-a-tat pinball, Bristol City hack clear. But they are seriously on the ropes now.
60 min: But now Bryan is booked. Sane, free on the left, crosses too deep. De Bruyne tries to recycle the ball to the right of the box, and is high-kicked to the floor by Bryan. Wild. A no-brainer of a yellow card, in more ways than one.
59 min: Bristol City have suddenly lost their heads a little bit. Bryan is very fortunate not to become the third of their team to go into the book in short order, coming through the back of Sterling in the midfield. The referee thinks a stern chat will suffice.
58 min: Before the free kick is taken, Smith is booked for faffing around in the box. Eventually De Bruyne slams the ball into the wall. Bristol City clear.
57 min: De Bruyne races straight at a backtracking Flint, and clanks into him on the edge of the Bristol City area. Free kick, and a booking for Flint. This is a very dangerous position for Manchester City. These are very dangerous times for Bristol City.
GOAL! Manchester City 1-1 Bristol City (De Bruyne 56)
Scratch that: they were holding their own. In a flash, Bristol City’s lead is gone. De Bruyne strides down the inside-right channel. He slips the ball to Sterling on his outside. Sterling could shoot from a tight angle in the box, but pulls the ball back instead, a return pass which De Bruyne lashes into the top right!
53 min: Sterling very nearly circumvents Magnusson down the right, but the Bristol City full back is determined to hold his ground and eventually manages it. The visitors are under pressure - not quite under siege yet - and they’re holding their own. So far.
51 min: Mangala gets his feet in a tangle and concedes a corner. Flint very nearly gets a header on target, six yards out, but the hosts clear and go on the quick break. Pack should deal with the danger in the centre circle, but is way too elaborate and allows Sterling to race off with the ball. Sterling makes it to the area, and shoots from a position on the left. Fielding parries bravely and the danger is eventually mopped up.
50 min: De Bruyne, central and homing in on the Bristol City area, slips a ball to Sane on the left. Sane looks to fire a low diagonal shot into the bottom right, but his effort drifts well wide of the target.
49 min: Danilo romps down the right and into the area. He shoots from a tight angle, but Fielding holds onto the ball well.
48 min: Sterling slides in from the right and very nearly threads a diagonal ball to release Sane into the area on the left. Wright reads the danger brilliantly and hooks away.
46 min: Sterling makes off immediately down the right and wins a corner. Stones gets his head to De Bruyne’s delivery, but he’s been a-pushin’ and a-shovin’, and the referee has a good hard parp of his whistle.
And we’re off again! A freshly bollocked Manchester City get the ball rolling for the second half. There have been no half-time changes to either side. “Flint’s crossbar-shaving clearance to rob Sterling proves Pep Guardiola right,” argues Peter Oh. “Bristol are indeed a tall, tall team!”
HALF TIME: Manchester City 0-1 Bristol City
Well, well, well.
45 min +1: Manchester City very nearly equalise, but are denied by a wonderful goalline clearance from Flint! Sterling is sent scampering into space down the inside-right channel, and into the box. He draws Fielding and chips over the keeper. The ball’s floating into the net, but Flint gets back on the line and eyebrows a stunning saving header over the bar! The resulting corner comes to nothing.
45 min: There will be two added minutes. The visiting fans are going wild!
GOAL! Manchester City 0-1 Bristol City (Reid 44 pen)
Reid tucks the ball into the bottom left! Bravo guessed right, but couldn’t get a strong enough hand on the effort. The Championship side take a shock lead! And it’s nothing more than they deserve.
Penalty for Bristol City!
43 min: Brownhill robs a dithering Mangala in the centre circle. He zips down the inside-right channel and slides the ball forward for Reid, who strides into the area and is upended by Stones! What a clumsy lunge!
42 min: Manchester City snooze, and nearly give up a huge chance. Pack strokes a long ball down the middle, and suddenly Bristol City are three on two! Smith makes off down the right. The ball’s hooked into the middle, a poor pass, but Paterson can’t ricochet it into the net as he slides in. The hosts clear again.
40 min: Brownhill turns on the jets and wins a corner off De Bruyne down the right. The set piece is aimed at Flint, but Baker gets in the way, and the hosts are able to tidy up.
39 min: On the touchline, Pep Guardiola looks ... well, not concerned, exactly. But his expression is certainly pensive. Bristol City are proving a tough nut to crack.
37 min: Manchester City come at the visitors again. Bernardo Silva is found in acres down the right and enters the area. Instead of shooting, he opts to cross into a thicket of players. Wright tries to clear with a very curious backheel. A wee bit over-ambitious, that. The ball ends up at the feet of Gundogan, who has space and time on the edge of the box. But he scoops a harmless effort over the bar.
35 min: A corner for Manchester City on the right leads to another on the left. The second one’s taken quickly and shuttled back up the wing for Gundogan, who whips a shot-cum-cross towards the top right. Mangala tries to help the ball on with a flick header, but can only send it out for a goal kick.
33 min: Bristol City make another sortie upfield, Smith racing down the left and crossing high for Reid. Mangala clears, but the ball drops to the in-rushing Pack, who skelps a wonderful low first-time shot towards the bottom left. Bravo does very well to gather that without spilling it. Lovely football all round. Magnificent shot and save.
32 min: Wright is getting worked over by Sane down the left. So he resorts to a rather cynical block. He’s in danger of a booking, but gets away with it. The Manchester City free kick is lumped into the box in the no-nonsense style. Fielding claims, drops, and claims again.
30 min: Bernardo Silva has a shot from distance. It deflects out left for a corner. The ball’s whipped into the mixer, and out of play to the right of goal. Under it, Stones falls, the result of a very light hands-on challenge from Wright. It’s the sort of decision you get in Merseyside derbies these days, but it’s no penalty. Stones moans, but nobody else in blue bothers.
28 min: And now some head tennis in the Bristol City box. The visitors eventually clear their lines, but Manchester City are beginning to turn the screw after a quiet few minutes.
27 min: Sane sashays past Wright down the left after toying with him in the cat-versus-ball-of-wool style. He reaches the corner of the six-yard box and has a belt, but Fielding kicks away well with his feet.
25 min: Manchester City haven’t threatened for a few minutes, but you can’t keep a good team down for long, and Sane tears down the left, attempting to beat Fielding at his near post from a tight angle near the byline. Bristol City only half-clear their lines, and De Bruyne, on the left-hand corner of the area, has another try at whipping an outrageous shot into the top right. He’s not far off doing so, but once again he’s denied by the keeper. The resulting corner isn’t up to much.
24 min: Another corner for Bristol City down the left. This one’s a bit better, and Flint, standing on the penalty spot, nearly gets his nut on the ball. Mangala powers a header clear.
22 min: Smith’s tenacity earns Bristol City a corner on the left. The delivery isn’t all that, and a chance to put some more pressure on Manchester City is frittered away. But the visitors are playing with great desire and confidence here. They’ve obviously decided they’re not going to go down wondering. It’s a very positive approach.
20 min: Paterson falls over while defending deep on the Manchester City right. Sterling makes off with the ball and feeds Silva, whose attempted curler towards the bottom left flies way wide.
19 min: A free kick for Bristol City that’s effectively a corner out on the right. It’s scooped into the area and the home side don’t look particularly comfortable under the high ball. It’s half cleared to Paterson, just to the right of the D. Paterson has a shot that’s so woefully mishit it’s kept in play to the right by violent spin. Smith picks up possession but can’t keep the pressure on the hosts, and De Bruyne steals the ball from him, mopping up.
16 min: Bristol City go up the other end, Smith winning the ball off a snoozing De Bruyne. He feeds Bryan on the left, who has a dig from 25 yards out. Bravo doesn’t deal with it particularly well, allowing the ball to squirt off to the left. Smith is first to the loose ball, and should probably have a shot from a tight angle, but instead plays a square ball to nobody. A let-off for Manchester City.
15 min: Sane skates in from the left wing and plays a diagonal ball across the face of the area. Sterling gently helps it on to Bernardo Silva, who cutting in from the right, drops a shoulder to move back inside and looks for a curler into the top left. The ball deflects off a Bristol City ankle and nearly nestles in the top right. Corner, which is wasted.
13 min: The Manchester City fans respond with a quick burst of “Come on City!” Their heroes are more than often ahead by now, after all.
11 min: Reid and Paterson ping the ball between each other, advancing with style down the left. The travelling fans entertain themselves with a few none-too-serious olés. Then a long throw in from the right. Paterson smashes a shot from the edge of the box straight into the startled mush of Stones.
9 min: Manchester City are asking some serious questions, though. De Bruyne, quarterbacking from deep, nearly releases Sterling down the inside-right channel, but Flint sticks to Sterling like glue and the Manchester City man can’t zip clear on goal. Then there’s another wave of attack, Gundogan twisting and turning and screwing a weak shot wide left from the left-hand side of the D.
8 min: A nice, lively start to the game, this. Toure slips a ball down the inside-right channel and very nearly releases De Bruyne, but Fielding, bravely wandering well off his line, comes out to close the Manchester City man down. The chance is gone.
7 min: Paterson swings a ball wide right for Brownhill, who takes a touch, has a think, and hoicks it back into the box. Bravo is slightly hesitant, the ball dropping to the left of the goal, and Paterson gets to it before it goes out of play for a goal kick. But he’s flagged for offside.
5 min: Sane and De Bruyne combine down the left, the former eventually slipping a pass down the flank for the very busy Gundogan, who earns a corner. The set piece is played back up the wing for De Bruyne, who looks to dispatch a spectacular curler into the top right. Fielding claws it out for another corner, this time from the right. And this time it’s a non-event. But what ambition by De Bruyne. And that’s a stomach-settling save for the Bristol City keeper.
3 min: A high ball oscillates above Wright, just outside the Bristol City area. He chests back to Fielding, and the Manchester City fans scream for a penalty kick. Nope! To be fair, the players don’t put much into the claim.
2 min: The travelling Bristol City fans are giving it plenty. This is a proper cup atmosphere. But the hosts nearly silence them early, as Gundogan makes good down the right and finds De Bruyne just inside the box. De Bruyne fires low into the six-yard box, but before any Manchester City player can make a move towards the ball, Baker hacks clear.
And we’re off! Bristol City get the ball rolling. They take the opportunity to stroke it around the back for a bit, then launch upfield. At which point it’s Manchester City’s turn to get a feel of the ball.
The teams are out! Both teams sport their famous first-choice colours: Manchester City in sky blue, Bristol City in robin red. A magnificent atmosphere at the Etihad, helped along by 8,000 Bristol City fans; no away team has brought a larger support to this stadium. We’ll be off in a minute!
Lee Johnson speaks! “We’ll be as brave as possible and try to play our game. It’s a great game for us and we want to enhance our reputation. The players want to do everything they can to get opportunities at goal and to be successful. It’s a semi-final, and it would be rude not to give every last bit of energy we’ve got, and we’ll see where that takes us. Their selection is very respectful to us, there is some real quality on the pitch, it’s a real challenge for the players. You’re in a League Cup semi-final and you want to play their best, because it’s a very good experience. We’ve got 8,000 fans behind the goal, and we’re really looking forward to the game.”
Pep Guardiola speaks! “We will try to win the game, we take this competition seriously. Bristol City can play. They can use long balls, set pieces, throw-ins, and they are a tall, tall team. But they can play. They have good players in the middle with ability. We have to pay attention.”
Manchester City make four changes to the team that saw off Burnley 4-1 in the FA Cup at the weekend. Nicolas Otamendi, David Silva, Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero make way for Eliaquim Mangala, Yaya Toure, Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
Bristol City named a second-string team for their FA Cup defeat at Watford last weekend, with this tie and their promotion bid in mind, so there’s not much point referencing that. Instead, let’s compare tonight’s XI to the one sent out to compete seriously against Manchester United last month ... and there’s just the single change, goalkeeper Luke Steele finding himself replaced by Frank Fielding.
Manchester City: Bravo, Danilo, Stones, Mangala, Zinchenko, Gundogan, Toure, De Bruyne, Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Sane.
Subs: Walker, Aguero, Delph, Adarabioyo, Fernandinho, Ederson, Diaz.
Bristol City: Fielding, Wright, Flint, Baker, Magnusson, Brownhill, Pack, Smith, Bryan, Paterson, Reid.
Subs: Walsh, Taylor, Steele, Engvall, Eliasson, Kelly, Vyner.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).
Bristol City have been here before. In December 1970, they faced the Tottenham Hotspur of Pat Jennings, Alan Mullery, Alan Gilzean, Martin Chivers and Martin Peters in the semi-final of the League Cup. In the first leg at Ashton Gate, Alan Skirton gave City the lead on 57 minutes, taking advantage of a mix-up between Jennings, Peters and Phil Beal. But 15 minutes later, Peters crossed long from the left and Gilzean headed a fine equaliser. Second Division City held Spurs to a goalless draw after 90 minutes of the return at White Hart Lane, but Chivers and Jimmy Pearce broke their hearts in extra time.
Nineteen years later, City were in the Third Division when they reached the semis again, the trophy by now sponsored by Littlewoods. Nineteen-year-old centre back Paul Mardon gave them a 65th-minute lead against Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in the first leg at the City Ground, only for John Pender, under pressure from Lee Chapman, to turn the ball into his own net with five minutes remaining. It required Neil Webb to set up Garry Parker in the 114th minute of the return at Ashton Gate to settle it for Forest. Clough gave his opposite number Joe Jordan a kiss on the cheek.
So that’s two League Cup semi-final appearances for Bristol City. And on both occasions they’ve given top-flight opponents a tougher time than anyone expected. This Manchester City side may be on another level to those Spurs and Forest sides ... but in the cups, you never know. Shocks can happen: just ask Manchester United. Can Bristol City give their Mancunian namesakes a fright? We’ll soon find out. It’s on!
Kick off: 7.45pm GMT.