Manchester City needed a late Sergio Aguero winner to claim a 2-1 advantage from the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Bristol City.
The runaway Premier League leaders were given a stern test by the Championship side and fell behind to a Bobby Reid penalty after 44 minutes at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s men created numerous chances in a strong response but, after Kevin De Bruyne’s well-worked 55th-minute equaliser, they had to wait until substitute Aguero headed in a Bernardo Silva cross in injury time.
What they saidManchester City boss Pep Guardiola said: “It was a nice game, beautiful game, and all my credit to Bristol City. We knew that (it would be a tough game) because you cannot knock out four teams from the Premier League without (being) well organised and having nice players to watch. They arrived, they created chances. They are up in the Championship (Johnson’s side are fourth), and I have a lot of respect for what they have done. Always semi-finals are tough, and 1-0 down, how we reacted in that situation… I don’t know what is going to happen at the end of the season, but my respect for these professionals, with this amazing schedule – every single game, they do absolutely everything that they have.
Bristol City boss Lee Johnson said: “I’m proud of the football club tonight. It’s half-time, we’re still in the tie. Obviously I’m disappointed with the manner in which we conceded the (Aguero) goal because I don’t think we deserved it. We put our bodies on the line, played some good football at times and had opportunities. We probably did as well as Premier League teams that have come here, and in some cases better.”
Tweets of the match
Star man – Frank Fielding
There were hugely commendable performances throughout the visitors’ team, and goalkeeper Fielding certainly had a fine evening. One point-blank stop to deny Raheem Sterling was particularly impressive.
View from the dugout
Although this first leg eventually ended in defeat, Bristol City boss Lee Johnson can only be immensely proud of what he saw from his players. They produced another memorable display against top-flight opposition, having already seen off Watford, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Manchester United in the competition this term – and one that means they are still very much in the tie ahead of the second leg at Ashton Gate in a fortnight.
Guardiola saw his men far from at their best, but it must be acknowledged that it was another decent show of character from the quadruple-chasing Blues to still manage to come through this distinct off-night with a victory.
Bristol City have scored 17 goals in the EFL Cup this season, more than anyone other team. Twelve of those have come against Premier League opposition.
RatingsManchester City: Claudio Bravo 6 (out of 10), Danilo 6, John Stones 6, Eliaquim Mangala 5, Oleksandr Zinchenko 6, Ilkay Gundogan 6, Yaya Toure 5, Bernardo Silva 6, Kevin De Bruyne 7, Leroy Sane 6, Raheem Sterling 6.
Substitutes: Sergio Aguero (for Toure, 70 mins) 6, Kyle Walker (for Zinchenko, 80) 6.Bristol City: Frank Fielding 8 (out of 10), Bailey Wright 8, Aden Flint 8, Nathan Baker 8, Hordur Magnusson 7, Josh Brownhill 7, Marlon Pack 7, Korey Smith 7, Joe Bryan 7, Jamie Paterson 7, Bobby Reid 7.
Substitutes: Liam Walsh (for Magnusson, 72) 6.
Who’s up next?
Liverpool v Manchester City (Premier League, January 14)
Bristol City v Norwich (Sky Bet Championship, January 13)