Manchester City reached the League Cup final for fourth consecutive season as they inflicted more semi-final pain on Manchester United with a 2-0 win at Old Trafford on Wednesday (Jan 6).
John Stones and Fernandinho were the unlikely goalscorers for Pep Guardiola’s men, who will face Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham in the final at Wembley on April 25.
Mourinho was United boss the last time they lifted a trophy in 2017 and the Red Devils wait for silverware under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer goes on as they lost a fourth semi-final in the past two seasons.
City great Colin Bell was remembered before kick-off after he died, aged 74, on Tuesday with his former teammate Mike Summerbee reduced to tears as he watched on from the stands.
Both sides have hauled themselves back into contention for the Premier League title in recent weeks, but neither manager took the opportunity to rest key players as both made just two changes from the weekend.
Guardiola’s options were limited by an ongoing coronavirus outbreak as the club announced another three positive cases on Wednesday.
But Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus made their return from a 10-day isolation on the bench.
Any fears of a repeat of the goalless draw between the sides last month in the league were quickly dispelled as both had goals ruled out inside the first five minutes.
Stones breathed a sigh of relief that Marcus Rashford was flagged for offside after the ball rebounded off the defender and into the net after Rashford’s initial effort was saved by Zack Steffen.
At the other end Ilkay Gundogan thought he had continued his fine goalscoring form of late when he swept home Phil Foden’s cross, but the German was also offside.
Steffen was deputising for Ederson, who was one of City’s absentees due to Covid-19, and the American produced an incredible save to deny Bruno Fernandes his 16th goal of the season with a curling effort that was destined for the top corner.
City looked more like their old selves in a thrilling first-half performance to blow away Chelsea on Sunday and they were inches away from the opener thanks to a stunning move that started deep inside their own half and ended with Kevin De Bruyne smashing against the post from the edge of the area.
Foden saw a third goal of the opening half ruled out for offside, while Ruben Dias produced a goal-saving block to deny Rashford’s fierce strike as the game raged from one end to the other.
The deadlock was finally broken five minutes into the second-half when Stones cushioned in Foden’s free-kick with his thigh for his first goal in three years.
The England international’s poor form saw him fall down the pecking order in recent seasons, but City have now kept nine clean sheets in the 11 games Stones has started this season as he has formed a formidable partnership with Dias.
City’s issues this season have been at the other end and they again failed to make the most of their chances in the second-half.
Joao Cancelo’s piledriver flew just over before Dean Henderson made fine saves to deny Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez.
However, Henderson was could only watch as Fernandinho volleyed into the bottom corner after United failed to clear a corner for his first goal in two years.