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Everton's Cup Luk looking up after Man City win

Everton 2-1 Man City

By Mark Ogden

Published 07/01/2016

Get in: Everton’s Ramiro Funes Mori (left) celebrates scoring his side’s first goal against
Manchester City
Get in: Everton’s Ramiro Funes Mori (left) celebrates scoring his side’s first goal against Manchester City

Romelu Lukaku secured a precious Capital One Cup semi-final advantage for Everton on a night when neither Manchester City nor the match officials could successfully keep an eye on the Belgian.

Lukaku's 78th-minute header restored Everton's advantage two minutes after Jesus Navas had cancelled out Ramiro Funes Mori's first-half opener, but it was Lukaku's involvement in the Argentine defender's goal which prompted fury among the City contingent.

Standing at least three yards offside and blocking the view of goalkeeper Willy Caballero, Lukaku was not flagged by the assistant referee, ensuring that Funes Mori's goal stood.

That error was bad enough for City, with the failure of referee Robert Madley to award a penalty following Kevin Mirallas' trip on Navas another low blow.

But the heaviest punch was landed by Lukaku with his late winner, which gives Everton hope of completing their part of a potential all-Merseyside final in the return leg at the Etihad later this month.

Everton also went into this game having failed to win in front of their fans since a 4-0 victory against Aston Villa in mid-November. Rather than approach their first League Cup semi-final in eight years in high spirits, the home fans were quiet and tense.

That atmosphere was not helped by the cagey football.

Everton have never won the League Cup in its many guises, but with City manager Manuel Pellegrini boldly resting Joe Hart in favour of his erratic understudy Caballero, their path to next month's final was cleared of at least one formidable obstacle.

But Roberto Martinez's team were unable to test Caballero with an early bombardment as both sides probed, and the only moment of note was an injury scare for Ross Barkley.

Barkley was able to return to the action, not that there was much of it. City, with Yaya Toure playing just behind striker Sergio Aguero, failed to force Everton keeper Joel Robles into a save in the opening half hour, with Nicolas Otamendi heading a Kevin de Bruyne corner wide at the near post.

John Stones saw a goal ruled out on 37 minutes due to three team-mates straying offside, while Lukaku, who also had a goal disallowed for offside, saw his best effort blocked by Otamendi.

It was not until Robles kept out an angled shot from Aguero on 43 minutes, before Funes Mori blocked the City forward's follow-up, that either team came close.

But Funes Mori then delivered the crucial breakthrough by scoring the opening goal in stoppage time.

Caballero had done well to keep out Barkley's powerful shot, but he was unable to keep hold of the ball, which dropped loose.

City's defenders were static, perhaps believing that Lukaku was offside, but Funes Mori pounced and sent the ball beyond Caballero.

City had every reason to feel a sense of injustice about the goal, with Lukaku clearly offside and blocking the vision of Caballero.

Pellegrini's team at least had 45 minutes to restore parity, but the 2014 winners were pushed back by Everton's rampant start to the second-half.

Barkley was at the heart of the home team's attacking thrusts and the England midfielder almost teed up Lukaku with a threaded cross to the far post on 50 minutes.

Bosnian midfielder Muhamed Besic then saw a 25-yard shot saved by Caballero after Stones had found him in space before Barkley raced away from Touré and Martin Demichelis, only to run out of pitch.

After Gerard Deulofeu's chip was palmed away by Caballero, City rallied and Fernandinho's downward header on 64 minutes forced Robles into action.

But Everton regained the upper hand and Caballero denied Barkley 60 seconds later. City should have been awarded a penalty on 70 minutes, though, when Navas was tripped by Everton substitute Mirallas.

Pellegrini reacted furiously on the touchline, but his team were level six minutes later when Navas raced on to Aguero's through ball to score his first goal since September 2014 by guiding a left-foot shot past Robles.

It appeared to be a City lifeline, but Lukaku - finally getting onside - restored Everton's lead with a bullet header from Gareth Barry's 78th-minute cross.

Everton deserved to reclaim the lead and take an advantage to the Etihad later this month, but this is a tie with plenty of life in it yet.

Belfast Telegraph

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