Everton beat Man City to close in on Liverpool cup showdown
Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku set up victory in the first leg of Capital One Cup semi-final
Everton 2 Manchester City 1.
An all-Merseyside Capital One Cup final is a distinct possibility after Everton beat Manchester City in their semi-final clash at Goodison Park on Wednesday night. The Toffees' victory came 24 hours after Liverpool had beaten Stoke City 1-0 in the first leg of their semi.
Everton's victory over the 2014 champions was inspired by 34-year-old Gareth Barry, the former Sky Blues' midfielder, who is enjoying a second wind on Merseyside since his move from City in 2014.
Describing the former England midfielder as "one of the best English players ever", Everton manager Roberto Martinez enthused: "I have never seen a player with such an incredible professionalism as Gareth Barry. [He] is one of those players who gets underrated. The reason we have so many developing young players is there are leaders in the mould of Gareth Barry. It is no coincidence when we have Gareth Barry around them."
Everton took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Ross Barkley's fierce shot was parried away by City keeper Willy Cabellero, allowing Ramiro Funes Mori to pounce on the rebound. The Argentine was fortunate that the goal was allowed to stand because teammate Romelu Lukaku looked to be in an offside position.
City protests were in vain, however, and wasn't until 14 minutes from time that winger Jesus Navas equallised for the visitors.
But City were on level terms for all of two minutes before Barry's inch-perfect cross was met by the head of Romelu Lukaku for his 19th goal of the season.
"Everton's first goal was absolutely offside," fumed City manager Manuel Pellegrini, who was also aggrieved that his side weren't awarded a penalty for a foul on Navas. "I didn't speak to the referee after the game - they were both clear. To lose 2-1 is a bad result but it just means we have to win 1-0 at home. I still think we are able to play in the Capital One Cup final."
Martinez said he was "proud" of his players' performance but brushed aside reporters' questions about the possibility of facing Liverpool in the final at Wembley on 28 February. "I wouldn't be that foolish," he said. "We know we have a momentous, huge second leg and we will have 8,000 Evertonians with us at Etihad Stadium. We wanted to win the first leg and we have done that."