Bristol City will play Manchester City in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup after recording a famous shock victory over the five-time winners and reigning holders of the competition, Manchester United, with a last-gasp 2-1 victory at Ashton Gate. Korey Smith, the City midfielder, scored the winner with only seconds remaining to tee up a two-legged contest with Pep Guardiola’s side in the new year.
“That goal will live in the memory for many generations,” Lee Johnson, the Bristol City manager, said of the match-winning strike, and one that sealed the club’s first victory over United since 1978. “It’s nights like this that we dream of. It’s Roy of the Rovers stuff. To beat Manchester United at home is incredible and I’m so proud of the players, they are a special group, and for the supporters as it’s been a long time for a result like that, especially here. I’m chuffed to bits.”
Of the wild celebrations, which saw him sprint down the touchline before embracing a ballboy, he added: “I didn’t know what to do. Laugh, cry, cuddle each other, no one knew. I was going to run on the pitch, then realised I couldn’t. So it was great to see him [the ball boy]. I needed to celebrate with someone.”
The meeting with City, with the first leg to be played at the Etihad Stadium in the week starting 8 January, will be extra special for Johnson given the former Oldham Athletic manager has previously leaned on the club for help, and to develop as a manager. “It’s going to be a huge challenge, particularly over two legs,” he said. “But City, personally, have been fantastic with me, allowed me to visit behind the scenes, helped me with all sorts. When I was at Oldham, it was just round the corner, I went to see a psychology profiler subsidised by Man City, went to visit New York City as a case study. It’s fascinating the way they’ve done it. And to see the football they play. I’ve never met Pep [Guardiola] before, so that will be nice.”
José Mourinho described City as fortunate after they beat United to advance into the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 1989. “Normally when a Premier League team loses against a team from a lower division, normally it’s because the performance was not good,” Mourinho said. “This was not very good, but it was not a performance where I can be very critical of my players. I think they were lucky, they were lucky. Before the 1-0, we had two balls against their posts. They scored in a moment where we have no chance to fight back.
“They were lucky, but they fought very hard. They fought to be lucky. Normally luck comes from effort and belief, which they had. It was a big night for them, and probably for some of my players it was just one more day in the office. When you play against teams with that extra motivation, you need also that extra motivation.”
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