18 Dec 18
The Scottish Sun
LEICESTER CITY summer target Oleksandr Zinchenko was Manchester City’s unlikely hero as he kept Pep Guardiola’s side on course for a quadruple.
And no-one was more grateful to the Ukrainian full-back than Raheem Sterling who had earlier fluffed his spot-kick with a cheeky Panenka-attempt which sailed over the crossbar.
Oleksandr Zinchenko was the hero as Manchester City got past Leicester on penalties
The left-back smashed his spot kick into the top corner to seal a 3-1 shoot-out win for the visitors
Fortunately for the England World Cup star Leicester’s attempts were even more woeful as Christian Fuchs, James Maddison and Caglar Soyuncu all made a hash of their spot kicks as City won one of the worst penalty shoot-outs in recent memory 3-1 … and still had one spot kick to spare!
On the day Jose Mourinho’s time ran out at Old Trafford, City’s defence of the Carabao Cup did not go like clockwork but the important thing is they are through to the semi-finals.
Kevin De Bruyne marked his first start since November 1 by firing City in front after 14 minutes with a finish which combined precision and power.
Kevin De Bruyne struck with just 14 minutes on the clock to fire Manchester City in front
The Belgian celebrates alongside team-mate Sergio Aguero as the pair returned from injury
But Marc Albrighton came off the bench to equalise and set up the Foxes third penalty shoot out of the season.
It was third time unlucky, though, as Citizens goalkeeper Arjanet Muric who was the hero and sent the visitors through to the semi-finals.
Much has been made of Leicester’s desire to honour owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha by at least making it to Wembley this season in his honour.
However Claude Puel couldn’t have received the memo.
Marc Albrighton fired the hosts level with an emphatic finish
His volley into the far corner was just his second goal of the season and set up an intense finale
Either that or he simply misjudged the mood of his own support, who were growing restless after just one win in the last six games.
All Leicester fans wanted for Christmas was for their manager to field his strongest team against the current Carabao Cup holders and reigning champions.
But the Frenchman stubbornly stuck to his policy of using the competition to re-acquaint himself with some of the lesser-seen members of his squad.
So the likes of Danny Simpson, Soyuncu, Hamza Choudhary and Kelechi Iheanacho were brought out of cold storage once more as Puel made seven changes to the side beaten at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Meanwhile first team regulars such as captain Wes Morgan, Ricardo Pereira and especially star summer signing Maddison joined their boss on the bench.
It seemed absurd that Puel should give Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy the evening off, while Pep Guardiola added Sergio Aguero and De Bruyne to his starting line-up.
Riyad Mahrez was up against Leicester from the first time since his move to the Etihad in the summer
De Bruyne made his first start for six weeks and lasted 71 minutes before coming off for Ilkay Gundogan
To be fair the City boss made eight changes to his own team, including a debut for 17-year-old central defender Eric Garcia, which allowed John Stones to push into a midfield role.
However City’s resources are undeniably far greater than the Foxes.
Time would tell if Puel’s tinkering was a bold move by a boss who has the full confidence of his board – or a fatal push of the self-destruct button by a delusional idealist.
Within 14 minutes we were getting a fair idea this might not turn out too well for the Frenchman as City eased themselves in front following their first serious attack.
The fact it was one of their A-listers, De Bruyne who did the damage, wasn’t lost on anyone as the Belgian midfielder opened his account for the season following his lengthy lay-off with a knee injury.
Just as they had been at Crystal Palace on Saturday, Leicester were punished for giving an opponent too much room within shooting distance.
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De Bruyne had the time he needed to shuffle the ball between the inside of his left and right boots, then changed pace to jink between Choudhury and Iborra and unleashed a venomous right foot shot from the edge of the box.
Leicester’s second-choice goalie Danny Ward was one crucial step out with his positioning and the ball sped past his despairing clutches to beat him at his near post.
It was the first goal the Foxes had conceded in this year’s competition and they almost fell further behind four minutes later to the last man they wanted to concede a goal to.
Riyad Mahrez had received a mostly warm welcome on his return to his former stomping ground but he would have been pushing it had he made the most of the chance which fell his way after 18 minutes.
Brahim Diaz’s shot was deflected by Simpson and fell to Mahrez but the little Algerian slashed his shot over from five yards under pressure from Fuchs.
Leicester were struggling to provide adequate support for former City striker Iheanacho up front.
Pep Guardiola donned a flat cap in the pouring rain in the East Midlands
Nobody gave Claude Puel the Wembley memo at Leicester as he fielded a weakened side
Hamza Choudhury put in a number of firm, but fair, challenges at the King Power
However there was a glimmer of hope for the home side midway through the first half when Demarai Gray’s low effort spun off Garcia but goalkeeper Muric managed to touch it for a corner at full stretch.
The game had been bowling along nicely but there was a rare moment of controversy just before half time which left Guardiola fuming as his side were denied a strong penalty claim.
Diaz was first to the ball and appeared to be upended by Wilfred Ndidi but referee Lee Mason ignored City’s claims and Guardiola gave fourth official Stuart Attwell a real ear-bashing on the halfway line.
City fans had been in good spirits all night and had shown their class by holding up a banner in tribute to the Foxes former owner Srivaddhanaprabha which read: “Brothers in Blue, RIP Vichai.”
But they had less respect for a close neighbour and there were chants of: “Bring back Mourinho,” at various points in the night.
However the elusive second goal failed to arrive as Aguero and Mahrez both passed up decent chances to put the tie to bed.
Sergio Aguero returned from injury and was replaced late on by Gabriel Jesus
Caglar Soyuncu and Aguero battle for the ball and a place in the semi-finals
John Stones was given a role in the base of midfield and the armband by Guardiola
[bc_video video_id=”5981160018001″ account_id=”5067014667001″ player_id=”default” embed=”in-page” padding_top=”56%” autoplay=”” min_width=”0px” max_width=”640px” width=”100%” height=”100%” caption=”Manchester City fans wind up Manchester United by singing ‘bring back Mourinho’ during cup tie with Leicester”]
And Leicester fans were lifted by the arrival of two of their own big-hitters early in the second half as Maddison, then Albrighton were called from the bench and sent on to massive cheers.
With 17 minutes remaining Puel’s ploy paid off as Albrighton stunned City by bagging a spectacular equaliser.
Fuchs and Gray combined to feed Ndidi and the Nigerian caught out the City defence with a raking 40 yard ball which flew over the visitors’ defence and was expertly controlled by Albrighton.
The Foxes forward kept his composure before smashing the ball beyond Muric to send Puel dancing down the touchline in delight.
By now Guardiola had withdrawn Aguero, De Bruyne and Diaz and Leicester were looking at a more level playing field.
But they were let off the hook by Mahrez who took a Foden pass in his stride but his final shot screwed wide of the far post to set up a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
Manchester City’s players line up during the penalty shoot out at the King Power
James Maddison’s effort was far too weak and gave Aro Muric an easy save
After Harry Maguire and Ilkay Gundogan found the net, Fuchs blazed over.
Sterling dinked over the bar before Maddison’s tame effort. Gabriel Jesus then put the visitors in command.
Soyuncu could not beat Muric and Zinchenko smashed into the top corner to seal the win and secure City’s semi-final spot.
Raheem Sterling went for the neat finish but got it horribly wrong
Danny Ward reacts after Sterling dinked his penalty over
Manchester City’s players rush to Aro Muric after his heroics in goal