Stoppage-time drama #1: Bristol City 2 Man United 1

Football's beautiful day

Bobby Reid celebrating Bristol's win with team-mate Korey Smith (on ground), who scored the winner. Bristol's reward is a semi-final against Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Bobby Reid celebrating Bristol's win with team-mate Korey Smith (on ground), who scored the winner. Bristol's reward is a semi-final against Premier League leaders Manchester City.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Mourinho blames lack of intensity, puts Championship side's win down to luck

LONDON • No wonder this was the hottest ticket in town; this was a night the fans of Bristol City will simply never forget.

As the final whistle blew, a sea of Bristol supporters stormed the pitch. Their team had deservedly dispatched Manchester United for the first time since 1978, with a brilliant 93rd-minute winner teeing up a date with Manchester City in the League Cup semi-finals.

United manager Jose Mourinho, who saw his chances of winning a fifth League Cup end, blamed his players for not "turning up at the office".

"In the first half we lacked the intensity that they had, and when I say intensity I say not just physical I say also mentally, for some of us it was just one more day in the office, probably a day that some of them they don't even want to come to the office," he told Sky Sports after the 2-1 defeat.

The Portuguese had picked a much-changed but strong side with big guns Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba back in the starting line-up, but United found it a trying night and could not complain when local hero Joe Bryan put Bristol ahead with a superb 51st-minute strike.

Ibrahimovic, who like Marcus Rashford hit the post for United in the first half, thundered home a low free kick to restore parity seven minutes later.

Yet Bristol, third in the second-tier Championship and hunting promotion to the top-flight, kept believing.

They made United the fourth Premier League victims of their fairy-tale Cup run when Korey Smith fired home left-footed in the final seconds of the game.

Mourinho added that Bristol were just fortunate to have sealed victory right at the end.

"They were a bit lucky. But they fought a lot to be lucky. They won the game in our best moment, when we can't react, when everyone was waiting for our goal," he said.

"So I have to say they were a bit lucky. Also in the first half we hit the post twice.

"But they played brilliantly, fought like this was the game of their lives, which it probably was, and I think a beautiful day for football, because a team from a lower division won.

"To get into a semi-final, a big day for them, their supporters. I congratulate them."

  • 90+3 

    Time when Korey Smith scored Bristol's second, leaving Manchester United unable to respond.

Lee Johnson may have spent £450 (S$810) on a bottle of red wine for Mourinho but the Bristol manager will never have to buy a drink in the red half of Bristol again.

Johnson masterminded one of the greatest nights in both the club's and League Cup's history.

His players stuck to his principles, continuing to build from the back, to pass and attack.

And when a lacklustre United side appeared to have settled for extra time, Smith sent his team and the fans into dreamland.

Johnson knows there could only be one way to top a win over Mourinho - and that is by beating Pep Guardiola's side in the semi-finals.

He was asked how it felt to be presented with the hardest task in English football against a side unbeaten in 27 domestic matches this term.

"It's brilliant," he enthused. "We move on now. Now it's on to Manchester City over two legs and there's another chance for the players to test themselves against another elite group."

The key will be managing to stay in the tie in a testing first leg at City's Etihad Stadium early next year.

"Jose was very humble afterwards but he shot off so he couldn't stay and have some wine," added Johnson.

"But I got to ask the questions I wanted."

Perhaps the real question was, who needed wine when it was clearly a night for champagne?


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2017, with the headline 'Football's beautiful day'. Print Edition | Subscribe