Lack of Pep a worry for City

Ramiro Funes Mori opening the scoring for Everton in their 2-1 win on Wednesday. Manchester City claimed Romelu Lukaku had been interfering with play when Mori shot.
Ramiro Funes Mori opening the scoring for Everton in their 2-1 win on Wednesday. Manchester City claimed Romelu Lukaku had been interfering with play when Mori shot.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

Loss to Everton a blow for Pellegrini's standing at club even as he blames referee

LONDON • The spectre of Pep Guardiola will loom over Manuel Pellegrini regardless of what he achieves with Manchester City this season but defeats so close to Wembley will not aid his cause.

Everton drew first blood in their League Cup semi-final first leg with City, winning 2-1 at Goodison Park on Wednesday. Awaiting the winners in the final will be Liverpool or Stoke City, with Everton's Merseyside rivals holding a 1-0 advantage after the first leg.

City midfielder Jesus Navas had only moments before cancelled Ramiro Funes Mori's first-half opener, when Romelu Lukaku struck in the 78th minute, rising unchallenged to head home Gareth Barry's arcing left-wing cross.

Pellegrini pointed to two key refereeing decisions that could have gone in his side's favour, but indicated that he did not feel the situation was unrecoverable.

"The first goal was absolutely offside because Romelu Lukaku was one yard in front of our goalkeeper, and in the second half we should have had a penalty when Jesus Navas was caught by Kevin Mirallas," said the City manager, whose future at the club has been under intense speculation following Guardiola's confirmation that he is Premier League-bound.

"But the referee didn't whistle for either action so we lost 2-1. It is not the score we wanted, but we now just have to win at home 1-0 so we are able to play the final. If you can't win 1-0 at home then you do not deserve to reach a Cup final."

Replays suggest Pellegrini might have a point over the Navas penalty, though Martinez disputed the fact that Lukaku had been interfering with play when Mori followed up a Ross Barkley shot to open the scoring. "I don't think the goalkeeper was impeded," he argued. "He made a great save so he must have had a clear sight of the ball."

Both managers revealed injury worries for the next league game, at the Etihad on Wednesday, when the two sides meet again.

City lost Eliaquim Mangala to a hamstring strain at half-time, which leaves them with only two fit centre-halves in Martin Demichelis and Nicolas Otamendi.

Everton lost Lukaku and Tom Cleverley to ankle and calf injuries which will keep them out of FA Cup action at the weekend, though Martinez revealed he is most worried about Seamus Coleman, who could be out for three or four weeks.

Everton finished the game with 10 men after Coleman tweaked his calf muscle late in the game, with the manager having used up his substitutions.

The line-ups reflected the importance of the competition to the respective clubs, with Martinez fielding arguably his strongest available side while Pellegrini gave rare outings to Fabian Delph and Gael Clichy. Both managers persisted with their Cup 'keepers Joel Robles and Willy Caballero.

"The big positive was the way we reacted to City's equaliser," said Martinez. "We went straight back up the field and scored again. We showed great character, we never accepted defeat, we played eye to eye against a really good City side."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2016, with the headline 'LACK OF PEP A WORRY FOR CITY'. Print Edition | Subscribe