Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini blamed the “unbelievable” decisions of the match officials for his side’s Capital One Cup semi-final first leg demise at the hands of Everton last night.
Romelu Lukaku proved the matchwinner with his 12th goal in as many matches, seconds after substitute Jesus Navas had cancelled out Ramiro Funes Mori’s opener to maintain the potential of an all-Merseyside final after Liverpool’s win at Stoke on Tuesday.
Pellegrini fumed that Lukaku should have been flagged offside as Funes Mori opened the scoring, and insisted that the visitors should have been awarded a second-half penalty for a Kevin Mirallas foul on Navas.
“He [Lukaku] is offside for the goal. It is unbelievable that the referee or the linesman did not give a clear offside,” said Pellegrini. “If you aggregate the clear penalty on Jesus Navas, that is two very important actions that change the score.”
Everton manager Roberto Martinez, meanwhile, hailed the striking talent of Lukaku, who joined the Goodison Park club on a permanent basis for a club record £28m in 2014, after the Belgian netted his 19th goal of the season.
“The stats are there to back any assessment you want to do about Romelu. From our point of view he has always been the perfect striker for our team and that’s why we invested so heavily in a very young man,” said Martinez. “He is an incredible boy to work with and he wants to be best in the world. It’s a joy to see him scoring goals.”
City had barely threatened in a tepid opening period by the time stand-in Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles repelled a Sergio Aguero effort in the 43rd minute, while Funes Mori was able to block the Argentine’s follow-up effort from Leighton Baines’ hashed clearance.
Everton surged into the lead in first-half stoppage time when Funes Mori was on hand to convert the rebound after City stopper Willy Caballero had parried a thunderous Ross Barkley shot following a Tom Cleverley corner.
An unbalanced Aguero slashed wide shortly after the hour mark, while Barkley outfoxed Nicolas Otamendi wide on the Everton left moments later only for Caballero to get his positioning right.
Robles’ low one-handed save denied Belgium playmaker Kevin de Bruyne before a sweeping counter-attack saw Everton caught up field and Navas calmly slot beyond Robles in the 76th minute -- his first City strike in 66 matches -- following a perfectly weighted Aguero pass.
But parity was shortlived as Lukaku powered a close-range header beyond Caballero from Gareth Barry’s pinpoint cross just two minutes and six seconds later.