MANCHESTER: Everton manager Roberto Martinez complained that his team had been unjustly denied a place in the League Cup final after a controversy-flecked semi-final loss to Manchester City.
Everton were 3-2 up on aggregate in Tuesday’s second leg at the Etihad Stadium when Kevin De Bruyne drew City level in the 70th minute despite Raheem Sterling appearing to have taken the ball beyond the byline before cutting the ball back for his Belgian team-mate.
Six minutes later De Bruyne crossed for Sergio Aguero to head in the decisive goal in a 4-3 aggregate win, setting up a meeting with Liverpool in next month’s final, but Martinez felt the damage had been done earlier. “It was a clear decision-the ball is out of play,” said Martinez. “The second goal, I felt that decision affected too much the outcome of us reaching Wembley or not. That is why it hurts.
“You don’t mind if Manchester City find a way of being outstanding and scoring three goals. It is very difficult to find an explanation in the dressing room for the players, to find a reason we have been knocked out. “That is hurtful and unfair. We want to make sure we pay our fans back and take them to Wembley this season.”
Asked if the incident emphasised the need for video technology to be introduced to the sport, Martinez responded: “My question is, do we need technology to get that right?
“For me that action is so clear. I would expect an international or Premier League linesman to get that call right. I would expect a top referee to get his angle and his position right.” Leading 2-1 from the first leg, Everton extended their advantage in the 18th minute of the return leg when Ross Barkley left Nicolas Otamendi and Fabian Delph for dead before steering a shot into the bottom-left corner. But Fernandinho swiftly equalised with a deflected shot and after Aguero and David Silva had hit the post, the 66th-minute introduction of De Bruyne tipped the balance of the tie in City’s favour.
The Belgian’s night was to end in painful fashion, however, as he had to be stretchered from the field after his right knee buckled in a challenge with Ramiro Funes Mori.
‘EVERTON CANNOT COMPLAIN’
The 24-year-old will undergo tests on Thursday, but City manager Manuel Pellegrini said he was “optimistic” that De Bruyne would not miss the rest of the season.
Pellegrini dismissed Martinez’s complaints about De Bruyne’s goal, citing decisions that had gone against City in both the first leg and the recent goalless draw between the teams in the Premier League. “Maybe it was a mistake of the referee, but I think one thing that Everton cannot complain about is the referee,” said the Chilean, who led City to a league and League Cup double two years ago.
“We lost at Goodison Park with a clear offside in the first goal, with a clear penalty for Jesus Navas that they didn’t whistle. “We drew here 0-0 in the Premier League with a clear penalty against Raheem Sterling. And tonight (Wednesday) the first goal was a clear foul against Aguero.
“It was one mistake against four or five mistakes. I think we were better than Everton on this night and we deserved more than them to be in the final.” City lost 4-1 at home to Liverpool when their paths last crossed in November.
But with an FA Cup fourth-round game at Aston Villa coming up this weekend followed by league games against Sunderland, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur, Pellegrini is not thinking about facing Jurgen Klopp’s men yet. “If you have two very good teams as Liverpool and Manchester City, it will be a brilliant final,” he said.
“But we have now one month before we prepare that game. It is important to focus on the FA Cup and after that we have two very important games in the Premier League.” – AFP