November 29th 2011 and only 2 days after we played Liverpool at Anfield we travel to the Emirates to play Arsenal in the Quarter final of the League cup. Mancini had already commented in the press that he wasn't surprised that the England National team were never successful because of the way fixtures came thick and fast and left the players tired and he'd hinted at wholesale changes to the team, he hadn't lied. Pantilimon started in goal, as he'd done in every other round of the League cup so far. The back four was Onuoha, Kolo Toure, Savic & Zabaleta. The defencive midfielders were De Jong & Hargreaves with Johnson, Kolarov, Nasri & Dzeko the attacking department. Arsenal also fielded a much changed team. We'd beaten Arsenal at this stage 2 years ago under Mark Hughes, but that was at The Etihad (well, Eastlands then) but at Arsenal we didn't have a great record. As I'd hinted at in my last blog, we'd done ok so far this season at grounds we don't usually do well at and against teams we don't usually beat so lets hope tonight could be another record broken and maybe we could earn ourselves another one of those semi finals we seem to be getting used to.
The early moments were cagey and even and the first effort on goal came in the 9th minute from Adam Johnson when he skinned the Arsenal youngster playing at left back to fire an effort just over the bar. Just a minute later Arsenal hit on the counter and good work from Chamberlain down the right ended with him firing a cross for Park to shoot. bringing a great save from Pantilimon. It was a fairly even and the next chance was a long range effort from Chamberlain that was flying into the top corner, only stopped by yet another quality save from Pantilimon. The match started to heat up a little, Nasri playing Johnson in but the ball just a little long for him. Then on 31 minutes Mancini pulled Kolarov off and put Aguero on. Tactical ? Not sure, Kolarov wasn't having a bad game on the left wing. Time would tell on that decision. City enjoyed the lions share of the possession but didn't really threaten the Arsenal goal, and Arsenal never realy threatened ours as the rest of the first half played out. Dzeko had looked lively and up for it and Savic and Kolo had looked fairly solid at the back. 2 great saves from Pantilimon, I'd been unsure about him before kick off, but he'd started to win me over with this first half display. 0-0 at Half time.
It was cleared up by sky that Kolarov had tweaked a muscle in the warm up but felt comfortable enough to start but obviously hadn't worked out, hence the substitution. The second half started where the first had left off with both teams trading possession, Chamberlain giving Zabba a hard time early on but Pantilimon dealing with anything goal bound. Nasri was getting booed every time he touched the ball, Hargreaves and Johnson weren't seeing enough of the ball and Aguero's touch seemed to have deserted him but 65 minutes gone and nobody was really threatening. In all honesty the second half was turning out to be quite a dull affair with most efforts on either goal coming from long range and not being very accurate. Mancini didn't look happy with what he was seeing. 78 minutes gone and City made their second change, Razak replacing Hargreaves. 82 minutes and a City attack breaks down and Arsenal break with purpose, the City defence eventually dealing with it putting it out for a corner. Arsenal's corner is dealt with easily and Dzeko breaks, he plays in Johnson who in turn played in Aguero to score. 1-0 to city with 7 minutes to go. A brilliant counter attack. Could we see it out and finally win a game at the Emirates ? Yes, the final whistle signalling our progress into the semi final.
Another ground where we'd broke our duck, another record broken i guess and yet another semi final. Carling cup semi final in 2009/10, an FA cup semi final in 2010/11 and now another Carling cup semi final in 2011/12, what's the betting that we get United again (If they get through their REALLY difficult tie tomorrow). Liverpool had beaten Chelsea to go through 2-0 tonight and also Cardiff had beaten Blackburn to progress, which just Left United to play Cystal palace. Our Reserves looked the part tonight, besting Arsenals reserves and the future looks bright. Pantilimon had proved my doubts in him wrong, even if he does look a little gangly and clumsy at times. More fixtures to navigate but that's what you have to deal with when you want to win things i guess, and the passion shown on the bench from Mancini tonight proves he really does want to win this cup. Norwich next for us in the League at home this weekend. Once again I'm a happy blue, thanks for reading.