Manchester City made it through to the Carabao Cup semi-finals despite a spirited display by League One Oxford United.
Pep Guardiola’s men beat their hosts 3-1 in bitterly cold and windy conditions to join Aston Villa, Leicester City and Manchester United for the semi-final draw.
A Joao Cancelo goal, plus two from Raheem Sterling, were enough to see off Oxford, but Matty Taylor’s strike that levelled the game at 1-1 epitomised the home side’s effort throughout the match.
Guardiola made eight changes for the game. Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Rodri the only others to retain their place in the starting XI from the win over Arsenal at the weekend.
Oxford United, meanwhile, made four changes from the side that lost 1-0 to MK Dons in their League One.
In awful conditions at the Kassam Stadium the home side matched their illustrious opponents and acquitted themselves admirably.
When City broke forward they tracked them every way, blocking shots and cutting out crosses at every opportunity – when Mahrez played it across the six-yard box, Oxford skipper Rob Dickie cleared it just above his own bar.
Eventually, however, the pressure told. As Oxford pressed, the visitors went from one end of the pitch to the other, pass after pass. The ball found its way to Joao Cancelo on the right-hand side and his deflected effort looped over Jordan Archer in the Oxford net.
The goal dampened the mood somewhat in Oxfordshire, and City pressed to extend their lead; Foden and Sterling both went close around the half hour mark.
Oxford’s best effort came when striker Matty Taylor broke in the middle of the pitch, drove forward and fired well over from distance.
18 - Oxford United attempted 18 shots against Manchester City tonight - this is the most shots City have faced in a single match under Pep Guardiola, last facing more against Chelsea in February 2016 in an FA Cup tie (19). Played. pic.twitter.com/55dKCh9LLH
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 18, 2019
Then everything changed a minute into the second half. A rapidly taken free-kick allowed Taylor to cut inside teenager Harwood-Bellis and he drilled a left-footed effort past Claudio Bravo to bring the Kassam to its feet.
Unfortunately for the home supporters the parity lasted just five minutes.A magnificent cross from Angelino found Sterling in space, and the City skipper for the night poked the ball home.
Despite the goal, Oxford continued to battle and remained well in the game and Tarique Fosu tested the palms of Bravo at his near post. With 25 minutes to go, the home side looked good for the cup battle.
But with 20 minutes to play Sterling repeated his trick, by tapping in substitute Gabriel Jesus’ cross and extending his team’s lead. Minutes later Cancelo nearly grabbed his second and City’s fourth but his effort cannoned off the near post.
The Portuguese fullback then had to return to his defensive duties and blocked another Fosu effort. Still Oxford came; Dickie put a header wide, Mark Sykes shot straight at Bravo and Josh Ruffels had a low shot blocked. It was as close as Oxford got.
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