Football

Bring on Man City, says Bristol City boss after beating Man United

Robins boss Johnson shifts sights to EPL leaders after beating second-placed United

After fashioning the sensation of the English football season with a League Cup triumph over holders Manchester United, Bristol City manager Lee Johnson knows there could only be one way to top a win over Jose Mourinho - and that is by beating Pep Guardiola.

The cheering was still reverberating at the Ashton Gate home of the second-tier Championship club yesterday morning (Singapore time), after their last-gasp 2-1 quarter-final win over the English Premier League giants, when the semi-final draw offered them an even giddier follow-up.

For the Robins' reward on one of the finest nights in their 123-year history was to set up the prospect of another when Guardiola's Manchester City, Europe's team of the moment, visit them in a semi-final, second leg next month.

Johnson was asked how it felt to be presented with the hardest task in English football against a side unbeaten in domestic matches this term.

"It's brilliant," he enthused.

"We move on now. We didn't show United too much respect.

"Now it's on to Manchester City over two legs and there's another chance for the players to test themselves against another elite group. City are a beast of an organisation."

The beasts who have been devouring all Premier League opposition this season, though, may find Ashton Gate as tricky and oppressive a venue as Mourinho's men, who became the Robins' fourth Premier League victims - after Watford, Stoke City and Crystal Palace - of their inspired Cup run.

The key will be managing to stay in the tie by the end of a testing first leg at Man City's Etihad Stadium on Jan 9.

If they can keep any away-day deficit down to manageable proportions, Johnson's young, eager outfit could cause a few problems in the return at their tight Bristol fortress.

The exultant scenes that greeted Korey Smith's 93rd-minute winner would, reckoned Johnson, "live in the memory of this football club for many years".

VIRAL

A video of the manager has gone viral, thanks to his reaction, as he euphorically picked up and hugged 10-year-old ball boy Jaden Neale after the winner.

Jaden told BBC Radio: "Lee Johnson ran down the sideline and then he picked me up, and span me around, it made me dizzy. I had a massive smile on my face. It was amazing."

Explaining his celebration, Johnson said: "I didn't know what to do. I wanted to run and celebrate with the lads but I couldn't do that.

"He (the ball boy) was the only one there. It was great to see him because I needed to celebrate with somebody and it just so happened it was the ball boy."

The 36-year-old's father Gary was one of City's more successful managers when he was a player at the club.

"But I think tonight was the greatest moment in both of our tenures," reckoned Johnson, whose team are pushing for promotion in third place.

"My dad always says he was the most successful Bristol City manager, so maybe I've pushed him a little bit close with that result.

"The players have been phenomenal. It's a young group with real quality and energy and every one of them will go down in the folklore of Bristol City football club."

None more so than Joe Bryan, a popular local lad and academy product, whose wonderful second-half strike had put City ahead before Ibrahimovic's equalising free-kick looked likely to inspire a United comeback win.

Still, City kept believing and were rewarded by Smith's superbly taken left-foot winner on the turn in the final seconds.

Mourinho, while praising City for playing "the game of their lives", could not quite bring himself to offer unqualified admiration as he kept suggesting the home side were "lucky" to survive with Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford hitting the woodwork.

Yet he understood this was City's night, "a beautiful night for football", even if he did not have time to hang around and share the special £450 (S$810) bottle of fine Portuguese wine that Johnson had bought to entertain him. - WIRE SERVICES


LEAGUE CUP SEMI-FINALS

  • Man City v Bristol City
  • Chelsea v Arsenal

FOR MORE, SEE

Buxton: Mourinho unwilling to learn from past mistakes

Mourinho: Some players treated match like ‘one more day in the office’

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