Pellegrini deserves credit, says Richard Buxton
Give City boss credit for his dignity despite all the Pep talk
SEMI-FINAL, 2ND LEG
MAN CITY 3
(Fernandinho 24, Kevin de Bruyne 70, Sergio Aguero 76)
(Ross Barkley 18)
l Man City win 4-3 on aggregate
For one fleeting moment, Manuel Pellegrini lost himself.
In an era where grandstanding has become a prerequisite rather than a party piece, Manchester City's often calm and understated manager remains a rare breed.
But, as his side booked their place in the League Cup final with a 3-1 win over Everton yesterday morning (Singapore time), the Chilean allowed himself, for once, to live in the moment.
He punched the air in delight, shared a light-hearted post-match exchange with referee Martin Atkinson and basked in the adulation from City's euphoric home crowd.
None inside the Etihad Stadium would have begrudged him extending his brief spotlight revelry to lighting a celebratory cigar in the dressing room - few, if any, managers in the English Premier League have deserved it more.
From being edged out by Barcelona in the battle for La Liga supremacy to usurping Roberto Mancini and merely warming Pep Guardiola's seat, Pellegrini's spell among the managerial elite has continually been mitigated by the fortunes of everyone but himself.
Even the level of success he has attained with City continues to be clouded in denigration.
In truth, little has come easy for the 62-year-old since taking the reins at the Etihad.
His arrival in 2013 was preluded by unashamed defiance on the steps of Wembley.
Pockets of the noisy neighbours' fan base defied City owner Sheikh Mansour to stick Pellegrini where the sun didn't shine.
Barely 10 months on, they were back at Wembley, lifting the League Cup. Two months later, they were once again crowned EPL champions.
Their latest return to England's national stadium, against Liverpool next month, should yield more than just potential silverware.
As an inevitable summer departure beckons, Pellegrini deserves overdue acknowledgement for the magnitude of the task he has undertaken.
Through all the speculation and shortcomings which befell him, City's elder statesman has maintained a quiet dignity.
Allowing his team to do the talking on his behalf has made it easy, as they belatedly did against Roberto Martinez's side once the shackles were removed.
At times, Pellegrini's opposite number appeared to have the measure of him, but his tactical acumen belies his seniority.
Where Martinez is happy to rest on his laurels, Pellegrini acknowledges the importance of continual evolution.
Conservatism and champagne football coexist in harmony, if the former is somewhat unbecoming of the grandiose synonymous with the modern City.
His substitutions were inspired - bringing on Jesus Navas and a joint match-winner in Kevin de Bruyne to turn the tables on Everton.
At a club in a never-ending state of flux, it was a move timed to perfection.
And yet, this summer, he is expected to find himself where Jupp Heynckes once stood - disregarded for a younger model.
Then as now, Guardiola was waiting in the wings, casting a shadow over the erstwhile Bayern Munich coach.
As Pellegrini was pitching up in Manchester, Heynckes left his future incumbent with arguably the toughest act to emulate, securing a domestic and European treble.
Unlike the since retired German, there may be more menial opportunities for City's outgoing manager after he is ruthlessly discarded, but the scenario remains the same.
With four trophies still on the horizon and armed with a squad to rival the best both the EPL and the Champions League have to offer, Pellegrini can throw down a similar gauntlet before he slinks back into the shadows.
History may then come to recognise the wealth of his accomplishments.
De Bruyne blow for Man City
Kevin de Bruyne will be assessed this week after suffering suspected medial ligament damage in Manchester City's League Cup semi-final win over Everton yesterday morning (Singapore time).
The Belgian (above), who scored a vital - albeit controversial - goal and set up another after coming off the bench in City's 3-1 win in the second leg at the Etihad Stadium, was carried off in the closing minutes.
The 24-year-old appeared to get his studs caught in the turf and then landed awkwardly on his knee as City closed in on their 4-3 aggregate success.
Initial medical reports suggest the problem is not related to the cruciate ligament but still prompted plenty of concern on the City bench.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini said: "We will see tomorrow. The doctor thinks he has a problem in his medial ligament, but it is impossible to know before tomorrow.
Asked if de Bruyne could miss the rest of the season for Quadruple-chasing City, Pellegrini said: "I hope not. It is very difficult to know in this moment, but I am optimistic he will not be out for the rest of the season."
Meanwhile, Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles has apologised to de Bruyne for attempting to pick the player up as he lay down in pain.
Robles tweeted: "I would like to apologise to Kevin de Bruyne for my reaction to his injury. In the heat of the moment, I didn't realise he was badly hurt.
"I wish him all the best and a speedy recovery."
- PA Sport.
Martinez slams ref's wrong call
Angry Everton boss Roberto Martinez hit out at the officials after his side's controversial defeat in the League Cup semi-final at Manchester City yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Martinez (above) was furious that referee Martin Atkinson and assistant Scott Ledger failed to spot the ball going out of play in the build-up to a crucial Kevin de Bruyne goal in the second leg at the Etihad Stadium.
The goal, contentiously set up by Raheem Sterling, put City ahead at 2-1 on the night and levelled the tie, which City then went on to win 4-3 on aggregate with a Sergio Aguero-header.
Martinez said: "You don't want to be in a position where one of the key moments - it was always going to be key, it was a clear decision, the ball is out of play. That second goal affected the outcome too much.
"You feel so hurt because there have been a few big decisions that have not gone in our favour. It is affecting our results too much.
"You have to respect the referees, they have the toughest job in football, but certain decisions are clear-cut. When the ball is out of play in the modern game, you don't expect that to be missed.
"When it ends up with the second goal, you can imagine the major blow to our feelings, our performance and our chances to get through."
City boss Manuel Pellegrini suggested justice may have been served after events at Goodison Park three weeks ago and the superior performance of his side on the night.
He said: "Maybe it was a mistake of the referee, but I think Everton cannot complain about the referee. We lost at Goodison with a clear offside for the first goal and a clear penalty for Jesus Navas.
"We had one mistake against four or five mistakes. I think we had two shots on the post and were the better team.
"I'm very happy because I think we deserve to be in the final."
City remain alive in four competitions.
Pellegrini said: "To play a final in Wembley - it is always a special stadium with a special atmosphere.
"If you have two very good teams such as Liverpool and Manchester City, it will be a brilliant final." - PA Sport.