Manchester City’s quest for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies remains intact after seeing off Everton 2-0 to reach the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday as Southampton also booked their place in the last four.
City were far from their flowing best at Goodison Park, but goals in the final six minutes from Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne booked City’s place in the semi-finals for the fourth time in five seasons.
Pep Guardiola described the clash as the toughest his side have had since November as they recorded a 25th win in 26 matches in all competitions.
“It was the toughest game since the last international break we had. We have been incredible in terms of results and performances (over that period),” said Guardiola.
“Tonight was so difficult, they have experienced players behind the ball with two up for the counter-attack.
“It was incredible commitment from my players. An incredible victory.”
City won the domestic treble of Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup for the first time in English football history two seasons ago and are firm favourites to repeat that feat.
Guardiola’s men are 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League, face struggling Tottenham in the League Cup final next month and were drawn against Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Friday.
Oleksandr Zinchenko cleared Everton defender Yerry Mina’s header off the line with the best effort either side mustered before half-time.
Joao Virginia started in goal for The Toffees for just the second time due to injuries to regular goalkeepers Jordan Pickford and Robin Olsen.
However, the 21-year-old Portuguese stopper produced a brilliant save early in the second-half to prevent Raheem Sterling converting Fernandinho’s pinpoint low cross.
Guardiola was forced to introduce Riyad Mahrez and De Bruyne off the bench in the final quarter.
But it was Aymeric Laporte who opened Everton up as he broke forward from centre-back before Virginia brilliantly turned the Frenchman’s initial effort onto the crossbar.
Gundogan was following up, though, to head into an empty net and end the resistence from Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
De Bruyne then wrapped up the tie with a thundering finish in stoppage time as Everton appealed in vain for a high boot by Mahrez on Mina.
– Chance to ‘write history’ –
Southampton cast aside their Premier League struggles to ease past Bournemouth 3-0 to reach the semi-finals.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side have slumped into the Premier League relegation battle after losing 10 of their last 12 top-flight matches.
But the Saints have been immune to those woes in the FA Cup and booked a place in the Wembley semi-finals thanks to Nathan Redmond’s double after Moussa Djenepo’s opener.
While Premier League survival is the priority, Hasenhuttl insisted the FA Cup was a “big target” and he made just two changes against a Bournemouth team who sat seventh in the Championship.
“I’m definitely happy, not only for coming to the next round but also for seeing a performance from my team that was very lively and by far one of the better ones in the (recent) past,” said Hasenhuttl.
“I said in January that now is the time to take this chance because it’s always a good chance for a smaller club like we are to write history.”
In Sunday’s two quarter-finals, Manchester United travel to Leicester in a clash between the teams second and third in the Premier League, while Chelsea aim to continue Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten start in charge at Stamford Bridge against managerless Sheffield United.