Claudio Bravo had the last laugh on his critics with the penalty saves that put Manchester City into the last eight of the Carabao Cup.
The Chilean, who was recalled in place of first-choice Ederson, was the star of the shootout that followed two goalless hours, diving low to his right to deny Alfred N’Diaye then going the other way to turn away Connor Coady’s spot-kick.
That gave Pep Guardiola’s side a 2-1 lead in the tiebreak-style shootout, and moments later Sergio Aguero sealed the victory with a cheeky dink over Will Norris.
Forgotten man Claudio Bravo came out of the shadows to save Manchester City from Carabao Cup fourth round elimination
Bravo saves Alfred N’Diaye spot kick before keeping Conor Coady’s effort next to put his side en route to victory
Bravo saved two penalties in the shootout to allow Sergio Aguero, who had missed several chances, to chip home the winner
City’s relieved players celebrate after seeing Aguro’s kick to put them into the last eight of the Carabao Cup
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
Manchester City (3-4-3): Bravo 8; Danilo 6 (Walker 102), Mangala 5, Adarabioyo 6 (Stones 91), Zinchenko 6; B Silva 6.5 (Sane 94), Toure 6.5, Gundogan 7; Sterling 7, Aguero 6, Gabriel Jesus 5.5 (De Bruyne 82).
Unused subs: Ederson, Delph, Nmecha.
Manager: Pep Guardiola 6
Wolverhampton (3-4-3): Norris 7.5; Bennett 7, Batth 7, Coady 6.5, Hause 7.5, Vinagre 6; Marshall 6 (Ronan 73), Price 6.5, N’Diaye 6.5, Costa 6 (Cavaleiro 79, 6); Enobakhare 6 (Bonatino 91).
Unused subs: Burgoyne, Doherty, Miranda, Deslandes.
Bookings: Bennett, Price
Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo – 7.5
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire) 7
Star man: Bravo
It was a heartbreaking end for A Wolves side who had pressed City as hard as the best teams the Premier League — and indeed Europe — during their barnstorming start to the season.
Here on a frustrating night at the Etihad, they came up against a Wolves side in no mood simply to roll over and wave Guardiola’s side through to the quarter-finals.
The Championship club were not about to concede the landmark 178th goal of Aguero’s career without a fight, or the 12th win in a row City needed to set a club record.
Wolves dug in and slugged it out better than any Premier League or Champions League club have done this season, with the sole exception of Everton.
They could even have snatched victory inside the 90 minutes had young striker Bright Enobakhare and Helder Costa not been brilliantly denied by Claudio Bravo when one-on-one with the City keeper.
True, this wasn’t City’s first team, but it wasn’t Wolves’s either.
A meeting between the leaders of the Premier League and Championship brought together a City team that had scored 32 goals in nine games this season against a Wolves side with 24 in 13.
Well sort of, anyway.
Both clubs made nine changes from their weekend line-ups. In City’s case, that hardly seemed to matter. Guardiola could still call on £200million worth of talent as Gabriel Jesus, Yaya Toure, Raheem Sterling, Danilo, Eliaquim Mangala, Ilkay Gundogan and Bravo came into the team that started against Burnley on Saturday, while Oleksandr Zinchenko made his debut at left back.
A squirrel on the pitch provided some entertainment ahead of the Carabao Cup clash but not for the official who it bit
Ilkay Gundogan made just his second start of the season for City against the Championship table-topping Wolves
Brazilian defender Danilo was another to get a chance in the cup game, here he fires at goal only to see Alfred N’Diaye block it
Oleksandr Zinchenko evades a sliding Helder Costa as the Ukrainian international makes his City debut starting at left-back
Pep Guardiola named a strong front unit featuring Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus but they were frustrated in the first half
Bernardo Silva got a chance against Wolves but did not grab the game by the scruff of the neck in the opening period
Aguero retained his place as he sought to become City’s all-time top scorer outright, and Bernardo Silva was free to play after he was cleared of diving to win the penalty that allowed Aguero to equal Eric Brook’s record of 177 goals.
The Argentine certainly seemed in a hurry to score No 178 in a first half dominated by City.
It kicked off in a light fog of smoke from a warehouse fire next to the Etihad that had raged for most of the day, but it didn’t hinder Norris’s vision as the Wolves goalkeeper denied Aguero with a fine save inside the opening six minutes. Gundogan won possession 25 yards from goal and the ball fell to Aguero, whose dipping effort was heading inside the post until Norris sprang beat it away.
Sterling was the next to tee up Aguero with a low cross to the penalty spot where the striker was waiting unmarked, but he swept his first-time effort past the far post. And the Argentine hammered a third effort over the bar when Coady headed the striker’s cross tamely back to him inside the box.
Aguero has an attempt saved by Wolves’ Will Norris in a first half that saw City dominate possession but struggle to create
Bright Enobakhare tested Claudio Bravo in the City goal on a rare Wolves foray, forcing the keeper to make a smart stop
Wolves star Costa looks to evade Zinchenko as the pair continued their battle during the Carabao Cup contest
Bravo had to be on his toes to deny Costa when the Portuguese got in behind but suffered an unfortunate bobble
Guardiola would have been pulling his hair out, if he had any, as watched on from the touchline at the Etihad
Wolves were a well-disciplined unit who defended in depth, frustrating City for long periods. Sterling went close to breaking their resistance in the 25th minute, prodding the ball just wide after Gundogan had again driven forward and slipped a pass into the winger’s path. Aguero had another stab at it before half-time as well, shooting straight at Norris from the edge of the box.
For 43 minutes, Wolves’ only attempt of note came from Ryan Bennett, who rose above Gundogan at the far post and forced Bravo to pluck the ball out of the air with a header after Mangala had been penalised for a clumsy challenge on Costa.
And the much-maligned France defender so nearly let the Championship side in for a goal at the end of the first half. Mangala was slow and indecisive as he tried to shepherd the ball back to goal under pressure from Enobakhare. The Nigerian sensed his chance and stole it off Mangala before breaking through on goal.
Aguero was looking to become Manchester City’s all-time record scorer but squandered a couple of decent chances
Claudio Bravo was the hero for Manchester City as he made a number of vital saves to deny Wolces and take it to extra time
Late on in normal time Raheem Sterling has a big chance to score but could only fire wide when well placed to shoot
Enobakhare had another big chance to win the tie late on but Bravo made a great save with his feet to deny the teenager
It was the best chance of the half and Enobakhare should have scored but Bravo, who has faced his fair share of criticism at City, came out to make an excellent save with his legs.
It was a real let-off for City but normal service was quickly resumed with Aguero again happy to shoot on sight. He received a return pass from Toure within seconds of the restart and flashed a shot high and wide from 25 yards. You certainly couldn’t fault his perseverance.
However, Wolves had another great chance to score against the run of play in the 65th minute when Costa was sent through one-on-one with Bravo on the right-hand side of the box.
The City players had to pull themselves together as the Championship side took them to extra time in the Carabao Cup
Leroy Sane came off the bench in the extra half hour and went within inches of scoring, seeing his deflected effort go just over
Bravo, who was instrumental in ensuring the game stayed goalless in the prior 120 minutes, was the shootout hero
Despite enduring a tough night in front of goal, Aguero remained composed when it came to the vital penalty kick
The Portuguese player got an unfortunate bobble off his shinpad as he tried to steady himself and that gave Bravo a vital opportunity to rush out and close down the space.
It worked. Costa tried to lift the ball over the Chile international but Bravo stuck out a big right hand and pawed it away. City almost struck back immediately and once more it was Aguero going for goal. He seized on a poor back pass and looked as though he had dribbled around Norris, but the keeper matched Bravo by sticking out a fingertip to touch the ball away from City’s No 10.
It felt like that kind of night for Aguero and City as extra-time loomed.