United scalp the start of new era for Bristol
After the bedlam at Ashton Gate on Wednesday night - chaotic celebrations, a pitch invasion and the sight of the manager Lee Johnson swinging a ball-boy around in delight - Bristol City's owner Steve Lansdown could be forgiven for playing down the significance of it all and bringing feet back down to earth. If that thought ran through his mind, he quickly ignored it. This was a night to savour.
"It's the start of a new era at the football club," Lansdown declared after City's dramatic 2-1 win which knocked the holders, Manchester United, out of the EFL Cup following Korey Smith's late goal. "We're in the semi-finals of the cup with Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea and us - the four best teams in the land."
United were the fourth Premier League team - after Watford, Stoke City and Crystal Palace - to fall victim to what is fast developing into one of the great League Cup runs.
But the hardest test still awaits; they might be one of the best four teams in the land in their owner's eyes but Bristol City - who ply their trade in the second tier of English football - face the best team in Europe right now in Manchester City in the semi-finals, a tie which will take place over two legs next month. "Korey Smith said he didn't want Man City because we'll be running round too much but it will be another tremendous tie for us," said Lansdown. "There will be two top games to look forward to in the new year."
Jose Mourinho could not resist crediting lady luck for Bristol City's success and Lansdown accepted that his side enjoyed a touch of fortune, but was adamant the result was a fair reflection of the match.
"Nobody really believed we could do it but we've gone and done it. It was a fantastic occasion and fantastic victory and well deserved. I don't think anyone can say we didn't deserve to win.
"We rode our luck at times but you do in a cup tie, especially when you are up against top-class opposition. There were a couple good saves late on (from Luke Steele) to keep us in it. But we played well, we stuck in there and had our opportunities."
Was it the best victory in the club's modern history, greater than the 1994 FA Cup giant-killing of Liverpool? "That was Brian Tinnion scoring at Anfield and knocking out Liverpool in the third round of the FA Cup but this was a quarter-final against a side that's second in the Premier League," said Lansdown, who has been a part of the west country club for more than 20 years.
"That was against a Liverpool side that was struggling at the time. This is a fantastic victory for us. Don't let me tone it down. They put out a strong side. There were some big names out there and we matched them."
The owner was disappointed by the pitch invasion which followed the final whistle, "particularly those that went to taunt the Manchester United fans because that's just not necessary and it's uncalled for". But that is the emotion cup football can evoke.
"You could just see the jubilation from everyone in the ground and everyone that has come down for the game will have been up all night."
The even greater test of City awaits, but in the meantime the focus for the club third in the Championship must return to attempting to make such glamorous opponents regular visitors to a city that has never hosted Premier League football.
"That's a bonus to look forward to," Lansdown said. "But we've got a league campaign to get back to and to keep pushing for a top-six finish in the Championship." (© Independent News Service)
Independent News Service