MANCHESTER, January 20 – Carlos Tevez, whose move across Manchester was the source of so much controversy, made the difference as City claimed a 2-1 win over United in the rivals' League Cup semi-final first leg here on Tuesday.Ryan Giggs’s first derby goal since 1996 handed United the lead but Tevez, whose decision to reject United and sign for their wealthy neighbours in the close season was accompanied by such ill feeling, scored twice, taking his tally to 13 goals from his last 11 games.
Tevez was always destined to play a pivotal role in this semi-final, one way or another.
Sure enough, when Craig Bellamy was held back by badly beaten United full-back Rafael five minutes before the interval, it was the Argentinian forward who was handed the responsibility of converting from the penalty spot, one he gleefully accepted with an emphatic finish.
Tevez’s gesture to former team mate Gary Neville, sat in his customary position on the United bench, told the defender to be silent and was sweet revenge for the City man having endured a half of baiting and abuse from visiting supporters.
The penalty cancelled out Giggs’s early opening goal, which came from United’s first attack of note.
Patrice Evra found Antonio Valencia on the right wing. Bellamy appeared to have stifled the danger with a challenge on the winger but Valencia slipped past the City man and took advantage of Vincent Kompany’s failure to cut out the cross.
A near-post touch from Wayne Rooney took the ball away from City keeper Shay Given and Giggs was well placed to convert into an open net from practically on the goalline.
The second half winner was vintage Tevez although it was again the result of poor defending from United, something that has happened with alarming regularity for Sir Alex Ferguson’s team this season.
Bellamy’s 64th minute cross from the left-wing caused panic in the visiting defence following a weak punched clearance from Edwin van der Sar.
Pablo Zabaleta did a good job of keeping the ball live, chipping back into the area for Kompany to cross and find Tevez who headed in from close range.
The overwrought pre-match build-up from City was perhaps understandable.
Since they last appeared in a major semi-final, of the 1981 FA Cup, a total of 54 different league clubs have reached the last four of one or other of the two major domestic knockout competitions.
United seemed in the mood to ruin City’s planned party but City’s response to falling behind was spirited with Shaun Wright-Phillips steaming to the right-hand by-line, delivering a perfect cross with which Tevez failed to connect from six yards.
United started the second half the brighter, looking to regain control of the tie, but their failure to deal with City’s corners was increasingly apparent, starting, in the 57th minute, when Evra had to make a timely block to stop Micah Richards shooting in following a Bellamy flag kick.
United responded, with Rooney crossing for Giggs whose header drew an amazing save from Shay Given, falling backwards and almost in his own net, and the England forward then sending a dipping shot rising over the bar from distance.
But, after conceding the second, things might have got worse for United with van der Sar being forced into a solid, diving save to keep out a Wright-Phillips blast following a neat pass into the area from Bellamy.
United would dominate the closing proceedings however and Rooney’s one-two with substitute Michael Owen in the 77th minute played him clean in on goal where Given made a fantastic block, Owen then steering the loose ball goalwards where Nedum Onuoha made a simple clearance.
Two minutes later Rooney was again City’s tormentor with a twisting run into the area and an audacious shot which Given tipped over. United pressed until the end with Valencia missing a far post volley from an Evra cross and Given saving well once again to deny Rooney.