Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has paid tribute to Bristol City after the Championship side pushed the Premier League champions elect all the way in a pulsating Carabao Cup semi-final first leg before going down to a stoppage time Sergio Aguero header at the Etihad Stadium.
The visitors had looked set for a famous win after Bobby Reid netted from the penalty spot in the first half following John Stones's late challenge on the Robins forward.
Aden Flint headed off the line from Raheem Sterling and Frank Fielding denied Leroy Sane as Lee Johnson's side held on valiantly until the 55th minute when Kevin de Bruyne lashed home the equaliser.
A late City onslaught followed but just as the conquerers of Manchester United in the last round looked set to hold out Aguero beat Fielding to Bernardo Silva's cross in the second minute of added time to clinch a crucial 2-1 win and take a step forwards a sixth final in the competition's history.
Having won their last 15 home games in all competitions and without a defeat in the Premier League this season, Johnson's team pushed Guardiola's men like few have been able to this season.
Title rivals United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have all been swept aside this term. And Guardiola's was only able to name two sides who have pressurised City quite like the second tier side did.
"Congratulations," the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss said, when asked by Sky Sports what he told Johnson after the game. "They are a fantastic team that is why they beat four Premier League teams and that is why they are in the semi-final.
"They are a fantastic team for many reasons; they can play long balls, they are fast up front and they know exactly what to do. It will be tough in Bristol but we are going to try and win and reach the final.
"Every team create problems. Huddersfield created problems, and Wolverhampton Wanderers did but also the Premier League too. But we must not forget we win the game. Teams from the Premier League are out and teams from the second division won. Football is so complicated but the important thing is our spirit and what we have done in the good moments.
"My players are fantastic. In football you can win you can lose but we tried until the end and in the last minutes we didn't give up. There are a lot of games and semi-finals are complicated so that is why I am satisfied."
The two sides will reconvene on in the second leg on 23 January at Ashton Gate with Bristol City needing to become the first English side to beat City this season in order to progress to the first EFL Cup final in their 124-year history.