We have all had a couple of days to reflect on City’s latest success at Wembley, where Manchester’s finest retained the Carabao Cup by eliminating Chelsea 4-3 on penalties.
The demonstrated another couple of turns on the Pep Guardiola screw. It is the first time City have won a trophy back-to-back and for once it was not the flowing, devastating football to which we have become accustomed. The Sky Blues had to dig out a result against what one might call a leading team that played as if it was in the relegation basement.
The intentions of Chelsea were evident from second one when Jorginho clattered Aguero straight from kick-off, before Chelsea plonked 9 across the back, leaving Hazard to cut a lonely figure in the centre circle.
City were unable to get their rhythm going at all, constantly forced out wide to seek to progress around the corners. Neither De Bruyne nor David Silva could make a yard and Bernardo and Sterling were shackled by multi-level marking intermingled will more than a little thuggery.
Referee Jon Moss kept Chelsea alive time and again allowing copious dodgy free kicks that were not replicated when applied to City. Indeed, at one point he fell over and we couldn’t believe he didn’t give Chelsea a free kick for that!
The 120 minutes of play was unremarkable. The only prowess showed by Chelsea was that needed to stifle City who couldn’t really create anything except a goal by Aguero ruled offside because the blind mouse at outside right thought his heel was closer to the goal than that of the thug formerly known as David Luiz. OK VAR backed it up, but as we know, UEFA matches apart it is the on-field ref who gives the final decision.
Chelsea tried to make things happen in the last 15 minutes but when Hazard was shut out by Otamendi, the London dream died. City for their part didn’t use a straight ball into the channels all afternoon and none of the crosses, high or low, found anyone open. So fair play to Chelsea’s maligned manager, Sarri. Massacred at the Etihad only a couple of weeks ago, he had to formulate a game plan to prevent similar at the National Stadium. He was at least successful in that.
His success, however, was overshadowed by the antics of Kepa. The most expensive goalie in the world who made Chelsea look like a Sunday league team. Taking 3 minutes at a time to take goal kicks, he decided, as the end of extra time approached to go down injured for the second time. Sarri decided to replace him with Willy Caballero, much to the consternation of City fans who still remember him saving 3 pens against Liverpool. Kepa refused to come off, critically undermining the desires of his manager and was allowed to continue.
When the penalties came, Ederson set the standard by saving Chelsea’s first and although Kepa did save Sane’s telegraphed spot-kick, he spent the rest of the shoot out visiting the back of his net and once Luiz missed, the trophy was on its way back up the M1 especially when Sterling with no messing drilled the winner in off the bar. Although Bernardo was named man-of-the-match in the stadium, for me it was Zinchenko who had his best game for City, concentrated well against the trickery of Pedro and wasn’t at all phased by the big occasion. He is growing into the team well.
I’ve said before that the League Cup in whatever shape or form it shows up is not shown respect by the Clubs. City show it respect, City win it and City show how much it means to win it by treating victory as if it is the Premier League title. Take note, Mr Klopp.
We now move back to the Premier League on Wednesday when West Ham visit the Etihad, probably not the opponent of selection after a long Cup Final especially as the got their weekend match out of the way on Friday. City picked up another couple of injuries in the shape of Laporte and Fernandinho, so we’ll have to wait and see what team we have available.
United, of course, didn’t have enough to beat a top team once again as they struggled to hold a misfiring Liverpool to a goalless draw, keeping the Scouse noses a whisker in front in the title race. Can City find a place where than recover that point?