Date: 29th February 2016 at 9:25pm
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The last weekend in February once again delivered freezing cold temperatures as the North West`s finest two sets of supporters made the long trek down the motorways to Wembley for the Capital One Cup Final.

Dear Sue looked resplendent in her new LFC scarf designed especially for the match and £2 less expensive than that adorned by the Pedmachine, looking considerably less resplendent. As we walked hand in hand down Wembley Way a Radio Merseyside presenter interviewed us and before the afternoon was much older we had taken on a feeling of showbiz personalities as fan after fan asked us what would happen when the match ended.

And so to the match

First up was Pellegrini keeping his promise to field a player who seven days earlier looked like a bad juggler on the X-factor and the collective hearts were sinking to the floor as those of the Scouse variety were thinking that it would give them the edge based upon Caballero`s antics last week, forgetting of course that within the so-called mauling of our under 19s by a full strength Chelsea side, Willy actually saved a penalty. A cute smile entered Sue`s face as she too sensed a potential victory. Surely Caballero was the only goalie in the Premier League worse than Mignolet?

The rest of the team selected by Pellegrini was one to do the job, just the way it had in Kiev in midweek.

Klopp fielded his best available eleven, the squad containing 3 ex-City players, all well received and applauded by the boys in sky blue. This was in stark contrast to the manner in which the mickey mousers greeted Raheem Sterling. He may have left them in somewhat acrimonious circumstances, but did he deserve that? Well those of the red and white persuasion seemed to think so.

In the very first minute the at times diving, at times cheating and at other times kicking clown they call Moreno beat Sagna and hammered in a cross or shot, which almost wrong-footed City`s maligned replacement net minder. Caballero recovered and stopped the shot but it was a nervous entry to a Cup Final. Liverpool tried to take control but today came up against a resolute City midfield where for once Yaya was in imperious form as he time and again took the game to Liverpool with assorted midfielders in his wake, their only hope to chop him to the ground, a feat which Hatchet Henderson and Chopper Can achieved with aplomb.

Up top it was pretty much the same with the flat-footed Lucas left in the wake of the masterclass known as Aguero and resorting to any available mean, legal or otherwise to arrest his progress. Late studs on his toes, rakes down the back of his ankles all of the above were deployed by a disappointing Kop outfit who thought bullying was the answer.

If they got ahead they were faced with Fernando, at last given the chance to show what he`s about and Kompany, dare I say almost back to his imperious best as he drilled the defensive line like a Sergeant Major on flag day.

City were not exactly angelic, shall we say, simply robust as they outmuscled Liverpool for much of the first half leaving Moreno to dive around as if he was a Stretford. Leave-your-foot-in-Lucas assassinated Silva or Aguero at every opportunity making it a mystery that he was still around to take his penalty.

Aguero had the best chance of the first half skipping Sakho and the combine harvester formerly known as Lucas and sliding the ball in trade-mark fashion towards the far post. As we all leapt to the sky, somehow Mignolet got a glove to it and diverted it onto the post.

Liverpool promised much but didn`t deliver as Sturridge hid from the action, Milner got involved in scuffles giving free kicks away in promising areas, Firmino showed what a gem Rodgers unearthed there and Coutinho chased his shadow.

As the second half began the opening goal came from an unlikely source. Fernandinho was once again ploughing the furrows of the right wing. He was played in by Aguero and he drilled what should have been a routine shot straight through Mignolet. Another howler in another key match. The investment in his new deal looks a bit dodgy unless it is a means to try to inflate any transfer price that might head Liverpool`s way in the summer when despite what Klopp says, he must be destined for the transfer list.

And City looked totally at eas with the 1-0 scoreline. Half a dozen chances came and went, all of them scorned, especially the one for Sterling when positioned 6 yards from goal, Mignolet committed and no doubt dreaming of silencing the boo-boys he slid the ball wide of the post when it looked easier to score. So thr Koppites had done their job. Instead of calmly slotting the ball home, it preyed on his mind and he missed. Quite how the referee missed Moreno chopping down Aguero right under his nose and inside the penalty area remains one of the golden mysteries of Wembley Stadium. I don`t like to say that he referees the game like Oliver Hardy because that is doing the funny man a disservice, but I half expected to find the referee wearing one of those jester`s hats that they sell down Wembley Way, so comical was his arbitration today.

Mignolet did however go on to make three pretty good saves to keep City at bay and it paid off when with less than 10 minutes left, Sturridge`s major, some might say only, contribution was to keep the ball alive in City`s penalty area after Sterling`s poor clearance came back, he played in Lallana who hit the post and Coutinho, who always seems to score against City slotted the rebound past Caballero.

Extra time brought one or two frights at both ends, especially when Origi got a free header two yards out and somehow Caballero made a miraculous save to keep the scores level.

And so the dreaded penalties. Liverpool don`t often find themselves on the receiving end of shoot outs but I think Klopp got his selection all wrong for this one, especially as Can extracted the Michael with his penalty and in retaliation Fernandinho hit the upright. For me it would have been enter Milner to put his team 2-0 up but he sent Lucas whose poor kick was saved by Caballero. Now it was routine stuff for City as Aguero and Navas obliged. Coutinho however seemed to think he was Mario Ballotelli. His stop/start action didn`t fool Big Willy as he guessed correctly and pushed that one away too. Lallana also stepped up and his shot was a well-taken one, but Caballero flew like an eagle, and a bald one at that, across his goal to push that one away from danger.

So now it was down to the master penalty taker, Yaya Toure to complete the job. He didn`t let us down as he gleefully hammered home, as always, scoring when it matters and the blue end of Wembley went into raptures and the red one headed for the exits.

The Pedmachine agrees with his pal Stuart Brennan out of the Manchester Evening News. Last week the sundry scribes fired pelters at Caballero and were terrified at his selection for this vital match, maybe even to the extent that Pellegrini might bring on Hart for the penalties. But the Engineer recalled the save last week from Oscar, which was just about the only thing he got right, but maybe it sparked enough in Pellegrini`s mind to trust him today.

Well I`m sure I wasn`t the only reporter looking for a stall selling humble pies as we headed for car parks. Caballero was immense. His penalty saves were amazing. Who else could save three on the trot?

So Captain Kompany it was who marched upstairs to collect the Capital One Cup for the second time in three years. Then it ignited a challenge for the title. Don`t forget it throws your planning out of kilter because the final is played on a normal weekend when the rest of the team play league matches, so there is one more to add to the congestion and no doubt the broadcaster and the Premier League will give it to City at a bad time, like just before the Arsenal match. But we did it last time as today`s opponents signed their own death warrant, we did it in 2012 when the spare match was against the Stretfords and who knows what the next 3 months might hold in store?

On the subject of the Stretfords I noticed once again that the Ashburton Grove Bottling Factory, formerly known as Arsenal offered precisely nothing at Sold Trafford. What`s that about? Getting pushed around by a team consisting of young footballers? We all know they`ll only have one good game before the season ends and that will be at the Etihad as they try to keep themselves in the top four. Ironically it may well be the Stretfords who nick their place after a performance like that.

For City`s part it is back to Anfield on Wednesday when Sue and I will have our second trial and retribution in the space of four days. City need a repeat performance but this time goals. It was great to see Navas back. If they select Moreno, Navas will skin him and force him to resort to his alternative style of non-football to combat him. The Blues need three points, but it is a stadium where they are usually so lucky. At least there is some silverware already adorning the annals of the Etihad.

On the funny side one of the students where I do my day job, who has aligned himself with the Stretford said ” See we beat Arsenal with no Rooney, no De Gea and no Martial!” How nice it was to be able to reply “Yes and no finals and no trophies”. Did it shut him up!

 
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