Manchester City won the 2016 Capital One Cup after a dramatic penalty shoot out at Wembley on Sunday afternoon. Talk before the game was of Manuel Pellegrini's decision to keep with his promise to second choice keeper, Willy Caballero, and start him instead of number one, Joe Hart.
The Blues started with an otherwise strong lineup as Otamendi and Kompany partnered in central defense. With Clichy and Sagna either side and Fernando and Fernandinho sitting in front of the back two it was clear City were looking to avoid the start they had against Liverpool earlier in the season. The first half, as expected, was a somewhat cagey affair with neither side taking control. The only real chance of note was a Sergio Aguero shot which the Liverpool keeper, Simone Mignolet, palmed onto the post.
The main talking point in the first half was the collision between the two Liverpool players and a sickening clash of heads. Emre Can jumped for the same ball Sakho also had eyes for, both went down with Sakho looking to be in the most discomfort. The decision to leave him on the pitch was reversed moments later when, while Sergio was going through for that chance in the half, Sakho slipped and seemed to stumble when he was getting back to his feet. Anger and frustration could be seen by the player but essentially it was the right call, and allowed brothers Toure to face off.
The second half started with no further changes to either side and less than five minutes on the clock City took the lead. Great hold up play from Aguero before releasing Fernandinho was key and, when Fernandinho drilled the ball across the goal it was probably more with the expectation someone could get on the end of it, or a spill from Mignolet. The Liverpool keeper, Mignolet let the ball slip under him and, although it was a strongly hit ball, he should have done better and his mistake gave City the lead.
Moments later it was Raheem Sterling who had a sitter of an opportunity, which he failed to convert. The ex Liverpool player was guilty of missing another chance later on in the game which surely would have seen City wrap the game up. Sandwiched between those two chances was a blatant penalty decision which the referee, Michael Oliver, failed to see. At this point, as a City fan, you knew Liverpool were going to get back into the game.
The final two substitutions were made by Liverpool and, with less than ten minutes remaining, Blues fans worst fears were realized as Coutinho leveled the game, and in doing so, shift the momentum in favor of the Reds.
Extra time came and went, Aguero went close only to be denied by Mignolet while Liverpool also had their chances. High excitement happened towards the end of extra time when Yaya Toure and Adam Lallana went toe to toe, resulting in the Ivorian lifting the Englishman up and moving him a little.
And so it went to penalties with Liverpool up first. Emre Can converted his to give Liverpool the perfect start and, when City goal scorer, Fernadinho, struck the post with his, City fans feared the worse. We didn't however bet on having Super Willy Caballero perform heroics in goal though as he stepped up to save Liverpool's next penalty, this time from Lucas Levia. Jesus Navas made the score 1-1 from 2 penalties each and pumped up the crowd with his reaction. When Caballero saved Liverpool's third, a silly stutter step attempt from Coutinho, City had a chance to wrestle back the advantage.
Aguero made it 2-1 so when Adam Lallana saw his attempt saved it gave the chance for Yaya Toure to step up and convert, which he did and, in doing so winning the Capital One Cup.
I am sure a lot will be made of the issue with Yaya Toure still being on the pitch, but I think Lallana also maybe should have received his marching orders also in the incident. In that respect I think the referee was justified in keeping both on, certainly wouldn't have been right to send off one without the other. The biggest mistake he made was not giving City a penalty in th esecond half when the score was 1-0 to City. In that respect I think Liverpool were lucky to even still be in the game at such a late stage, never mind crying over who scored our fourth penalty.
Two years ago, when City won this competition, they were in fourth place in the League, and six points back from the leaders, Chelsea. This victory catapulted their end of season run in with City eventually improving ten points on Chelsea, finishing four points above them, Pellegrini will be hoping for a similar reaction this time around.