Manuel Pellegrini has just become the most successful manager in Manchester City’s history with 3 trophies in 3 years and almost certain qualification to the quarter finals of the Champions League. His post match quote of “I’d rather lose the cup than my word” on playing Caballero ahead of Joe Hart was vindicated as was his ploy of playing a severely weakened team versus Chelsea in the FA Cup last weekend.
Manchester City were dominant and on the front foot, with Liverpool lacking fluency and their triumvirate of Firmino, Coutinho and Sturridge somewhat out of sorts. The midfield trio of Milner, Can and Henderson are almost too similar in their attributes and are devoid of goals or assists, putting too much onus on the front three.
A clash of heads between Sakho and Can meant Sakho had to be replaced by Kolo Toure on the 25th minute as Sakho looked dazed and unsteady on his feet.
Liverpool were trying to win this trophy for a record 9th time were yet again let down by their Belgian goalkeeper. Aguero fed Ferdandinho and he beat both Lucas and Moreno to shoot from a very acute angle. Mignolet seemed slow to dive and the ball squirmed under his body and ricocheted in. Klopp’s post match comments “we should not concede this goal from this angle, it should not be a goal” summed up the 49th minute goal. As well as Mignolet, both Lucas and Moreno were at fault for allowing a shot and not shepherding Ferdandinho wider.
City gradually increased their dominance with Raheem Sterling, much to the Liverpool fans delight, missing two relatively easy chances to put the game to bed. Aguero also had a very valid shout for a penalty when Moreno very clumsily challenged him in the penalty area. The City fans were incredulous Michael Oliver never gave the penalty.
Manchester City then began to tire and Klopp replaced Firmino for Lallana and Moreno for Origi in the 72nd and 80th minute respectively. A break by Liverpool saw Lallana strike the post and the rebound fell kindly to Coutinho who swept it in, in the 83rd minute. Liverpool rallied and looked the more likely to win in the remaining 7 minutes of the 90.
Neither side created clear cut chances and extra time beckoned. Pellegrini threw Zabaletta Navas and Bony on for Sagna, Silva and Fernando. Extra time was very even and both sides were suffering, Sturridge in particular looked hampered from his lack of match fitness.
Manchester City might still have spared themselves a nerve-shredding finale if Agüero had been able to turn James Milner’s misplaced header beyond Mignolet, but Mignolet redeemed himself slightly.
The tie went to a contest from 12 yards, three saved penalties by Caballero from Lucas, Coutinho and Lallana, meant it was Liverpool’s first shootout defeat in six finals, and it led to the much maligned Willy Caballero’s finest moments in City’s colours.
Man of the Match: Willy Caballero