Venue: Wembley Stadium, London Date: 02/03/2014 14:00 BST Photos: Richard Tucker
Manchester City came from behind to win the 2014 League Cup after two world class goals turned round this thrilling final against a Sunderland side in a vibrant atmosphere at Wembley Stadium. Indeed, those goals from Yaya Touré and Samir Nasri will live long in the memory, not only because they won the match, but also for their sheer, breathtaking brilliance.
Wembley, with its arch towering above packed stands awash with the roaring passionate blue and white of City and red and white of Sunderland is an exhilarating sight and sound that takes the breath away. The teams entered the stadium to great cheers from two sets of very fervent, loyal supporters, filling the ground. The good news for City was that Sergio Agüero had been passed fit to start up front. The stage was set.
City started well, passing the ball in a manner to which we have been accustomed, and created the first chance. Sergio Agüero spun away from two Sunderland defenders and hit a rasping drive that forced Mannone into a full length drive.
Bardsley should have picked up an early booking for a crude challenge that flattened Silva. It was one of those challenges that defenders have made since time began, to let their opposing wide player know they are there. If it was supposed to soften Silva up, it failed, because he is a very strong character, and as ever, he sought to be involved and create throughout his time on the pitch.
After four minutes, an image of Mike Doyle, City’s last League Cup winning captain in 1976, was beamed up onto the giant screens to applause and “There’s only one Mike Doyle”. How that True Blue would have loved this special occasion, but he might have been rather perturbed, not to mention cross in the first half.
Sunderland, who had won our last four encounters with them away from the Etihad, predictably made this a hard game. They pressed and harried us and when they didn’t have possession, fell back into those two tight lines of four defenders and five midfielders. They were very difficult to break down. Sunderland weren’t just intent on defending, though, and were dangerous when they broke. We had a warning when Colback had the ball in the net in the 8th minute, but was ruled offside.
This was only a temporary reprieve as Fabio Borini scored in the 10th minute. Adam Johnson lofted a long pass from deep inside the Sunderland half for Borini to chase. Demichelis seemed to be caught in two minds, the Italian striker showed no such hesitation, and darted after the testing long pass, leaving the Argentine centre back standing. The covering Vincent Kompany reached it first, but unfortunately his clearance struck Borini on the chest, leaving the Sunderland striker clean through, and he shot from an acute angle across goal, finding the right hand corner of the net in front of us. The Eastern half of Wembley roared with delight.
Not again. Was our latest bogey team going to prove our undoing yet again? At least we had most of the game in front of us, but we have been in similar situations like this before with Sunderland… and lost.
Sunderland, to their credit, didn’t sit back on their lead, and with Ki prompting in midfield and Borini lively in attack, they looked the more likely to score more goals before the break: a corner was only half cleared by our defence and the lively Borini’s twenty yard drive was deflected over by the blocking Dzeko; then, under pressure from a City defender, Brown headed over from a corner.
City tried to hit back. Agüero left Sunderland left back Alonso standing and crossed but, under pressure from converging defenders, Nasri couldn’t muster the power to test Mannone who gratefully gathered the ball. We tried to encourage the Boys in Blue with “Come on City” and Blue Moon.
City, though, were rattled by Sunderland’s pressing game. Although we dominated possession, we found ourselves passing in front of Sunderland’s well drilled back nine, who remained stubborn and compact. The City end had been silenced for a while as we watched on in frustration, prompting chants of “Shall we sing a song for you?” from the Wearsiders.
Sunderland threatened again when Johnson latched onto a long throw in and tricked his way past Demichelis on the by-line, but thankfully his cross was intercepted by Kompany and cleared away by Fernandinho. It was a relief but it should not have happened as it was a schoolboy error by Demichelis, which made it easy for the ex-City winger. A defender has to watch the ball rather than the man in those situations.
“Come on City”, we exhorted our boys in blue. City won a series of corners, with Zabaleta doing a particularly excellent pressing job to win one of them, but Sunderland dealt with them, and even Borini popped up to head over his own bar when needed.
Sunderland could have made it 2-0 in the 38th minute when a long clearance was played out of their defence and Kompany was deceived by a Sunderland midfield player’s failed attempt to gather the ball. This left a suspiciously offside looking Borini clean through down the left, with 50 yards to run and Costel Pantilimon to beat. It seemed inevitable that he would get a shot in as we feared the worst, but Kompany recovered to make a brilliant last ditch saving tackle to thwart him as he was about to pull the trigger. Costel Pantilimon and the City defenders stuck their hands up to express their exasperation that offside had not been given. It was a crucial, potentially match saving tackle by City’s great captain.
Sunderland deserved their half time lead. They tackled harder and it looked like they wanted it more at times. City didn’t move the ball quickly enough.
We wondered if Sunderland were to continue to be our bogey team. Was it going to be like Wigan all over again? We just hadn’t looked like breaking Sunderland down.
“Take a sad song and make it better…”
Cup finals are all about seizing the day. If we didn’t seize this one we only had ourselves to blame. Thankfully City collectively did, and how.