It was clear from the start of the second half that City were much more aggressive in our play. The atmosphere was white hot: nay, blue and white hot! “Come on City” was bellowed again with gusto. Roared on by the City faithful, the Blues prompted and probed, forcing the play. Amongst others, Yaya Touré used his immense physique to great effect as City started much stronger, moving the ball much quicker, and pulling Sunderland’s defenders around. At the end of some classic City possession in the 50th minute, Nasri fed Silva but his shot lacked the power to beat Mannone, who gathered gratefully.
It would need a great strike to beat him, and we produced two within a couple of minutes of each other, the first coming in the 54th minute.
Zabaleta won a tackle with the teak tough Colback to roars of approval, then City teased and tormented Sunderland with skilful, patient possession. Silva spun away from a defender and won a free kick when he was tripped 25 yards out in the inside left position. It was made for Yaya. Unfortunately (for a few seconds anyway), one heavy touch scuppered an elaborate routine and the shooting opportunity had passed (why didn’t we just shoot!). Crucially, through a combination of patient passing and hard work, we didn’t lose possession and we continued to pass, prompt and probe, switching play when needed. For all their sinew-stretching efforts, Sunderland could not win it back. Nasri and Kolarov exchanged passes down the left, then the French midfielder lofted pass into the box which was flicked back by Dzeko into a pocket where there was no City player. Excellent work rate by Silva and Nasri ensured that we contested the loose ball and retained possession. Zabaleta and Yaya Touré exchanged passes half way inside the Sunderland half, then the City right back advanced to the edge of the box and cut the ball back to Yaya, who calmly lifted a high, curling, dipping right foot shot that thrillingly rocketed between the angle of post and bar. The net bulged in front of us and the West End of Wembley gasped, and erupted! As we po-goed and hugged each other, Yaya and co peeled away to the North West corner of Wembley where they have celebrated previous historic goals. It was a great goal by any standard. It took our breath away. To get such power, dip and accuracy in that shot was the work of genius. It was a brilliant strike, world class. It was also a testament to the team work, skill, persistence and quality of the whole team. Has Wembley seen a greater goal?
The build-up had looked quite innocuous from behind the goal, given the amount of passing in front of the massed Sunderland defence that we had seen in the move (and before it). The goal was a sudden surprise, a very pleasant surprise!
Our excitement had barely died down when City dramatically turned the match on its head, barely just two minutes later.
City were dealing with a Sunderland attack that ended up with Aleksandar Kolarov heading back to Costel Pantilimon. The giant Romanian ‘keeper cleverly found Sergio Agüero deep inside the Sunderland half with a steepling kick, and City’s top striker showed great technique to bring the ball under control. Aleksandar Kolarov overlapped outside him down the left, received Agüero’s measured pass, and crossed for Nasri who swept the ball home just inside Mannone’s right hand post with the outside of his right foot. It was a brilliantly executed, swift move that extended the whole length of the pitch and a crisply-taken goal of great technique from Nasri. In support Pantilimon, Agüero and Kolarov also showed no little intelligence in their play.
Nasri and his team mates ecstatically (and fittingly) peeled off to the North West corner and we bounced and roared with delight, joyful adrenalin flowing again. Wembley’s West End was symphony of cheers and chants of “Na-na-na-na-na- na-na-na-na-na-na Samir Nasri, Nasri, Samir Nasri…”
There is something very special and exhilarating about scoring two goals in quick succession, especially when they turn a match on its head. It’s becoming a bit of a habit for City, especially when a trophy is at stake!
With just 56 minutes on the clock, there was still plenty of time to go, and with Agüero understandably fading after his recent injury lay-off, Pellegrini replaced him with Navas. City were on top and sought out more goals. Silva fed Kolarov who cut the ball back to Nasri whose dipping shot was just a couple of feet over the bar.
The force was with City but Sunderland continued to show character and fashioned a half chance for Fletcher, whose goal-bound shot lacked power to test Pantilimon.
At 2-1 City couldn’t relax, but we caused problems for ourselves. Demichelis put us under unnecessary pressure with a sloppy clearance and was forced to head away a resultant cross. Still we couldn’t clear our lines, but thankfully, under pressure from Kompany, Fletcher scuffed his shot into the ground and Pantilimon gathered.
Pellegrini stiffened our midfield’s physicality by replacing Silva with Javi Garcia. It proved to be astute, as Garcia tightened things up in midfield, and it allowed the manager to push Yaya Touré forward into the more advanced role, where we have seen him prosper further, especially in the title-winning run in, two years ago.
City carried the greater threat with Nasri revelling in the occasion, Yaya a colossal presence in the centre, and the pace and trickery of Navas tormenting Alonso down City’s right. Kompany stabbed a Nasri corner wide in the 82nd minute, but Sunderland were still dangerous, even if we were restricting them to longer range efforts like Bardsley’s, which sailed well over the bar.
With this in mind and the game entering its final minutes, a smiling Samir Nasri kicked a ball back to an over eager ball boy, and comically invited him to slow down a tad.
Pablo Zabaleta fancied his chances of scoring by cutting and firing a left footed curler wide in the 85th minute.
Negredo came on for Dzeko with three minutes left, with the latter walking off extremely slowly, much to the exasperation of the Wearside contingent. It didn’t do that much for our nerves either.
Sunderland still had one last chance when Negredo gave away a free kick just inside our half. The dead ball was lofted diagonally into our box, a Sunderland giant flicked across to Fletcher and we held our breath, expecting him to shoot… thankfully, to our relief he mis-controlled and the ball squirmed behind most delightfully for us!
Then, with just over a minute left on the clock, Jesus Navas sealed the game with our third, and deciding goal. Fernandinho tenaciously won the ball with a firm tackle just outside our box, Demichelis passed forward to Yaya Touré. Oh yes, Yaya Touré! What a thrilling sight he is, running forward at the opposition! City’s Wembley talisman advanced, bided his time before picking out Navas with a perfectly timed pass down the right, and the jet-heeled City winger fired in our third goal, which Mannone could not stop. Yet again, City had scored a goal that was the result of a thrilling, quality move that showcased several of the best qualities that our team possesses: tenacity, teamwork, skill, pace, pin-point passing and deadly finishing.
We knew then, for sure, that we had won the League Cup/Capital One Cup, and we celebrated. The Sunderland fans, much to their credit, continued to back their team.
Sunderland played very well in this game, but City’s extra class won the day, and it was such a pleasure to celebrate this win at the final whistle.
Vincent Kompany lifted Manchester City’s third League Cup, and our first in 38 years, to heartfelt cheers. He dropped the plinth to no little amusement, but it was a sweet sight to see that beautiful three-handled cup adorned with Blue and white ribbons. In those trophyless years, those of us who never saw silverware have looked longingly at photographs of Mike Doyle, Peter Barnes and co with that League Cup.
Much to their credit, most of the Sunderland fans stayed behind to see the Cup being presented.
On that dreadful Cup Final day last May a vocal minority sang disrespectful songs about Pellegrini. This time, there was a reprise of a song that has been aired at City matches recently:
“Sheikh Mansour went to Spain in a Lamborghini He brought us back a manager, Manuel Pellegrini”
Pellegrini deserves this first trophy. He has fostered a very happy spirit at City. Whatever he said at half time in this match worked. City had upped the tempo significantly, and stretched Sunderland with our precise passing and movement.
Mike Doyle, skipper of City last side to win the League Cup in 1976 would have approved how City fought back from adversity. It was a lovely touch to see his face displayed on the screens in the 4th minute, in tribute to him. Doyle, of course, like our current skipper, Vincent Kompany, wore the City number 4 shirt with great distinction.
This was a match of great distinction. Sunderland edged the first half, but thrillingly, City showed great character and blew them away in the second with football of the highest class. It was an unforgettable Wembley final and a happy day in the history of Manchester City.