Manchester City have won the Carabao Cup for a third successive season, beating Aston Villa 2-1 in a hard fought affair at Wembley. Goals from Sergio Aguero and Rodri were enough for City to record their fifth Carabao Cup trophy in the last seven years.
Manchester City dominate
Despite a strong start to the game from today’s underdogs, the win for Manchester City today was very well deserved. In the first half, they absolutely punished Aston Villa – and pretty much kept them penned into their own half.
Villa’s system made it hard to deal with City as Pep Guardiola’s men repeatedly unlocked the defence with some fantastic cross-field switch passes. Phil Foden was a real star in the first period, and even nabbed the assist for the opening goal.
For the goal, Rodri delivered a lovely flighted ball into the back post where Foden was running in behind. Instead of trying to shoot, he spotted the well-positioned Sergio Aguero and nodded the ball into the Argentine’s path and he made no mistake in putting it into the net.
City went on to make it two in somewhat controversial fashion, which I will expand on later, before Villa pulled themselves back into the game not long before the break.
The Villa goal came as John Stones slipped, allowing Anwar El Ghazi to run in down the left wing and deliver a perfect cross on to the head of Aly Mbwana Samatta who made no mistake with the finish – giving his side a little bit of hope.
In the second period, City continued to dominate not only the ball, but the space. Villa simply could not get out of their own half! Every time Villa managed to get it clear, it just came straight back in on the other side. In the end, Guardiola’s men finished with 70% possession in the game.
In fairness to Villa, they defended well in the second period and stopped City from adding to their lead. Unfortunately, that’s simply not good enough when you’re a goal down in a cup final – City were just so imposing and it took until the dying embers of the game for Villa to even get up the field.
Villa did have their chance to bring the game level and force penalties late on as Bjorn Engels saw his header saved brilliantly by Claudio Bravo in the City goal. As the seconds ticked down, they tried to pump the ball into the area and create something – but it just wasn’t to be.
In the end, they will be disappointed with the result today, especially given the nature of the goal that beat them…
Controversy surrounds the Manchester City winning goal
So, the second goal. Ilkay Gundogan ran down the right wing and tried to get to the byline so he could whip in a cross. He had Villa skipper Jack Grealish for company whom, for all intents and purposes, did his job in stopping Gundogan from getting the ball in.
Grealish slid as Gundogan made contact and blocked the cross and THEN, the ball quite clearly bounced up and hits Gundogan in the midriff before going out of play. Every single fan in the ground saw it hit Gundogan before going out, but somehow neither the linesman or the referee managed to see it.
The corner was given and, as Sod’s Law would have it, Rodri rose highest in the box and slammed a header past the keeper to make it 2-0 and give Villa an absolute mountain to climb. Villa have every right to feel aggrieved with that – especially since it was the winning goal.
It also raises the old VAR subject – what in the world is the point of having VAR if it can’t do anything about a mistake that clear, and that important during a CUP FINAL? I understand the reasons why VAR can’t get involved in that situation, but it seems totally futile if it can’t correct a mistake that proved so costly in such a big game.
Villa can be proud of the performance
Despite the loss, Villa can leave Wembley tonight with their heads held high and be proud of their achievements. They gave Manchester City a real scare, especially late on when Engels came up with that header at the back post.
If it hadn’t been for such a poor decision by the officials, that game could very well have gone to penalties and well, who knows what would have happened there.
Dean Smith can look at that performance tonight and take far more positives than he will negatives. This is a team that beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu by the same scoreline in mid-week – there’s absolutely no shame in losing to them.
The defence was resolute, the application was there and the desire was clear for all to see. If they can employ all of those traits in the Premier League for the rest of the season, they’ll give themselves a damn good chance of staying up.
Carabao Cup spirit is alive and well despite the dominance
Many people have spoken of the Carabao Cup and whether it should remain on the calendar in English football. Fixture congestion has been an issue on the lips of just about every manager and pundit in the English game this season – but I think we’ve just seen proof that the competition is as important now as it ever was.
For the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool etc – the League Cup is a minnows cup. For everyone else, it presents a realistic chance at winning some silverware. The heart and desire shown by Villa throughout the game today made the Carabao Cup final an absolutely fascinating watch and for me, it just shows how important this cup is.
To get rid of the Carabao Cup would be a poor decision for me. Personally, I’m a Newcastle United fan so trophy prospects for my club have been bleak for some time. Despite that, every year I get excited for the Carabao Cup because I know that it’s probably our most realistic chance at getting that trophy-less monkey off our backs.
Manchester City won the trophy today and it looked as though the players, although happy, didn’t seem overly bothered – and that did somewhat annoy me. It clearly means next to nothing to them now, they’ve won it so many times it barely has much more significance than the Community Shield at this point.
People have suggested we exclude the top six from the competition and some have even suggested excluding the entire Premier League from the cup. For me, that’s all nonsense and poppycock – we just need to treat the cup with more respect.
If clubs start playing their first team squads in the competition we might just have some sort of chance at getting rid of this ridiculous notion that the Carabao Cup doesn’t matter. To 86 of the 92 professional English teams, it absolutely does matter – the so called “top six” need to stop treating it like a mere distraction…
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