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Friday 23 March 2018

How Man City overcame Liverpool to claim cup glory

Vincent Kompany and team mates Jesus Navas, Wilfred Bony, Nicolas Otamendi and Sergio Aguero celebrate victory
Vincent Kompany and team mates Jesus Navas, Wilfred Bony, Nicolas Otamendi and Sergio Aguero celebrate victory

Chris Bascombe

An analytical review of yesterday's Capital One Cup Final.

How did Manchester City beat Liverpool?

They won the battle of the stoppers

Liverpool’s number one versus City’s number two. Many pondered the merits of Manuel Pellegrini opting for the Argentine keeper over Joe Hart but he must have foresaw his penalty expertise as he saved three spot kicks and gave City the trophy.

For Mignolet a chance to turn disaster into triumph was gone. The groan when Fernandinho’s goal was replayed in front of the Liverpool supporters said it all. Mignolet has endured more lows than enjoyed the highs since moving to Liverpool. His save to deny Sergio Aguero suggested this would be one of his better days.

The 50th minute shocker undid the good work of the first half. Mignolet has stated how psychology plays an important role in his preparation. If felt rejuvenated at half-time, it did not last. Wembley is like a magnifying glass. Whatever your strengths or limitations this venue gives them the full glare. Mignolet could not escape culpability.

Then he made two more great saves in his duel with the Argentinian. Whatever the Belgian lacks, his ability to refocus after what could have been the worst day of his career deserves credit. But this was Caballero and City’s day. Pellegrini was vindicated.

Lucas is now Liverpool’s best centre-half

When Lucas was first used as a centre-back earlier this season there were gasps. Clearly Klopp had spotted the potential of the Brazilian in a role usually reserved for those several inches taller. may have extended his career by reinventing himself as a centre-back. He possesses the poise so lacking in others and his ability to play from the back is another facet to his game.

There could be no greater challenge than to face Sergio Aguero in cup final, but Lucas was consistently in position. Aguero could not be kept out of the game, but it’s doubtful he’s played against a more accomplished opponent this season. Lucas did not deserve to be among those missing a penalty, but having won all their previous penalty shoot-outs in a final the law of averages finally caught up with the Merseysiders.

The return of City’s Kompany man

The pre-match talk focused on how Liverpool would try to replicate the high energy pressing that brought so much success against City in their Premier League meeting. There was a notable absentee that night. Vincent Kompany. His presence saw to it that Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho knew they’d face a more formidable opponent this time. The Belgian’s reading off the game ensured there were numerous occasions where he was in the right place to pounce when Liverpool tried to break.

Compare the calmness of Kompany with the centre-half who was signed to lead from the back at Anfield.

Mamadou Sakho displayed all the symptoms of a player who’d let the occasion get to him. Regardless of whether he was suffering from concussion or not prior to his early substitution, the noise of a thousand emergency sirens was going off when the ball went near him.

There's a clear gulf in resources

For all the talk of pressing and tactics, ultimately the quality should have been the defining factor over 120 minutes. City have so many class players and the task for Klopp was to make his side more than the sum of its parts. For 83 minutes they could not get close enough to Caballero to test the merits of Pellegrini’s decision to select him. Only when Divock Origi’s pace was introduced did momentum shift, the young Belgian pivotal in the build up to Coutinho’s equaliser.

For all that, City made it more difficult for themselves than it should have been. There should have been no way back for Liverpool, and although Pellegrini can argue the missed chances of Raheem Sterling explain why it was left to a penalty shoot-out, things will be vastly different when Guardiola gets here but Pellegrini may yet have the last laugh by winning three trophies in his final season.

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