Willy Caballero was the hero as Manchester City claimed the first major silverware of the season by beating Liverpool 3-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes of the League Cup final at Wembley.
Liverpool had won all five of their previous cup finals that had gone to a shoot-out, but the City goalkeeper – playing in place of Joe Hart in domestic cup competitions this term – saved from Lucas Leiva, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana to allow Yaya Toure to net the winning spot-kick.
In the match itself, Sergio Aguero had forced Simon Mignolet to tip his shot onto the post, but the Liverpool goalkeeper should have kept out Fernandinho’s strike from a tight angle early in the second half.
City squandered a number of chances to win it in 90 minutes and paid the price when Coutinho powered home late on with Liverpool’s first shot on target and extra-time did not produce a winner.
But Caballero’s star turn means City win the competition for the second time in three seasons and the fourth time overall in what is manager Manuel Pellegrini’s final season in charge of the club.
City’s previous success in 2014 was followed up by a Premier League crown and that trophy remains up for grabs this season, along with the Champions League.
Jurgen Klopp, meanwhile, has now lost four consecutive finals as a manager and Liverpool have still only won silverware once since 2006.
After a quiet start to the contest, City came so close to finding an opener midway through the first half.
David Silva’s throughball released Aguero and the striker raced past Mamadou Sakho before shooting right-footed towards the bottom corner, with Mignolet getting down to tip it onto the post with a crucial one-handed save.
That incident prompted Klopp to replace the France defender, who was struggling having received a blow to the head in an accidental clash with team-mate Emre Can and Kolo Toure came on as a visibly furious Sakho protested against the decision.
Alberto Moreno then had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Michael Oliver after he went down under Fernandinho’s challenge at the corner of the box.
City’s breakthrough arrived after just four minutes of the second half. Aguero fed an overlapping Fernandinho on the right and the midfielder drilled in a shot form a tight angle that somehow squirmed under Mignolet to find the far corner.
It then could have been game over for Liverpool as they survived two major scares in quick succession. First, a slick counter-attack ended with Silva creating a brilliant opening and the goal was at Raheem Sterling’s mercy from eight yards out, but he could only shoot wide against his former club.
A few moments later, Aguero was felled by Moreno’s challenge as he bore down on goal, but Oliver was unmoved, prompting City penalty protests.
Pellegrini’s men continued to make all the running and Klopp threw on Lallana and Divock Origi as his team appeared to be slipping towards defeat.
And it was Liverpool’s first shot on target that produced a dramatic equaliser with seven minutes remaining.
Daniel Sturridge’s teasing cross found Lallana at the far post and the substitute struck his close-range attempt against the post, but Coutinho made no mistake, smashing the rebound past Caballero.
City immediately rallied and were denied twice by Mignolet, who made crucial stops from Fernando and Yaya Toure as the game moved into extra-time.
The best chance of the added 30 minutes saw the Belgium goalkeeper make another pivotal save, sticking out a strong left hand to keep out Aguero after his impressive run and shot.
It was then Caballero’s turn to keep his team in it, getting down sharply to block Origi’s header from James Milner’s cross.
Then came penalties as Fernandinho struck the post with City’s first attempt, but Lucas’ effort was impressively saved by Caballero, who then kept out a weak spot-kick from Coutinho and made a stunning stop from Lallana.
That allowed Yaya Toure to step up, beating Mignolet with a low strike to send City players and supporters alike wild.
Key Opta stats:
– Manchester City have now won four of their five League Cup finals (1970, 1976, 2014 and 2016).
– Liverpool lost a League Cup final for the fourth time (1978, 1987, 2005 and 2016).
– Philippe Coutinho has now scored in five of his six appearances against Man City in all competitions (five goals).
– This was the fourth League Cup final to go to a penalty shootout (2001, 2009, 2012 and 2016).
– Liverpool had previously won all five cup finals that had gone to a penalty shootout (excl. Comm Shield games) – this was their first cup final shootout defeat.
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