It may be Manuel Pellegrin’s last season in charge of Manchester City but his loyal ward, Willy Caballero, whom he brought along from Malaga turned up to be Manchester City’s hero as they beat Liverpool on penalties to win the League Cup at Wembley.
It was a bold move by the City manager when he opted to play the 34-year-old Argentine goalkeeper, ahead of Joe Hart, especially after that dreadful display in the 5-1 FA Cup fifth-round defeat by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge a week earlier. Caballero however repaid the faith his manager placed in him when he made a magnificent stop from Divock Origi’s header before defying Liverpool in the shootout with saves from spot kicks taken by Lucas, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana.
Fernandinho, who put City on the front foot during the 90, missed the opening spot kick, striking the upright. Jesus Navas and Sergio Aguero were on target as Caballero made his decisive saves, allowing Yaya Toure to easily convert the winning penalty, no pressure.
It was a very decent final, with lots of talking points. Simon Mignolet, the much criticised Liverpool stopper, was largely at fault for City’s opener as he let Fernandinho’s shot slip under his body. The Belgian however redeemed himself with too many fine stops, most notably a dive bravely into a six-yard box scramble to clear as City continued to threaten.
City had a host of chances to win the game in normal time, but two hard-to-miss opportunities from former Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling paved way for Coutinho’s 83rd minute leveller. Sterling, who was constantly taunted by the Liverpool crowd, joined his teammates, at the end of the shootout, to celebrate of course, probably out of relief more than anything else.
Jurgen Klopp had delivered a cup final in his first season in charge but ultimately failed to land his first Liverpool silverware giving Manuel Pellegrini the chance to walk away from the Etihad at the end of the season with his head held high.