3/3 © Reuters. Soccer – Carabao Cup Final – Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City 2/3
By Martyn Herman LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester City achieved a record for a fourth consecutive League Cup win when Aymeric Laporte’s late header sealed a well-deserved 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. The Spurs had absorbed the intense pressure from the city for most of the game to somehow stay in contention at Wembley Stadium. But City finally made the breakthrough in the 82nd minute from an unlikely source when defender Laporte found a free kick from Kevin de Bruyne and passed goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. A combination of Lloris, last-minute defense and a poor City finish had kept the 8,000 spectators on fire, but in the end Pep Guardiola’s team got their reward. They have now equaled Liverpool’s feat of winning the competition for four seasons in a row, and also join Liverpool with the most League Cup victories at eight. Tottenham, which had rookie manager Ryan Mason on the touchline after the sacking of José Mourinho last week, had a disappointing performance and their wait for a first trophy since winning the 2008 League Cup continues. After the FA Cup semi-final loss to Chelsea last weekend, they scored the first half of what they hope will be a hat-trick, with the Premier League title almost in the bag and a Champions League semi-final. against Paris St Germain. . GUARDIOLA’S JOY While the League Cup fell short of Guardiola’s priorities, there was no hiding his joy at becoming the first coach to win the League Cup in four consecutive seasons. It mattered more as the final was played in front of the largest crowd since Britain entered a first COVID-19 lockdown last March, one of the government‘s test events for fans to return safely to venues at as restrictions are eased. “It’s not crowded, but it was a big noise,” said Guardiola, who has now won 30 trophies as a coach since taking over at Barcelona in 2008. “Today we are incredibly happy to have four in a row in this competition. We tried to win the match, we created many occasions. They had some occasions in the against but in general we had a good party “. The 2,000 allowed City fans serenaded their team at the end with the club’s Blue Moon anthem, though they would have had a more relaxing afternoon in the sun if their team had turned their overwhelming first-half dominance into goals. The way the final came to halftime still 0-0 was unnerving with Phil Foden shooting wide from close range and then seeing another effort deflected towards the post. Raheem Sterling tormented the Tottenham defense and was denied when his goal kick was stopped by Toby Alderweireld’s desperate blocking. Riyad Mahrez delivered a magnificent shot at an agonizingly wide angle, though it wasn’t until first-half injury time that Lloris made his first save, diving to snatch the curling iron from Joao Cancelo. Tottenham improved marginally after the break with England striker Harry Kane, who declared himself ready to go after an ankle injury put his place in doubt, finally getting into the game. Giovani Lo Celso almost gave the Spurs an unlikely lead when he chose his spot, but City’s Zack Steffen lived up to his effort, pushing the ball around the post. The shot went slightly off City attacks, but Lloris remained a busy man, avoiding the efforts of City captain Fernandinho and Mahrez, and captain Fernandinho. Tottenham rookie manager Mason dispatched Gareth Bale with about 25 minutes to go and the stage looked set for the Welshman to produce an unexpected turn. But in the end justice was served when Laporte found room to direct De Bruyne’s perfect delivery to the net for his second goal of the season. Tottenham’s only complaint was that Laporte was perhaps a bit lucky to escape punishment for a tackle in the first half and was later booked in the second half. However, the truth is that they were the second best by far.