Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester City
Manchester City are EFL Cup champions again after beating battling Aston Villa in a pulsating showcase at Wembley.
Sergio Aguero and Rodri put City 2-0 ahead as they threatened to wipe the floor with Villa but the underdogs fought back through Mbwana Samatta. And when Claudio Bravo made a last gasp save City picked up the first trophy of the English domestic season.
Kevin de Bruyne was at his classy best in the Sky Blues’ comfortable win over West Ham last week and the Sky Blues are a different side with him in, but Pep Guardiola decided to rotate. Alongside De Bruyne, the six other players named on the City bench all started in the Champions League win over Real Madrid in midweek.
But Pep has a wealth of riches to choose from and the EFL Cup 2020 prediction had City to win, but it was by no means that easy.
Highlights of the game
Villa coach Dean Smith’s plan was to get his team through the first 15 minutes or so, and they managed it well by going on the front foot. Anwar El Ghazi had a great chance to give them a shock lead in the second minute when he met a cross from the right, but he couldn’t keep his header down.
Aguero had a more difficult chance and he too guided his header over the bar, but while Villa negotiated the first 15 they couldn’t see out another five. And it was a typically well-crafted goal from the Sky Blues. Raheem Sterling raided down the left and pulled the ball back to Rodri; he crossed for Phil Foden to nod back into the path of Aguero who finished with a bouncing shot past Orjen Nyland.
There was an element of controversy about City’s second. They were awarded a corner when a goal kick was the correct decision. But while Smith harangued the fourth official he’ll be equally annoyed by his own defence who left Rodri free to head home the second.
The Villa end was quiet, but not for too long. City defender John Stones was making a rare start and there’s little wonder why, when he made a complete mess of a simple ball down the line to let El Ghazi in to cross for Mbwana Samatta and he headed the underdogs back into the game.
Stones is a decent defender but he won’t be in any hurry to watch the EFL 2020 highlights, and Pep was furious.
Villa were back in the game and as City pummelled them early in the second half they couldn’t deliver the knockout blow, so Guardiola brought on De Bruyne. It began to get a little edgy as City neared the finish line, and when Aguero flashed a volley just wide Villa were still in the game with ten minutes left, though they had very little opportunity.
But with three minutes on the clock, they won a corner, and when it swung over Bjorn Engels met it with a power header, the Villa end erupted but Claudio Bravo got a hand to it to push it onto the post and away to safety.
This was a game full of character with some big performances from some great players.
Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Fernandinho all won their fifth League Cup medal, equalling Liverpool legend Ian Rush’s record.
Samatta is the first player to score a cup final goal against a Pep Guardiola side since the 2011 Champions League final. His teams had kept clean sheets in the last eight finals.
And Pep has won 13 from his last 14 finals.
Villa had already conceded nine goals to Manchester City this season and they did much better today, but they couldn’t stop the Sky Blues winning a third consecutive EFL Cup.
So what’s on the menu next for SBOTOP football fans?
Well, Manchester City go in the hunt for more silverware when they head to Sheffield Wednesday for an FA Cup tie on Wednesday. The Owls sit in mid-table in the Championship with only one win from the last six league games, but Hillsborough will be bouncing.
Then there’s the small matter of the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford next Sunday.
There’s no denying yesterday was a bad day for Villa in their quest for Premier League survival. Norwich City, West Ham and Watford, who beat Liverpool, all picked up three points while Bournemouth collected a point at home to Chelsea.
That leaves Aston Villa in 19th place and, after a brave and energy-sapping effort today, Smith needs to pick his players up for a difficult run of games. They face Champions League hopefuls Leicester City and Chelsea before making the trip north to Newcastle.
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