Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool were very close to earning their first trophy under the new man, had they beat Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final in penalties. Lady Luck, it seemed for much of the game, was on Liverpool’s side, until, finally, she decided to change affiliations and help out Caballero with some phenomenal saves during the penalty shootout.
For much of the beginning stages, Liverpool dominated possession of the football, something they didn’t do when they beat the City side back at the Etihad back in November. Pellegrini decided, for once, that his team have a better chance of going past this energetic Liverpool team if they broke on the counter rather than playing keep-ball.
This tactic was very excellent in its making as neither of Liverpool’s centre-halves, one of them a make-shift, were relatively well known for their pace, or ability to control and pass the ball. Lucas played very well in the early minutes, sniffing out danger before it appeared and quickly transitioning the play from defence to attack.
However, it was looking as if Liverpool were trying too hard with the ball, passing it back and forth and interchanging a ton of times, but the final ball was not intricate and accurate enough for someone to finish it, and quite honestly would’ve required some sort of superficial talent.
As City’s brilliant tactic was working to its full extent, it would’ve been a rather perfect half for them if they had gotten the breakaway goal by means of Sergio Agüero, but the Argentinian, for once, missed a shot from inside the box, though he had all the time in the world to place it.
The half ended 0-0, with both teams feeling like they lacked the decisiveness in the final third of the pitch.
At the start of the second half, the possession of the football was split more evenly, as Man City tried harder to get the lead. It came through an unlikely source, as Fernandinho shot a thumper from an impossible angle on the right, but, really, a shot that Mignolet should’ve saved with no problem.
After this goal, Manchester City looked the likelier to score the second of the game, as Raheem Sterling missed a few sitters against his old club, much to the frustration of the travelling City fans. Though Red fans would’ve been delighted. Job done on their part.
There was a clear penalty shout ignored by referee Michael Oliver, when Agüero was tripped inside the box by Alberto Moreno after the Argentinean had clearly gone past him. This made the City fans even more frustrated, and it truly seemed as if luck was in Liverpool’s favor today.
This assumption became more evident when Liverpool got an 82nd minute equalizer through Phillipe Coutinho. The atmosphere was buzzing inside the stadium, as you can imagine, and it was what you hope to see in every Cup final.
In overtime, both Liverpool and Man City had their fair share of chances, but the club from Manchester looked far more likely to get the lead again. Nevertheless, neither did, and the game headed into penalties, in which both goalkeepers were set to be tested to the full extent. You couldn’t have asked for a more nervy situation, from their perspective.
As it often is with penalty shootouts, one goalkeeper turned out as the hero for his club. Willy Caballero made some phenomenal saves to deliver the trophy for Manchester City, and this will, undoubtedly, give Manuel Pellegrini some food for thought when he decides on his starting goalie the next match.