BEST OF THE MANSOUR ERA: City Blow Sunderland Away To Lift 2014 League Cup

Throughout June on Typical City, we’re looking at some of the best matches Manchester City have played in the Sheikh Mansour-era. Day by day, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to some of the classic encounters the Blues have had since the 2008 takeover – you can view the rest of the featured games on the Best of the Mansour Era page.

A win at Wembley is always enjoyable, even if the competition isn’t the main one that the Blues are aiming to win. Day 22 in the series takes us back to the national stadium for the League Cup final in 2014 – when City’s second half blew Sunderland out of the water…

Manchester City 3-1 Sunderland
Sunday 2 March 2014
City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov, Toure, Fernandinho, Nasri, Silva (Garcia 77), Aguero (Navas 58), Dzeko (Negredo 88).
Unused: Hart, Lescott, Clichy, Milner
Goals: Toure (55), Nasri (56), Navas (90)

Going into the League Cup final in 2014, Manchester City were considered firm favourites by everybody but their own supporters. A wistful pessimism enthuses all City fans and it makes it way to the surface on days like this – their side is in a much healthier position in the league, they’ve performed much better all season, but they’re up against a traditional bogey team. If there’s anyone who can cock it up, then it’s City.

That’s how it looked early in the first half. After Sergio Aguero had forced the first save of the match from Vito Mannone, the Black Cats broke forward. A ball over the top caught Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis out – the former kept pace with Fabio Borini, but his attempted clearance only bounced down for the striker to run into the box. The latter was exposed for pace as he chased back, only able to watch the Sunderland man curl a shot around cup goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon with the outside of his foot.

After just 10 minutes and one attack, Sunderland were ahead.

The first half then settled into a pattern. It involved the Blues dominating the ball, but being unable to find room for a shot on Mannone’s goal – leaving the Sunderland stopper with very little to do. In fact, it was the Black Cats who had the best chance to score next and it came from another ball over the top. The linesman didn’t flag when Borini looked offside, leaving him chance to run clean through. This time Kompany showed great pace to get back and recover with a last-gasp sliding challenge.

After the break, it was a different story. City, again dominating the play, took more chances and it worked in getting them back into the tie. In truth, it was a wonderful piece of individual brilliance that turned the game on its head – and sparked a recovery from Manuel Pellegrini’s team that saw them score twice in two minutes.

It started with Yaya Toure. There was no danger for Sunderland when the Ivorian played the ball out to Pablo Zabaleta on the right. When the Argentinian returned it a second later, Toure was all of 30 yards away from goal when he hit it first time. Initially, it had looked like he was trying to clip a ball to the back post and for many in the City end it looked like a terrible cross. However, it was only when the effort began to dip that it became obvious he meant it entirely. He curled a shot over the crowded box, lobbing the goalkeeper, and dropping into the top corner of the net.

The Ivorian has scored some special goals for City – but this was one of his best. It was a sublime piece of individual skill to get his team back on a level footing. Toure never once looked like he was going to shoot, and he disguised the attempt so well that it caught everybody out.

“It may well be a terrific turning point,” Martin Tyler uttered as City won the ball back and went on the attack again after Sunderland had kicked off. It was – 103 seconds later, Mannone was picking the ball out of his net for the second time of the afternoon and Samir Nasri was celebrating a goal that was equally as stunning as Toure’s.

It began with a long ball from Pantilimon, brought out of the sky by Aguero. He turned and rolled a pass into Aleksandar Kolarov’s path on the left flank, leaving the full back to drill a cross into the middle. It was slightly deflected to the edge of the box, where Nasri was arriving, and the Frenchman volleyed an effort into the far corner of the goal. It bent with power around Mannone, who was left rooted to his line, clipping the inside of the post as it found the target from the outside of Nasri’s right boot. Two stunning goals had put City in front.

Sunderland were finished off as they pressed forward for the equaliser to force extra time. As the Blues won the ball back mid-way into their own half, they set up a 90th minute counter-attack led by Toure. With Alvaro Negredo, Nasri and Jesus Navas breaking around him, the Ivorian held onto the ball until the right moment to set it into the latter’s path. Just inside the box, Navas side-footed into the bottom corner at the near post, winning the cup for his team.

It had been a tough afternoon, but the Blues were deserved winners – and it was a game that will live long in the memory after two sublime finishes when it really mattered.

Afterwards, the manager was delighted: “It’s very important, of course, in the first season to win the first trophy,” Pellegrini said, on picking up silverware at his first attempt at the club. “It’s important for me, for the players, for the club… for everyone.

“I think Sunderland deserved to make the final and they could win,” the manager continued. “They played very well. In the first half, they had one attack and they scored. The game was very difficult, but we decided it with two beautiful goals.

“It’s always important for a good team to have good players,” Pellegrini added. “Top players [like Yaya Toure] decide games, but I think today we played well as a team because we had the patience to try and find the space, and we defended very well apart from that goal – which was a counter-attack.”

Written by David Mooney

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