Manchester City have picked up the first piece of silverware this season courtesy of a 3-1 penalty shootout victory over Liverpool in the League Cup final at Wembley this afternoon.
Philippe Coutinho struck late in normal time to cancel out Fernandinho‘s opener and force extra time and penalties, where Wilfredo Caballero proved to be the hero with three save
Liverpool, who raced into a 3-0 lead inside 32 minutes the last time these two sides met, made a bright start again this afternoon, with Alberto Moreno testing Caballero in the opening minute with a low shot across the face of goal.
That proved to be the only serious action either keeper was called into in the opening stages of the match, though, as very little separated the two sides early on.
City did come within inches of breaking the deadlock midway through the first half, though, when Sergio Aguero latched on to a David Silva through-ball, cut inside past two defenders and curled an effort towards the bottom corner that Simon Mignolet turned against the foot of the post.
A disorientated Mamadou Sakho was one of those beaten by Aguero, and that forced Jurgen Klopp to bring the defender off as he continued to show ill-effects from an earlier head clash with teammate Emre Can.
Chances continued to be hard to come by as the half progressed, with Roberto Firmino firing one shot high over the bar from the edge of the box, before Coutinho miscued a volley right on the stroke of half time when well placed on the right side of the area.
It took just four minutes of the second half for a goal to arrive, though, as Mignolet failed to keep out Fernandinho’s powerful drive from an acute angle after the midfielder had been slipped in by Aguero.
Liverpool went in search of an equaliser and created their first clear chance of the game seven minutes after falling behind when Daniel Sturridge threaded a pass through for James Milner, only for the midfielder to fire wide of the near post.
It was City who should have got the game’s second goal on the hour mark, however, as Yaya Toure and Silva combined to set up former Liverpool player Raheem Sterling, but he fluffed his lines from inside the box when it looked easier to score.
Another break moments later saw Aguero sent clean through on goal, but Moreno got back quickly before surviving a strong penalty shout when Aguero cut inside and went over his dangling leg.
Despite their lead, City continued to look the more likely to score as the clocked ticked towards the closing stages, with Silva curling a free kick over the crossbar and Aguero twice drawing routine stops from Mignolet.
Sterling had another chance to put the game beyond his former employers with 10 minutes remaining, but once again he failed to make the opportunity count when he scuffed an effort wide after good work from Aguero.
Those misses came back to haunt him three minutes later when Liverpool levelled things up through Coutinho, who stroked the ball into an unguarded net after Adam Lallana‘s effort had rebounded off the post and into the Brazilian’s path.
That sparked a breathless final 10 minutes or so, during which Mignolet redeemed himself for his earlier error with two point-blank saves to deny Fernando and Toure in the closing stages.
Neither side could find a late winner, however, as the game went in to extra time, during which both sides struggled to match the intensity of the latter stages of the 90.
There was a clear chance right at the end of the first period of extra time, but Mignolet continued his transformation from zero to hero with a big one-handed save to deny Aguero when one on one.
It was Liverpool who looked the more threatening in the opening stages of the second period, with Caballero being called into action to deny both Divock Origi and Sturridge in quick succession.
City were gifted an opening of their own as the match once again began to ebb and flow, with Aguero latching on to a poor Milner header only to send his attempted lob over the crossbar.
The match went all the way to penalties, though, as City’s late pressure failed to tell and they were taken to a first shootout since 2009, with Liverpool having been involved in six since then.
That experience counted for little, however, as Caballero saved from Lucas, Coutinho and Lallana to allow Toure to stroke home the winning spot kick and give City their fourth League Cup crown.