City class wins out in the end against Sunderland

Strikes from Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri turned League Cup final on its head

Sun, Mar 2, 2014, 16:28

Manchester City 3 Sunderland 1

They were flashes of brilliance. For long spells, Manchester City had toyed with the idea of another deeply unsatisfactory cup final but when they finally shook their heads clear there was something devastating about the moments that turned this match upside down within the space of two minutes.

Manuel Pellegrini’s team had been trailing to driven, highly motivated opponents and looking conspicuously short of ideas when Yaya Toure, with a typically elegant swish of that right boot, curled one into the top corner of Vito Mannone’s net for one of the great Wembley goals since the new stadium went up.

What followed, off the outside of Samir Nasri’s right boot, was another beauty and that quick one-two seemed to remove all the stresses from Pellegrini’s players before the last, almost cruel breakaway when City broke, four-on-two, and Jesus Navas guaranteed the first piece of silverware this season was on its way to Manchester.

Sunderland had given everything and fully deserved the half-time lead Fabio Borini had supplied 10 minutes into a first half that, for City, had invoked a clinging sense of deja vu from last season’s FA Cup final. Yet the turnaround was a great reminder of the disparity between a team from the Premier League’s relegation places the most financially endowed club in the land. Sunderland never once showed any hint of an inferiority complex but City, even some way below their most distinguished best, still had it within themselves to conjure up these moments.

For that, Sunderland ought to feel no shame. It is possible to lose a match and to play well and Gus Poyet’s team certainly did no go down without a commendable show of togetherness. Borini’s goal was another beauty, on a day of outstanding finishing at one end of the stadium, and it probably says everything for the way the team in red and white stripes set about this final that City had been distinctly second best before Touré moved on to Pablo Zabaleta’s square pass and demonstrated the uncommon scoring ability that makes it feel like a trick of the mind he is supposed to be a defensive midfielder.

Perhaps Sunderland had fallen into the trap of defending a little too deeply but Toure’s 17th goals of another outstanding individual season was exquisite and changed the emphasis of the match in a heartbeat.

From virtually the next City attack, Sergio Aguero latched on to Costel Pantilimon’s long kick. Aleksandar Kolarov’s cross was deflected into Nasri’s path and, on the run, the Frenchman took it first time, combining power and precision to pick out the bottom corner.

After that, there were always going to be moments when Sunderland would leave more gaps for their opponents to exploit. Poyet’s team certainly did not give up easily and continued to press for an equaliser. Their adventure made them vulnerable in defence and Touré had charged from his own half before sliding his pass into Navas’s path to make sure of the win. Navas had been bright and lively after coming off the bench and made sure of Pellegrini’s first trophy for the club with a right-foot finish.

It had been some turnaround and it was difficult not to sympathise with Sunderland on the back. Their supporters had given them immense backing and they will always look back on that early goal from Borini and wonder what might have been.

Lee Cattermole set everything in motion, going into a tackle with Fernandinho on the edge of his penalty area, and coming out with the ball. That little moment was an accurate snapshot of how the first half panned out. Seb Larsson, who had a fine game, moved the ball to Adam Johnson and the former City player turned defence from attack with the long, measured pass through the inside-right channel.

After that, it was a question of whether Borini could get away from Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis. he first touch was Kompany’s but, trying to hook the ball away, it ricocheted against Borini’s chin and fell for the Sunderland player, with Demichelis not showing the anticipation to cover. There was something Suarez-esque about the way Borini used the outside of his right boot to bend his shot past Costel Pantilimon. It was a brilliant and quick piece of improvisation but City’s response was a reminder, ultimately, of their superior quality.

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