Willy Caballero the hero as Manchester City claim silverware

Goalkeeper vindicates selection with three saves in penalty shootout against Liverpool

Liverpool 1 Manchester City 1 (aet; City won 3-1 on penalties)

When the penalties were done, a fifth trophy had been added to Manchester City's collection in the Abu Dhabi era, Yaya Touré was twirling his shirt after striking the decisive kick and Willy Caballero had become an unlikely hero for Manuel Pellegrini's team. Caballero's selection had been risky after his erratic performances as Joe Hart's understudy but it was his goalkeeping in the shootout that meant the first silverware of the season would be heading to Manchester.

Caballero could not keep out Emre Can's impudent little chip to get the penalties underway but thereafter he was unbeatable, diving to his left to turn away the attempts by Lucas Leiva and Coutinho, and then to his right to beat out Adam Lallana's effort for his third successive save.

Fernandinho had struck the post with City's first penalty but that was their only miss. Jesús Navas and Sergio Agüero put them ahead and, when Touré beat Simon Mignolet, it decided the game without having to go to the final round of penalties.

Liverpool had already beaten Carlisle on penalties in the third round and squeezed past Stoke City the same way in the semi-final but while Caballero was hoisted on to the players’ shoulders the final will be remembered as a personal ordeal for Mignolet bearing in mind the way Fernandinho opened the scoring early in the second half.

It was a wretched goal to concede and the unfortunate truth for Mignolet is that moment reiterated why many of his club’s supporters are perplexed he has been awarded a new five-year contract.

At the highest level, goalkeepers cannot be this erratic and City should probably have been spared extra-time and penalties but for some poor officiating and their own wastefulness given the number of chances they passed up to make it 2-0.

Raheem Sterling somehow turned the ball wide with a golden opportunity, six yards out and completely unchallenged, to score against his former club and there was another reprieve two minutes later when Agüero ran into the penalty area and Alberto Moreno flicked out his back leg to bring him down. It was a clear penalty and the referee, Michael Oliver, had a full view of the incident. His decision to wave play on was bewildering, to say the least, and would have turned into a significant controversy if the game had ended in Liverpool's favour.

Before Liverpool’s equaliser there was another demonstration of Sterling’s habit of finding himself in scoring positions only to shoot wide and, totting up their second-half chances, City might feel they should have made it a less stressful victory.

Instead, Liverpool scored in the 83rd minute from their first shot on target. City could not clear their lines and one of the substitutes, Divock Origi, put the ball across the six-yard area. Adam Lallana, another second-half substitute, was running in at the far post and when his close-range effort came back off the woodwork the ball shot out for Coutinho to fire in the rebound.

Until that point, Liverpool had seen plenty of the ball without make enough use of it or having sufficient penetration to examine whether Caballero might be as susceptible as Mignolet in the opposite goal. Manuel Pellegrini had stayed true to his word and resisted any temptation to bring Joe Hart into his team but Liverpool threatened only sporadically in the opening half and Vincent Kompany's considerable presence helped ensure the former Malaga goalkeeper was generally well protected.

Mamadou Sakho had to be taken off in that period, replaced by Kolo Touré after clashing heads with his team-mate Emre Can and he was clearly distraught when it dawned on him that the club's medical staff would not let him play on. That meant Touré teaming up with Lucas Leiva in the centre of Liverpool's defence and, if that gave their back four a slightly vulnerable look, there was only one moment in the first half when City put together a passing move to expose their opponents' shortcomings. On that occasion Mignolet turned Agüero's shot against the post. It was one of several fine saves but the Belgian has been interspersing splendid, occasionally outstanding, stops with goalkeeping errors for some time.

Four minutes after the interval, City had the ball on the left when David Silva lofted a long, cross-field pass for Agüero on the opposite side. Agüero held up the play, waiting for Fernandinho to overlap in his new position on the right of City's attack, and there did not seem to be a great deal of danger for Mignolet at that precise moment.

Fernandinho made a clean connection with his shot but the ball was not struck with searing pace and the Brazilian was taking aim from a tight angle. Mignolet appeared to have the post covered but the ball somehow found a gap that should not have existed. The collective groan from Liverpool’s supporters when the mistake was replayed on the large screens told the rest of the story.

In fairness to Mignolet, he shook his head clear and did not seem to let it affect him throughout the rest of the match, denying Yaya Touré a winner approaching the 90-minute mark and then keeping out Agüero when the Argentinian burst through in the final minute of the first period of extra time.

At the other end, Caballero palmed away Origi’s header and for the first time City were starting to look ragged in the final quarter of an hour. They might still have spared themselves from the nerve-shredding finale If Agüero had been able to turn James Milner’s misplaced header beyond Mignolet but it went to a contest from 12 yards and those were the moments when we saw why Pellegrini had placed his trust in Caballero.

(Guardian service)