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Manchester City v Spurs - Carabao Cup Final, 25.04.21

My thanks are due to Declan Mulcahy for this very detailed and excellent match report:-

Sunday 25 April 2021
Carabao Cup Final
Manchester City (0) 1 Tottenham Hotspur (0) 0

Scorer:- Laporte 82

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Pep Guardiola
13 Z Steffen; 2 K Walker, 3 Rúben Dias, 14 A Laporte, 27 J Cancelo; 25 Fernandinho (c) (16 Rodrigo 84), 8 I Gündogan; 26 R Mahrez, 17 K De Bruyne (20 B Silva 87), 7 R Sterling; 47 P Foden

Substitutes not Used: 31 Ederson, 6 N Aké, 9 Gabriel Jesus, 10 S Agüero, 11 O Zinchenko, 21 F Torres 22 B Mendy

Booked: Laporte (45 foul on Lucas Moura), Fernandinho (59 foul on Hojbjerg)

Captains Armband: Fernandinho (de Bruyne 84, Sterling 87)

Tottenham Hotspur (4-3-3):
1 H Lloris (c); 24 S Aurier (23 S Bergwijn 90), 4 T Alderweireld, 15 E Dier, 3 S Reguilón; 8 H Winks, 5 P-E Højbjerg (20 D Alli 84), 18 G Lo Celso (17 M Sissoko 67); 27 Lucas Moura (9 G Bale 67), 10 H Kane, 7 Son Heung-Min

Substitutes not Used: 6 D Sánchez, 11 E Lamela, 12 J Hart, 25 J Tanganga, 28 T Ndombele

Booked: Reguilón (27 foul on De Bruyne)

Wembley Stadium, Attendance: 7,773

Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistant Referees: Lee Betts, Constantine Hatzidakis
Fourth Official: Peter Bankes
VAR: Andre Marriner
Assistant VAR: Adrian Holmes

The Wait for a Trophy Continues

The Carabao Cup final produced the outcome that most people, Spurs’ supporters included, would have expected. Manchester City won the three-handled trophy for the fourth consecutive year equalling Liverpool’s record of eight for the most times a team has won the trophy. They also equalled Liverpool’s record of four consecutive wins in the 1980s (Spurs being the only team who were runners-up during both of those series of wins). From Spurs’ perspective the 1-0 scoreline against the best team in England by a considerable distance was respectable. The bullet of qualifying for the new European Conference League was avoided though it could still happen in the future.

The Spurs squad of twenty contained nineteen of the players who were included against Southampton with Kane replacing Vinicius. In terms of the starting XI there were two changes with Winks and Kane replacing Ndombele and Bale. Six of the players who featured in 2015 when Spurs played Chelsea in the final in 2015 were again involved. Lloris, Dier and Kane started both games for Spurs. Lamela was a substitute in 2015 but remained on the bench today. Walker was the Spurs right back in 2015 but featured in the same position for City today.

The most surprising double participant was Ryan Mason. He played in the Spurs’ midfield in 2015. Today as acting manager he established two new records the youngest manager ever in a League Cup final and the only manager in English league football to manage a team in a cup final in only his second game.

City had two injury worries. Both De Bruyne and Aguero were available the former starting and the latter an unused substitute. Guardiola showed respect for Spurs by fielding a very strong team despite the Champions League semi-final in three days time.

On a positive note there were a limited number of spectators in attendance at Wembley.

Wembley Stadium - 25.04.21

The Spurs section at Wembley Stadium. Image courtesy of attendee Glenn Pereira.

City dominated proceedings once the first half kicked off.

After four minutes Son won the ball in midfield from a City player. His pass was intercepted by Sterling who got as far as the left of the box but was denied by a saving tackle by Aurier. In the twelfth minute Lucas Moura helped out at the back shepherding the ball out over the end line when under pressure from Sterling. Two minutes later Dier did well to block a Foden shot.

After 17 minutes Reguilon was guilty of a heavy tackle on Foden. He could have been booked but the referee opted not to do so. Two minutes later Spurs won a corner, only the second time they had reached the City box, but it came to nothing. After 22 minutes Lo Celso conceded a free kick on the edge of the Spurs box but De Bruyne hit the wall with his free kick.

After 25 minutes Laporte committed a foul on Moura not dissimilar to Reguilon’s earlier one and again the referee gave him the benefit of the doubt. City’s next attack produced a shot from Foden which hit Alderweireld and then the post before going out.

Reguilon then fouled De Bruyne and his name went in the book. Around the half hour mark Lloris came off his goal line to challenge Sterling on the left. He lobbed the ball over Lloris but luckily there was no City player there to connect with the ball.

After thirty five minutes Mahrez entered the box on the right and unleashed a diagonal shot which went narrowly wide. Two minutes later he had another effort from the edge of the box. With four minutes remaining in the half De Bruyne played a searching ball into the Spurs box but it was just out of reach of Sterling.

Laporte was booked at the end of the first half for a foul on Moura. I have seen comments that he should have been booked for the earlier foul and sent off for the latter one. However the same applies to Reguilon. The fouls were of similar severity in both cases. There is a tradition of leniency for fouls early in English cup finals on the basis that these big occasions should not be disfigured by sendings off unless absolutely necessary. I thought that referee Paul Tierney made the right decision with both players and had a very good game overall. (Ed:- Spurs Odyssey voters clearly did not agree, and neither did former referee Keith Hackett)

The final action of the first half saw a Cancelo shot from the left of the box requiring Lloris to make a diving save to push round the post.

City totally dominated the first half. By my count Spurs reached the City box only six times during the half and posed no real threat. Every time Lloris had the ball Spurs tried to play out from the back. However City pressed very hard which led to Spurs’ players losing the ball and putting their team under pressure. City will wonder how they didn’t score. It was a combination of good defending from Spurs at times under pressure and luck at other times.

The second half was less one sided. In the forty seventh minute Lo Celso had a shot which Steffen pushed wide. Spurs reached the City box on a number of occasions but never really created any clear cut chances.

Around the hour mark Sterling beat Aurier on the left but Lloris went down at his feet to save. Three minutes later Spurs created what could have been a good chance. Kane fed the ball to Hojbjerg on the left of the box. Reguilon was on his left and Hojbjerg assumed he would advance further to be in a position to cross the ball. Instead Reguilon stayed put and Hojbjerg’s attempted pass went harmlessly over the end line. Hojbjerg gave Reguilon an angry look.

After seventy one minutes De Bruyne crossed from the left and Fernandinho’s header brought a good save from Lloris. Then Gundogan passed to Sterling who returned the favour with the former in the box but he shot wide. This was followed by a Mahrez shot from the edge of the box from which Lloris made a diving save.

With ten minutes remaining the Spurs players must have considered the possibility that they could take the game to extra time. However in the eighty second minute Aurier fouled Sterling on the left wing. De Bruyne swung the free kick in from the left. Laporte rose to direct the ball towards the far post with a powerful header. Hojbjerg was positioned there but could not stop the ball crossing the line.

Spurs showed some urgency in trying to come back but failed to create any real changes. Bale had been introduced after 67 minutes but was largely anonymous. Alli came on after the goal was scored but had little time to make an impression. Shortly before the final whistle Mahrez had the ball in the net but it was disallowed for offside.

Mahrez was chosen as the man of the match. Lloris and Alderweireld were the pick of the Spurs team. Fernandinho became the first player to win six league cup winner’s medals. Guardiola the first manager to win the cup four times in a row.

After the final whistle Son was in tears and several of the City players including De Bruyne sportingly came over to console him.

The ceremonies were much lower key than usual. The Royal Box wasn’t used and there were no presentations. First the Spurs’ players went to a box on a table on the pitch and helped themselves to runners-up medals. Another box was put on the table and the City players did the same. Fernandinho the City captain took the trophy off of a plinth without it being presented to him.

Losing yet another final is of course very disappointing. However there certainly are positives which can be taken from the situation.

It was a game between the best team presently in English football led by the most tactically astute manager in the world and a team which has had a torrid time over the past few months under a former manager and is now led by a twenty nine year old with no management experience at this level. A 1-0 defeat under the circumstances was not a bad result.

City were undoubtedly the better side. However Spurs showed a commitment and togetherness which has been noticeably absent from the last matches under Mourinho.

The final games under Mourinho were dreadful. Last Monday I wondered whether Daniel Levy had made a mistake in disposing of Mourinho and appointing a twenty nine year old with no management experience. After two games I think he has made the right decision. The worst is over and the team is starting to play more coherently and with some commitment. There is a long way to go but the awful purposelessness under the final Mourinho days is gone.

There is still an outside chance of qualifying for the Champions League and a better opportunity of qualifying for the Europa League and I think that Ryan Mason and this group of players can make a far better attempt to achieve these goals than would have happened under Mourinho. The first four of the last five Premier League games are all winnable: Sheffield United (h), Leeds United (a), Aston Villa (h) and Wolves (h). Winning these four games could change the picture significantly.

This was a major disappointment at Wembley but there is hope that the season can end on a positive note.

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