Manchester City have retained their first trophy in the club's history after a scrappy victory over Chelsea at Wembley. You may think the match itself was slightly dull when looking at the scoreline at face value, however it certainly had plenty of moments to talk about for supporters of both Manchester City and Chelsea.
Here are our main talking points from yet another cup success at Wembley for the Blues of Manchester:
Carabao Cup Champions 2019
Despite the coverage by the sports pages that followed this cup final, Manchester City winning the League Cup has to be the main talking points, doesn't it?! Raheem Sterling scored the winning penalty in the very stadium that overlooked his childhood home as Manchester City retained a trophy for the first time in their history. Yet the editors of a large share of today's newspapers might need reminding...
Speaking of, cast your mind back to the 2-0 defeat to Chelsea a few months ago at Stamford Bridge, and you may recall the horrid instance of racist abuse towards Raheem Sterling by a small section of vile supporters. Since then, Sterling - the one and only - has spoken out about his fight against discrimination.
Now, a few weeks after City’s rampant 6-0 victory over Chelsea, a game in which Sterling grabbed two of the goals, he now had the chance to deny them a first trophy of the season. I, like many around me, stood in the stands at Wembley with anxiety as we realised Raheem was up for the last penalty kick. We shouldn’t have felt that way, his record speaks for itself, but we did.
This was either going to be Raheem’s revenge, or more fuel to the fire for his doubters to poke at. The Englishman strutted up to the spot, side-stance, and pinged the ball off the inside of the crossbar into the top left hand corner.
Cue euphoria, cue silverware, cue Raheem’s revenge.
For £71 million, Chelsea had bagged one of the most upcoming shot-stoppers in world football in the summer of 2018. With two huge years at Athletic Bilbao on his CV, Kepa has a lot to live up to between the sticks for Maurizio Sarri’s men - like succeeding the goalkeeping legacy of recent Stamford Bridge icons Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois.
While his ability has the potential to reach the heights of his predecessors, the Spaniard’s likability throughout the 120 minutes at Wembley was tainted to say the least. Right from kick-off, the 24-year-old engaged in constant time-wasting tactics during goal-kicks. Attempting to run down the clock - earning a chorus of boos from the City end who had grown tired of his antics very quickly.
As the clock counted down further, so did everyone’s patience with the keeper - who seemed to keep going down with the same suspicious ‘knock’ that required a pair of physios to run to his aid. Not once, but twice. JUST GET HIM OFF.
This wasn’t the sum of Kepa’s antics, oh no. Sarri had enough and appeared to be taking the keeper’s knock seriously. As Willy Caballero - a cult hero, thank goodness he didn’t pull his heroics on us - warmed up on the sidelines, a number came up on the board. It was Kepa’s number, finally, they were taking him off.
But having employed himself as Chelsea’s newest tactician, he opted to stay on the pitch. STAY ON THE PITCH. He refused the substitution. Everyone was in uproar: Sarri, every fan in the ground, Willy - it’s nothing like I’d ever seen.
Luckily, karma came back to swiftly bite him, as his performance in the shoot-out was poor - flapping at a Sergio Aguero penalty 9/10 keepers would have stopped.
In spite of retaining our first piece of silverware in our history, City still managed to do things in typical fashion, taking us all to the edge of our seats and brink of despair as they triumphed in a penalty showdown at the last-chance saloon.
That old laboured fashion might have been a tad too literal for some of the squad though. Though the Carabao is now adorned with sky blue ribbon, it came at the cost of team stalwarts Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho, who were both substituted with injury concerns.
True, Laporte gave positive comments post-match that his injury might not be too serious, but Pep’s visible concern about his injury list for the coming fixtures just emphasised how finely balanced the squad balance is. One wrong move or minute played could be the difference between emphatic management and a costly absence.
If the media are to be believed (take that with a pinch of salt), then we should pack in the inflatable bananas and sod off Blue Moon until we’ve won an unprecedented quadruple. Whilst no one at City has voiced the slightest genuine interest, Guardiola’s high standards demand maximum commitment in every game - such efforts were bound to catch up to us sooner or later. Yes, we’ve emphasised our fighting spirit in securing a trophy so early in the season... but at what cost?
Our next three league fixtures against West Ham, Bournemouth and Watford will be made all the more challenging with a couple of our most quality players absent, particularly in the case of Fernandinho. Without him, the Blues have already suffered unexpected losses to Crystal Palace and Leicester this season; Guardiola will certainly need a secure game plan on how to handle these precocious sides without him. Let’s just pray it isn’t a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
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