x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Manchester City secure first trophy of Manuel Pellegrini’s reign

When Manuel Pellegrini was appointed manager of Manchester City, he was given a target of winning five trophies in five years. He has the first of them now, after City came from behind to beat Sunderland in the English League Cup final.

Manchester City's Samir Nasri, front,  Manchester City celebrates scoring his side's second goal in a 2-1 win over Sunderland at Wembley Stadium on March 2, 2014 in the Capital One Cup final. Jamie McDonald / Getty Images
Manchester City's Samir Nasri, front, Manchester City celebrates scoring his side's second goal in a 2-1 win over Sunderland at Wembley Stadium on March 2, 2014 in the Capital One Cup final. Jamie McDonald / Getty Images

LONDON // In the end, having extremely good footballers goes an awful long way. Sunderland scrapped and harried and stung Manchester City, did everything they could realistically have been expected to, even took the lead and threatened to pull off one of the great Wembley upsets, but it was undone by two excellent players doing brilliant things.

“I wanted you to see my team on the pitch and I saw my team,” said the Sunderland manager Gus Poyet. “I didn’t want to see any gifts or presents for the opposition, no bad decisions, no red cards or own goals. From the football side, we couldn’t do better. At the end of the day, the quality decided the game – two wonder finishes.”

The first half could hardly have gone better for Sunderland, who held City at arm’s length and took a 10th-minute lead through Fabio Borini. After Lee Cattermole dispossessed Fernandinho, the ball was worked right to Adam Johnson, who dinked a ball down the line for Borini, who out-muscled Vincent Kompany and finished superbly with the outside of his right foot.

Predictably, there was no half-time rocket from Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini.

“I told them they had 45 minutes more to change the score,” he said. “They had to be calm and patient and had to believe in what they were doing. We did not have our best day in creating space and they defended very well.”

Yaya Toure had been quiet all game, generally out-scrapped by Cattermole and Sebastian Larsson, but nine minutes into the second half, he was granted a couple of yards of space as Larsson – claiming he had been fouled – limped to close him down. The opportunity was immediately seized, with Toure almost wafting at the ball, but sending it arcing into the top corner.

“If you have Toure and he scores from 35 yards …” said Poyet with a shrug. “I tell you maybe next time we play two goalkeepers. But on another day if everything goes for you it’s a foul – and it was a foul – and I think it was a very easy foul to give.”

Three minutes later, it was Samir Nasri sending a brilliant finish past Vito Mannone, as he hit Aleksandar Kolarov’s shot just inside the post with the outside of his right foot. Sunderland pressed, sent a couple of dangerous crosses into the box and, in the final minute, created an opening for Steven Fletcher. As Ki Sung-yeung’s header bounced across his body, though, he decided not to take the shot on his weaker right foot, but miscontrolled as he dragged it back into his left foot. Within a minute, Jesus Navas added a third in the break.

Pellegrini is adamant that this – his first trophy since arriving in Europe a decade ago – is only the beginning.

“It gives a lot of confidence to us because when you have a chance to win a title, if you don’t do it, your mind doesn’t work in the same way,” he said. “We’re the only club that has a chance to win all the competitions and if you win the first you have to keep trying to win them all.”

Poyet’s job, meanwhile, is to pick his side up and use a very good performance as motivation for the Premier League relegation battle to come.

“We didn’t make any mistakes today,” he said. “Maybe we missed a couple of half-chances, but we didn’t give anything away.

“Manchester City earned it and that’s all we can do. If Yaya is a different-class player. Unless we shoot him, there is nothing we can do.”

sports@thenational.ae