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Capital One Cup: Caballero has the final say as Man City defeat Liverpool in shoot-out


Centre stage: Willy Caballero is given a lift by Wilfried Bony after his spot-kick heroics

Centre stage: Willy Caballero is given a lift by Wilfried Bony after his spot-kick heroics

Centre stage: Willy Caballero is given a lift by Wilfried Bony after his spot-kick heroics

What a difference a week makes. Seven days after being derided as a calamity keeper following a 5-1 FA Cup hammering at Chelsea, Willy Caballero was carried aloft around Wembley by his team-mates after his penalty shoot-out heroics claimed the Capital One Cup for Manchester City.

Having kept faith in the Argentine for this final against Liverpool ahead of England No.1 Joe Hart, City manager Manuel Pellegrini's faith was repaid with three saves - from Lucas, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana - before Yaya Toure won the cup with his successful spot-kick.

Pellegrini will now hand over the reins at City to Pep Guardiola this summer having won at least three trophies in three seasons at the Etihad - more could yet follow in the Premier League and Champions League.

But Pellegrini's decision to retain Caballero was a big one which could have backfired. It paid off, though, and the understated Chilean cradled the League Cup at the end of the game as Jurgen Klopp was left to contemplate a rebuilding job at Anfield without the benefit of an early trophy.

Raheem Sterling, who left Liverpool in an acrimonious £49m transfer last summer, will certainly have enjoyed Caballero's performance after missing two clear chances to win the game for City prior to Coutinho's second-half equaliser.

But it was a trophy City deserved to win as Liverpool, having won their last three major trophies via penalty shoot-outs, experienced the other side of the coin.

The first-minute raid forward by Liverpool, when Alberto Moreno forced Caballero to smother the ball in the six-yard box, proved something of a false indicator.

Perhaps it was down to European fatigue that the first half proved such a slow-burner. Liverpool had been in Europa League action less than 72 hours earlier against Augsburg at Anfield, while City's players returned on Thursday following their 3-1 Champions League victory against Dynamo Kiev in the Ukrainian capital.

It was 22 minutes before the next chance materialised.

It was a good one too and Liverpool were indebted to Simon Mignolet for denying Sergio Aguero.

Aguero had raced towards the Liverpool penalty area before rounding Mamadou Sakho, who had stumbled to the ground suffering the after-effects of an earlier clash of heads with Emre Can.

With only Mignolet to beat, Aguero shot towards the far corner, but the Belgian goalkeeper produced a fine save.

Moments later, Klopp replaced Sakho with Kolo Toure. Roberto Firmino shot wide and Sterling, predictably jeered by the Liverpool supporters, saw a goal-bound shot blocked by David Silva.

But they were half-chances and the game carried the air of a boxing bout between two fighters reluctant to move on to the front foot.

Yet just as the first-half drifted into stoppage time, Coutinho spurned a clear chance when he volleyed across the face of goal after Daniel Sturridge's header had put him clear.

It was a rushed effort and Liverpool were to pay for the miss when Fernandinho put City ahead four minutes into the second-half.

Although Mignolet's mistake proved the key moment, it was Silva's pass to Aguero which stretched the Liverpool defence, enabling the City forward to hold the ball long enough for Fernandinho to receive it on the overlap.

The Brazilian spotted his opportunity and struck a crisp, right-foot effort towards the near post. Mignolet appeared to have it covered, but the ball squirmed under his body and into the net.

Having taken the lead, City grew in stature. Liverpool lacked the energy, zip and creativity to force their way back into the game and Sturridge's lack of fitness began to tell.

City, in contrast, gathered momentum and a second goal appeared an inevitability. Sterling should have delivered the killer blow on 60 minutes, but having been picked out unmarked by Silva, the 21-year-old scuffed wide.

Liverpool then survived a strong City penalty claim when Moreno tripped Aguero, who was felled by the Spaniard's trailing leg. Sterling then missed another simple chance.

Liverpool appeared dead on their feet but the missed chances kept them in the game. And when City failed to clear danger in the 83rd minute, Coutinho equalised after Lallana had struck the post.

Extra-time was a tense exchange of half-chances, with Mignolet and Caballero both producing saves, most notably Caballero's stop from Divock Origi in the 118th minute.

Inevitably the game drifted towards penalties and, after Fernandinho had struck the post, Jesus Navas, Aguero and Toure converted successfully to clinch the silverware.

City's challenge now is to ensure an even more glittering exit for Pellegrini by claiming a bigger pot before the season is out.

LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Clyne, Lucas, Sakho (Toure, 25 mins), Moreno (Lallana, 72 mins), Milner, Henderson, Can, Coutinho, Firmino (Origi, 80 mins), Sturridge. Unused subs: Benteke, Allen, Bogdan, Flanagan.

MAN CITY: Caballero, Sagna (Zabaleta, 91 mins), Kompany, Otamendi, Clichy, Fernandinho, Fernando (Navas, 91 mins), Silva (Bony, 110 mins), Toure, Sterling, Aguero. Unused subs: Hart, Kolarov, Demichelis, Iheanacho.

Man of the match: Willy Caballero

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)

Belfast Telegraph