Aymeric Laporte scores late winner as Manchester City beat Spurs in League Cup final
City secure trophy for fourth successive season at Wembley on Sunday
Sling it in the mixer and let a big bloke get his head on it.
For all the beautifying of football Manchester City have done in the Pep Guardiola era, sometimes the old methods still work the best.
City assaulted Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup final with the sort of mesmeric patterns that come with the territory when the likes of Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez are in full flight.
Then, with time ticking down and death by a thousand passes looking like it was set to extend into extra time, Aymeric Laporte headed in from a free-kick.
On the scoreboard, that was all that separated the two teams by the end of the 90 minutes. On the pitch, the gap had been cavernous.
City might have been deprived a shot at four different trophies this season when they had lost to Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in the FA Cup a week or so earlier.
But Laporte’s goal at the same venue at least guaranteed them a quadruple of sorts. For the fourth season in the row, City had etched their name on to the League Cup trophy.
It is only the second time a sequence like that has been achieved in this competition, after Liverpool did similar at the start of the 1980s. The win also meant City matched Liverpool’s record of eight wins in the League Cup.
Guardiola, for his part, maintained his perfect record in cup finals with City – this being his seventh.
Set that trophy haul against the man he was up against. Ryan Mason, Spurs’ interim head coach, is a veteran of less than a week in management.
The 29-year-old said before the game that Harry Kane had told him he was fit, and that that was good enough for him.
Whether he grilled him too much on the veracity of his own assessment seems unlikely. Kane might be among the players in the Spurs squad that Mason is senior to in age, but fair to say he was giving away plenty in profile and influence.
Clearly, the sight of Mason leading the side out at Wembley was a remarkable one. The last time Spurs had won a trophy, Mason was a teenager aspiring to a place in their first team.
And here he was, trying to plot a way past one of the pre-eminent club side’s in Europe, and exchanging words along the touchline with arguably the world’s most feted manager.
By the look of one first-half contretemps, Mason is not completely wet behind the ears. After all, he was savvy enough to cup his mouth from view of the cameras while he and Guardiola traded views between their technical areas.
Notwithstanding two big selection calls – the other Harry, Winks, was also a surprise starter in place of Tanguy Ndombele – it is debatable what impact Mason can possibly had made in the few days since he took temporary charge.
Whether it be a relic from the only-recently-concluded Jose Mourinho era, some longer standing malaise, or just the fact City are a class apart, they could scarcely get close to the team in sky blue.
Son Heung-min typified their nervy start when he played an errant pass in the fourth minute which sent Raheem Sterling bearing down on the Spurs defence.
Serge Aurier nicked the ball off Sterling adroitly to keep the scores level, but it was the first of wave after wave of City attacks in the first half.
By the time of the interval, Kane had managed just 10 touches of the ball, the fewest of anyone out on the field, but at least the scores were still level.
Although Spurs at least saw more of the ball after the break, City continued to press.
Mahrez ran Sergio Reguilon ragged. Foden ghosted wherever he fancied. Joao Cancelo somehow dictated play from full back.
Like Kane, Kevin de Bruyne had been an injury doubt for City before the final. Like the Tottenham talisman, he showed signs he was not, in fact, fully fit. But he still played a telling role in the late winner.
Aurier and Sterling again went up against each other, although in nowhere near as dangerous a position as at the start of the game.
This time Aurier fouled Sterling when making a tackle he really did not need to near the corner flag.
From the ensuing kick, De Bruyne flipped in a cross towards the back post. And Laporte, who likely would not have played had John Stones not been sent off in the league last week and thus been suspended, headed in the winner.
Updated: April 25, 2021 10:48 PM