KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Pep Guardiola won his 30th trophy as a manager as Manchester City deservedly beat Tottenham 1:0 in the League Cup Final.
Guardiola has won all eight of his Wembley finals as a manager – in the Champions League with Barcelona in 2011, plus three League Cups, two Community Shields and an FA Cup.
The return of 8,000 fans in England’s cautious relaxation of its Covid-19 lockdown saw City win the trophy for a fourth successive year thanks to an 82nd-minute header from Aymeric Laporte. Spurs will regret that a sharper referee than Paul Tierney might have sent off Laporte in the first half. Tierney showed the Frenchman only one yellow card after two naughty fouls.
City’s victory equalled Liverpool’s achievement in the early 1980s of winning the competition four years in a row, as well as matching the Reds’ overall tally of eight triumphs, and manager Pep Guardiola said his players are motivated by such milestones.
Guardiola said: “That is what these players give for the future generations of this club. It is not winning [just] one title.
“This team in the last decade was the team in England – since Roberto Mancini won the Premier League, this team wins a lot of times in England.
“It’s nice, four [League] Cups in a row, it means consistency in the team to be there. We beat Arsenal and Manchester United on the way so we can say we deserved to win this competition.
“The way we played was fantastic and it’s nice when you win a title. The most impressive thing is in the last 33 games we won 30.”
This was the second final meeting of the clubs after Tottenham’s reply victory over City in the FA Cup in 1981. Since then celebrations have almost all belonged to City.
The hopes of an unprecedented quadruple for an English victory had ended against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals but the treble remained in sight: the Premier League leaders and Champions League semi-finalists were chasing their fourth successive League Cup.
For Tottenham, after a turbulent week which included the Super Cup fiasco and the sacking of Jose Mourinho, this represented a chance to secure a place in Europe, in the Conference League play-off round, which is not guaranteed by their erratic league form.
Ryan Mason, their 29-year-old caretaker manager, had Harry Kane fit to lead the attack after an ankle injury. City manager Pep Guardiola made six changes from their midweek league win at Aston Villa. Kevin de Bruyne returned after an ankle injury of his own.
City tore into Spurs from kickoff with Sterling a perpetual danger and they came close to the opening goal in the 25th minute. Phil Foden was unlucky to see his shot on the turn deflected by Tony Alderweireld onto the outside of a post.
It was a measure of City’s pressure that Kane was regularly seen back in his own penalty box and never at the other end. On one occasion when England’s captain did break clear he was brought down by Ruben Dias.
This was a rare Spurs’ foray. Otherwise it was all City.
Mahrez was twice allowed to cut in from the right and fire an angled shots just wide of the right-hand post of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris who also made a fine save from Joao Cancelo.
City had won the first half 10:1 on goal attempts but very nearly allowed Spurs to take the lead shortly after the interval.
Lucas Moura set up Giovani Lo Celso whose curling shot was pushed around a post by Steffen. Ilkay Gundogan popped a difficult header over the bar and then pulled a shot wide before Mahrez forced another fine save out of Lloris.
Spurs looked in vain for new solutions by replacing Moura and Lo Celso with Gareth Bale and Moussa Sissoko. They had made no impression when Laporte headed City in front from a De Bruyne free kick.
Man. City: Steffen – Walker, Ruben Dias, Laporte, Cancelo – Fernandinho (Rodri 84), Gundogan – Mahrez, De Bruyne (Bernardo Silva 87), Sterling. Manager: Guardiola.
Tottenham: Lloris – Aurier, Alderweireld, Dier, Reguilon – Winks, Hojbjerg (Alli 84), Lo Celso (Sissoko 67) – Lucas Moura (Bale 67), Kane, Son..
Att: 8 000. Ref: Tierney.