Manchester City 3 Sunderland 1

League Cup Final
Sunday 2 March 2014, 14.00 KO

City: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Zabaleta, Toure, Fernandinho, Nasri, Silva (Garcia 77), Aguero (Navas 58), Dzeko (Negredo 88)
Unused: Hart, Clichy, Lescott, Milner
Goals: Toure (55), Nasri (56), Navas (90)
Booked: Negredo

Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the Match: Samir Nasri

Toure scores a stunning equaliser.

Toure scores a stunning equaliser.

Manuel Pellegrini has won his first piece of silverware at Manchester City – at the first time of asking. The Chilean’s side came from behind to lift the League Cup, in a game of contrasting performances from the first and second half.

The Blues had the better of the opening chances, but couldn’t find the early breakthrough: Kompany’s header was deflected behind and, from the resulting corner, Aguero’s shot was blocked before it reached the goalkeeper. Mannone was called into action after eight minutes to push a low drive from the Argentine away – City appeared to have settled the better.

But it was the Black Cats who opened the scoring. A ball over the top found Borini after he had slipped away from Demichelis. Kompany came across to cover, but could only clip the ball into the Sunderland man’s chest to set him clean through on goal. His outside-of-the-right-foot shot bent around Pantilimon and neatly into the bottom corner. City were behind at Wembley again – but, this time, had 80 minutes to undo the damage.

The goal seemed to damage City’s confidence and it was Sunderland who looked more likely to add the next successful strike of the game. Borini volleyed from the edge of the box, but it was deflected over by Dzeko, before Brown’s header from a corner was wide when he should have done better.

Former City winger Johnson then wriggled inside Kolarov and drilled a ball across the face of goal. Kompany did well to clear without putting it through his own goal. A poor call from the linesman then forced the skipper into drastic action as he stopped Borini from adding his second of the game. The striker was one-on-one with Pantilimon – when he should have been flagged well offside – and the skipper slid it to get the ball behind.

Just before half time, the Blues could have been level through Nasri. He broke away from his covering defender and dropped into space, where he was found by Aguero following some neat interplay down the right flank, but the Frenchman’s effort was a comfortable take for Mannone – who’d had a quieter half than he might have expected.

It was a different City side that came out after the break. Zabaleta chipped a cross into the middle that nearly dipped in at the back post, before Silva forced Mannone into a comfortable save with a drive from the edge of the box. A free kick routine was then wasted, as a poor pass to Toure meant he couldn’t get a shot away. It was better from the Blues, but they were still trailing.

However, in the space of two second half minutes, the Blues went from being behind to having the lead. First, Toure chipped the goalkeeper with a beautiful curling effort from outside the box, leaving Mannone flapping at thin air. The Ivorian looked up and stroked it into the top corner to pull City level.

A minute later, a decisive breakaway added their second. Pantilimon took control of the ball in his box and immediately looked long for Aguero, peeling out to the left. He got it under control and laid it off to Kolarov, whose low cross towards Dzeko was deflected to the edge of the box. Arriving late was Nasri, and his outside of the foot volley left Mannone standing, as it brushed the inside of the post on its way in.

Sunderland, though, tried to respond: Pantilimon was forced to punch the ball over his own crossbar as it came into the box, before Demichelis’s clearance landed straight to Ki – but the Argentine defender made up for the error by nodding the incoming cross to safety.

The Black Cats continued to press, but couldn’t find a way through to Pantilimon’s goal. In the end, City had chances to kill the game – Kompany touched a corner just wide, before Zabaleta smashed a shot over from the edge of the box, following a strong run from the right-back position.

The Blues celebrate a League Cup win.

The Blues celebrate a League Cup win.

With a minute to play, City were let off the hook. Fletcher – in acres of space at the back post – arrived late to latch on to Ki’s knockdown, but with the chance to get a shot away with time and space, he miscontrolled and prodded the ball behind for a goal kick.

It proved costly for Sunderland, as, a minute later, Navas sealed the game. Fernandinho won the ball back for the Blues on the edge of their own box and Toure began one of his trademark runs through the middle. He slipped it right to Navas, whose placed effort beat Mannone at his near post.

The Pellegrini era begins with a victory in the League Cup and the Chilean will be hoping that’s the first of many trophies in the cabinet under his management of the club.

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West Ham United 0 Manchester City 3 (agg 0-9)

League Cup Semi Final Second Leg
Tuesday 21 January 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, Clichy, Nastasic, Lescott (c), Boyata, Fernandinho, Garcia (Rodwell 63), Lopes, Navas (Kolarov 79), Negredo, Aguero (Jovetic 65)
Unused: Hart, Demichelis, Zabaleta, Dzeko
Goals: Negredo (3, 59), Aguero (24)
Booked: Aguero, Clichy

Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the Match: Marcos Lopes

Lopes jinks past Taylor.

Lopes jinks past Taylor.

With the tie already won from the first leg, West Ham seemed dead on the feet even from kick off. It took the visitors less than three minutes to extend their lead from the previous game – Lopes found space on the left flank and crossed to the middle, where the marking was non-existent. Negredo met it unchallenged in the six-yard box and found the net.

The Hammers responded by putting the ball in City’s net through Nolan latching on to a Diame cross, but the linesman’s flag put an early end to any celebrations from the home fans. Nolan had been a yard offside when the cross was put in.

Carroll connected to a header inside the box as Lescott wasn’t aware the forward was there, after Diame fired over from a Carroll flick on. At the other end, Aguero forced Jaaskelainen into a good save, pushing the Argentine’s effort from the edge of the box around the post.

The visitors added their second of the night – and eighth of the tie – just before the 25 minute mark. A mazy run from Lopes opened up the West Ham defence and the ball fell kindly for Aguero after the Portuguese winger tried to slide the striker through. Jaaskelainen committed himself and Aguero dinked it over the goalkeeper and into the net.

Early in the second half, a great tackle from Lescott denied Morisson inside the box, with the former United man looking for a penalty – though the referee waved away the claims. Pantilimon stood big to deny Cole, before a challenge on Nolan by Nastasic could have also been a penalty, but once more the referee turned down the appeals.

On the hour mark – despite West Ham’s spell of pressure – the visitors went on to score their third. Negredo picked up the ball on the edge of the box and simply bullied his way through the home side’s defence. Three players tried to stop him, but he bulldozed his way through, before flicking the ball over Jaaskelainen.

Lopes came close to scoring – completely by accident, it must be said – as his left-footed cross dropped onto Jaaskelainen’s crossbar, before both Negredo and Rodwell couldn’t find room for a shot as they wriggled inside the West Ham box – both won corners.

With 15 minutes to place, West Ham twice came close to a consolation: First Rodwell got up ahead of Diame to head the ball behind and, from the resulting corner, the Hammers’ midfielder headed wide from inside the six-yard box. Navas responded with a blast over the bar, from a cute lay-off by Jovetic.

In the end, the game meandered to a close, with City coasting to victory. It was nine on aggregate in total, but could have been so much more – City strolled to Wembley.

Manchester City 6 West Ham United 0

League Cup Semi Final First Leg
Wednesday 8 January 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Nasri, Toure (Demichelis 66), Garcia, Silva (Lopes 73), Negredo (Kolarov 79), Dzeko
Unused: Hart, Nastasic, Fernandinho, Milner
Goals: Negredo (12, 26, 49), Toure (40), Dzeko (60, 89)
Booked:

Referee: Jon Moss
Man of the Match: Alvaro Negredo

Negredo doubles City's lead.

Negredo doubles City’s lead.

With the way that City have been knocking goals in at home this season, Pellegrini was making his intentions clear: Get the job done in the first leg, as he named a strong starting line-up. It paid off as Pantilimon’s work was little more than collecting crosses and clearing back-passes in a game that the Blues dominated from start to finish.

It started to go downhill for the Hammers on 12 minutes. There was a certain sense of irony in the manner in which the Blues scored their first; City have the reputation as the one-touch specialists, while it’s Allardyce’s teams who carry the long-ball reputation. But Toure played it long for the run of Negredo, whose superb volley, over his shoulder, nestled in the bottom corner.

The second goal of the night virtually killed any competitive edge in the tie – not that there was much to begin with. Negredo dummied the ball for Dzeko to receive it mid-way into the West Ham half. The Bosnian controlled, turned and laid it off into the path of his strike partner, who took a touch and, on the slide, powered it into the top corner from just inside the box.

As the first half wore on, City should have been further in front. Garcia stabbed over from a Silva corner, before a great run by Nasri set-up Dzeko to shoot from just inside the box. The Bosnian, however, got under the ball and it ended up in the fans behind the goal.

With five minutes until the break, however, the home side made it three. The ball bounced kindly for Negredo in the centre-circle and Toure took it off the Spaniard’s toes to run at the West Ham defence. He just kept going until he was inside the box, where his shot took the slightest of deflections on its way past Adrian and into the net.

Negredo’s hat-trick came a mere four minutes into the second period. A corner from the left was cleared as far as Silva, who wriggled his way into the box to square towards Dzeko. It was deflected straight into the path of Negredo, whose side-footed shot picked out the left side of the net.

Nasri has an effort on goal.

Nasri has an effort on goal.

But City weren’t done. Toure tried an effort from a free kick on the edge of the box, but his shot was just over the bar, before a Dzeko blast from range missed the top corner by inches. The Bosnian, though, didn’t have to wait much longer to get his name on the score sheet, touching in a low Clichy cross on the hour mark.

It quickly became a training exercise for the home side, who were keeping the ball expertly and barely out of second gear, despite the scoreline. Negredo had a shot deflected around the post, before Dzeko’s header was superbly saved by Adrian – who was doing his level best to keep the score down.

That was until a minute from the end, when Dzeko added his second of the evening to make it six for City, and five for him in four appearances in the competition for this season. Kolarov’s pull-back found the Bosnian just inside the box and the striker got a good connection to smash it past the stationary goalkeeper.

At the mid-way point in the semi-final, City look already on the way to Wembley, barring a miracle at Upton Park for the Hammers. If anything, 6-0 flattered the visitors; it could have been much more.

Leicester City 1 Manchester City 3

League Cup Quarter Final
Tuesday 17 December 2013, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta (Boyata 12), Lescott, Kompany (c), Kolarov, Milner, Garcia, Rodwell, Navas, Silva (Nasri 70), Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Demichelis, Fernandinho, Negredo
Goals: Kolarov (8), Dzeko (41, 53)
Booked: Navas, Boyata

Referee: Roger East
Man of the Match: James Milner

Rodwell takes on Schmeichel.

Rodwell takes on Schmeichel.

City named a strong side for their trip to Leicester, with the Blues having struggled away from home. It took just eight minutes for the visitors to open the scoring, as Dzeko turned away from Knockaert and the Leicester man brought him down 30 yards from goal. Kolarov stepped up and curled it into the top corner.

However, Pellegrini’s decision to play a strong starting XI looked like it might have backfired after 12 minutes – Zabaleta was forced off through injury, which was unwelcome given the absence of Richards with a hamstring problem from the trip to Munich.

Mid-way through the first half, the visitors should have gone two goals in front. Silva slipped Kolarov through on the left flank and as he raced into the box he squared it for Dzeko. It needed touching past Schmeichel, but the striker could only find the former City keeper, who spread himself well to block. Rodwell’s follow up was skewed wide.

The away side were beginning to pile on the pressure. A Silva corner found its way to Kolarov, who volleyed towards the top corner, but Schmeichel punched it over the bar. Rodwell climbed well from the next flag kick, but that was also deflected high by one of the covering defenders.

Despite some high pressing by Leicester, a decisive City break as half time approached doubled the visitors’ advantage. Navas slid the pass through to Milner on the inside left channel and, facing Schmeichel, he chipped the cross to Dzeko, arriving at the back post. The Bosnian nodded it down and into the net.

Navas picked up a loose ball in the box following a Schmeichel save from a Milner effort, before the Spaniard had another pop after some great work between Rodwell and Silva to slid the winger in. It took a full length stretch from the Leicester goalkeeper to make this save – and this time he held on, with Dzeko closing in.

Five minutes into the second half, the home side forced Hart into a good save. A break had allowed the ball to creep through to King on the edge of the box and he tried to curl it around the England goalkeeper. He couldn’t wrap his foot around it enough and the City shot-stopper held it.

Silva skips a challenge.

Silva skips a challenge.

But just as soon as it looked like the hosts could get back into the game, the visitors added their third. Milner collected a throw-in from Kolarov on the left flank. There, he pulled it across the box for Dzeko – and the unmarked striker passed it into the bottom corner, leaving Schmeichel standing.

With just under 15 minutes left to play, the hosts pulled a goal back. It was one the City defence wouldn’t have been pleased with, as Boyata was too far from his man and allowed the ball to be knocked inside to Dyer. He smashed a shot towards goal, which deflected off Kompany and beat Hart at his near post – as he reacted to the initial effort.

A poor ball from Kompany across his own half allowed Schlupp to run at goal and it needed a big tackle from Lescott to prevent him getting a shot in. The rebound fell to James, whose shot was well held by Hart, who needed to be at full stretch to keep it out.

Deep into stoppage time, the hosts had a chance to add their second. Schlupp got in behind Lescott on the Leicester right and tried to square for Dyer, but Hart anticipated it well to drop down onto the low cross and regain possession for City. Had Schlupp shot, he may have found the net.

In the end, City never really got out of second gear – but did enough to make it into the semi-finals.

Newcastle United 0 Manchester City 2 (AET)

League Cup Fourth Round
Wednesday 30 October 2013, 19.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, Richards (c) (Zabaleta 83), Boyata, Lescott, Kolarov, Rodwell (Silva 64), Garcia, Navas, Milner, Jovetic (Negredo 10), Dzeko
Unused: Hart, Demichelis, Nasri, Fernandinho
Goals: Negredo (99), Dzeko (105)
Booked: Garcia, Silva

Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Man of the Match: Costel Pantilimon

Negredo volleys at goal.

Negredo volleys at goal.

To say the League Cup tie at St James’ Park wasn’t the greatest game of the season would be an understatement, as many onlookers switched over to the National Paint Drying Championships on the other side before half time. In the end, it took until extra time for the Blues to secure their 100th win in this competition.

The first real talking point of the game saw Jovetic need to depart the action – the Montenegrin, who has had injury problems so far this season, was replaced by Negredo after just ten minutes. It looked like a calf problem.

It was the hosts who had the better of the opening exchanges, but they only had a lobbed effort from Cisse dropping wide to show for it. If the rumours of Pantilimon having a chance to impress his manager ahead of Saturday held any water, he was doing his cause no damage with a good save – pushing Ameobi’s volley around the post.

The second half saw an improvement from the visitors, but there was very little for the away fans to write home about. Richards headed over after the ball was knocked back into the middle at the second attempt, and then Navas nicked the ball ahead of Krul before finding Milner, but with the keeper off-limits, the midfielder couldn’t find the net from the corner of the box.

With ten minutes to play and extra time looming, Negredo almost put the Blues ahead: He waltzed through the Newcastle back line and waited for Krul to go down before trying to lift the ball over him into the net. He didn’t get enough on the dink and the goalkeeper forced it behind.

Pantilimon proved to be the hero again in the first half of extra time, as he blocked a one-on-one with Cisse after Ben Arfa had sent the Senegalese forward clean through. He stood up to make himself big and kept the scores level.

It allowed the Blues to kick on and ease themselves in front. A burst of pace from Dzeko allowed him to cross the ball low into the six-yard box, where Negredo had stolen a yard on his man. With one touch, he slid the ball through Krul and put the away side in front.

On the stroke of half time in extra time, the visitors made sure their fans would be facing the long trip home with smiles on their faces. With one of the best pieces of play of the evening, Silva slipped the ball through for Dzeko and he carried it around the on-rushing Krul to pass it into the net.

Milner had a shot deflected wide, before Silva weaved his way into the Newcastle box and flashed a shot just past the post, as the Blues tried to kill off the hosts once and for all. Lescott found himself in the right place at the right time to clear off the line behind his goalkeeper, as Ben Arfa volleyed past Pantilimon.

It took a bit longer than Pellegrini and the visiting fans would have wanted to get the job done, but the Blues were in the hat for the next round – with an away tie at Leicester City being the eventual fixture.

Manchester City 5 Wigan Athletic 0

League Cup Third Round
Tuesday 25 September 2013, 19.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, Richards (c), Lescott, Boyata, Clichy, Milner, Garcia, Fernandinho (Toure 46), Lopes (Navas 71), Dzeko (Negredo 79), Jovetic
Unused: Wright, Kolarov, Nastasic, Nasri
Goals: Dzeko (33), Jovetic (60, 83), Toure (76), Navas (86)
Booked:

Referee: Kevin Friend
Man of the Match: James Milner

Wigan1

Dzeko opens the scoring.

City’s first involvement in the League Cup saw a repeat of last season’s FA Cup final. Now a division between the two sides, the hosts went in as favourites and it would have to be a pretty severe beating for it to count as any sort of ‘revenge’. Wigan’s fans could have lost tonight by ten and still not had a sense of remorse over dominating the last cup meeting.

As it happens, it was half that – as City dominated the match from start to finish. The atmosphere was (understandably) some way behind that of the previous Sunday though, despite ten changes to the side, City’s performance was not.

It started after just four minutes, when the returning Richards connected to a Lopes corner, but it was well saved by the visiting goalkeeper. Less than a minute later, the combination was the same – though, this time, Nicholls tipped the ball away acrobatically.

As much as the Blues were in control of the game, it seemed flag kicks were creating their best opportunities, as on the quarter hour mark, Boyata got into a promising position from a corner. However, the Belgian couldn’t keep the effort down. It was Dzeko’s turn to miss with a header shortly after – this one from open play – as Milner found him on the penalty spot.

The hosts were getting closer. On the half hour, Lopes almost opened the scoring as he cracked a shot against the underside of the crossbar. Jovetic had slipped in the build-up, but the ball ran kindly for the youngster to shoot and he was inches away from finding the net for the second time in his second appearance.

Finally, though, the pressure told. Fernandinho picked out a sublime chipped pass over the top for Dzeko to run on to and the Bosnian made no mistake in giving the hosts the lead, sliding the ball past the on-rushing goalkeeper.

As the second half got underway, City were piling on the pressure. A Toure header dropped just wide from a corner, following a spell of pinball in the Wigan box which saw a deflected Milner effort hit the post. Lopes twice came close, too – diverting a cross wide and having a volley blocked.

Wigan2

Jovetic is off the mark for City.

After an hour, City doubled their lead and it was a home debut goal for Jovetic. It was a scrappy goal following some great play by Richards to get the ball across, but the Montenegrin did enough to force it over the line. His initial shot was saved by Nicholls, but the rebound hit the striker and found the net.

With 15 minutes to play, Toure’s work on the training ground had once again paid off as he scored his third free kick of the season, from almost exactly the same position. As if it wasn’t already, the goal made the game safe and City would be in the hat for the next round.

And it showed – as Wigan waved the white flag. First, it was Jovetic to take advantage again, following a powerful run from Milner. His cross deflected to the striker and he forced it under the goalkeeper at his near post.

Then, just three minutes later, Navas grabbed his first goal for the club. It was one substitute to another, as Negredo played his countryman into the box, where the winger belted the ball into the net at the near post.

It was all too comfortable in the end.

Manchester City 2 Aston Villa 4 (AET)

League Cup Third Round
Tuesday 25 September 2012, 19.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, K Toure (c), Lescott (Dzeko 74), Nastasic, Kolarov, Barry, Razak (Helan 111), Suarez (Sinclair 62), Milner, Tevez, Balotelli
Unused: Wright, Evans, Zabaleta, Scapuzzi
Goals: Balotelli (27), Kolarov (64)
Booked: Tevez, Razak, K Toure, Kolarov

Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez

With a much changed team from the previous weekend, Roberto Mancini gave some fringe players a chance to shine. But the City second string never really got to grips with the game and it was the visitors who had most of the early possession.

Both Weimann and Benteke should have put Villa ahead early in the game, after some very slack defending by the home side. The first shot was deflected behind for a corner, before the second was spooned well over the bar, while the City back-line played musical statues.

Against the run of play, though, City took the lead. With virtually their first attack of the game, a cross-field ball found Milner on the right flank and he cut inside the Villa defence. He chipped the ball into Balotelli on the penalty spot and, after taking a touch to control, he smashed it past Given to put the hosts in front.

The goal, though, didn’t perk the home side up. The game meandered to the break, with Villa having a better grip of the ball, but struggling to create chances on Pantilimon’s goal, while City just couldn’t get out of first gear, giving the ball away and letting possible attacks break down.

The second half started with City on top, but again there were few chances. Tevez wriggled his way into the Villa box and went down under pressure, but the referee waved away the protests and play continued. Soon enough, the visitors took advantage and were on terms: A low ball into the box was palmed away by Pantilimon and it deflected off Barry into the back of the net.

Within minutes, though, the blues were back in front. Balotelli was brought down on the edge of the Villa box and Kolarov stepped up to take the free kick. The Serbian swung the ball brilliantly for the top corner and Given was left flapping at thin air, putting the home side 2-1 up.

The lead, though, didn’t last long again. Agbonlahor found time and space in the middle of the City half. He surged forward towards the back line, where he found a gap on the edge of the box, leaving him with a one-on-one with the City goalkeeper. Pantilimon could do nothing about his well placed, slide-rule finish and the game was all square again.

With five minutes of normal time to play, City twice could have won the tie. Balotelli flicked a header towards goal from inside the box and it looked to be dipping under Given’s crossbar until the Irishman touched it over. Then, following a foul on the left corner of the box, Tevez curled a free kick onto the crossbar, as the game headed for extra time.

Six minutes into the first period of extra time, the visitors went ahead for the first time in the tie. A ball over the top was chased by Agbonlahor and he got there before Kolo Toure could. Pantilimon managed to save his one-on-one, but could do nothing with the rebound, as N’Zogbia slotted it into the open goal.

Right on the stroke of half time in extra time, Sinclair looked to get the hosts back level by driving at the heart of the Villa defence. He ran at the back four and, when into the box, appeared to be fouled from behind, but, once again, the referee was unmoved and awarded the blues a corner instead.

With six minutes of the tie remaining, the away side won the game. A breakaway found Agbonlahor left to run at Helan and Kolo Toure and, as the two defenders tried to close him down, he shot from just inside the box. The effort looped off Helan and left Pantilimon stranded, with the ball dropping into the corner of the net.

City just never turned up and Aston Villa were deserved winners of the match.