Sunday, March 2, 2014

Man City Report - City Beat Sunderland 3-1 in 2014 Capital One Cup Final

Manchester City faced Sunderland in the 2014 Capital One (aka League) Cup Final in search of their first of a possible four trophies this season.  Going into the 54th league cup final, City hoisted the league cup twice in three tries (beat West Brom in 1970, lost to Wolves in 1974, beat Newcastle in 1976) while Sunderland have never won the league cup (runners-up in 1985).  In fact, Sunderland has not won a major trophy since 1973 when they beat Leeds in the FA Cup final.

Before we get too excited about the Capital One Cup, let's make it clear that the Capital One Cup is clearly the least prestigious of the four major trophies that an English Premier League club can win.  Despite what hard core EPL supporters tell you, winning the UEFA Champions League is more prestigious than winning the EPL.  Both of those titles are more prestigious than winning the FA Cup, which is more prestigious than winning the Capital One Cup given that the Capital One Cup involves the weakest field and is the newest of four competitions.

Until the early 1980's the Capital One Cup was just referred to as the Football League Cup but since then it has gone through a number of sponsorship changes: Milk Cup (1982-86), Littlewoods Challenge Cup (1986-90), Rumbelows Cup (1990-92), Coca-Cola Cup (1992-98), Worthington Cup (1998-03), Carling Cup (2003-12), and now the Capital One Cup through at least 2016.

With that quick historical/sponsorship background out of the way, let's get back the actual 2014 Capital One Cup.  Sunderland had a much harder road to the final than City given that Sunderland knocked off Southampton, Chelsea, and Manchester United en route to punching their ticket to the 2014 Capital One Cup Final while City scored 19 goals and only conceded one by knocking off the likes of Wigan, Newcastle, Leicester, and West Ham.

Sunderland has been very successful against City at home.  Sunderland beat City 1-0 earlier this season in the Premier League at the Stadium of Light for their second win over City in a row.  In fact, Sunderland beat City the last four times they played at the Stadium of Light but have not beaten City away from home since 1998.  Despite currently being in the relegation zone in the EPL, Sunderland has been in a good run of form lately across all competitions winning four of their last six and seven of their last 11 matches.

City were buoyed by the return of striker Sergio Aguero, the fifth fastest person to score 50 Premier League goals (behind Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Fernando Torres) in just 81 matches.  Aguero limped off with a hamstring injury in City's 5-1 thumping of Tottenham at White Hart Lane in the EPL at the end of January.  The starting 11 for City against Sunderland were: Pantilimon (GK), Zabaleta (RB), Kompany (C, CB), Demichelis (CB), Kolarov (LB), Nasri (RM), Toure (CM), Fernandinho (CM), Silva (LM), Aguero (F), and Dzeko (F).  The substitutes were: Hart (GK), Clichy (LB), Lescott (CB), Milner (M), Garcia (M), Navas (M), and Negredo (F).  If I was City manager Manuel Pellegrini I would have started Hart ahead of Pantilimon, Lescott ahead of Demichelis, and Negredo ahead of Dzeko.

As we know by the title of this post, City beat Sunderland 3-1 in the 2014 Capital One Cup Final but that result was far from certain until the early part of the second half.  Fabio Borini notched the opener for Sunderland in the 10th minute as he got behind Martin Demichelis and Vincent Kompany for a clinical finish past Pantilimon.  Sunderland almost struck again from an off-side position in the first half that the assistant referee missed but Kompany slid in to save the day.  City managed a few chances in the first half but nothing as menacing as Sunderland's opportunities because Sunderland was getting everyone behind the ball following their opener.  Through the opening 45 minutes City and Sunderland both had four shots with two on target.  City dominated possession 63% to 37% but Sunderland still lead 1-0 thanks to Sunderland effectively packing it in and counter-attacking.

The second half opened up with City driving forward early and finally locating little cracks in Sunderland's defense.  All of City's effort paid off when who else, the incomparable midfielder Yaya Toure notched an amazing finish from distance in the 55th minute to tie the score at 1-1.  Before Sunderland could re-group, City went up 2-1 thanks to a powerful strike from midfielder Samir Nasri in the 56th minute.  Going into the match Nasri was 0-2 at Wembley with a trophy on the line so you could see the raw emotions pour out of Nasri as he celebrated what ultimately turned out to be the winner for City.  The final scoreline in City's three previous appearances in the Capital One Cup Final was 2-1.  Until the death, it looked like 2-1 would be the final scoreline until a beautiful counter-attack by Toure was finished by substitute midfielder Jesus Navas in the 90th minute.

On a personal note, I was excited to watch the 2014 Capital One Cup on beIn Sports from the comforts of the humble apartment I share with Cheesehead Chick.  Earlier in the week Cheesehead Chick and I thought we purchased our first condo together.  Unfortunately, the sellers pulled a move that our real estate agent said she never saw in her 27 years in the business to take a higher offer despite the fact they received that offer after we had a signed contract.  By no means does City winning the 2014 Capital One Cup make up for that disappointment but at least it provided a nice reprieve from all of the housing craziness we've been going through lately.

It was nice to see City score three goals in the second half after going down 1-0 in the first half.  City also exercised some demons with their win over Sunderland at Wembley because that is the same pitch where City lost 1-0 to Wigan in the 2013 FA Cup Final.  A trophy is a trophy, even if the Capital One Cup is the PGA Championship of English soccer.  Plus, winning the 2014 Capital One Cup keeps City's goal of winning four trophies a possibility.  Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on how realistic it is for City to win the quadruple this season.

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