City have won the Capital One Cup for the first time since 1976.
Two second half goals in ninety seconds from Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri and a late third from Jesus Navas were enough to see off a gallant Sunderland side and give Manuel Pellegrini his first major silverware as a manager in Europe.
Now the Blues will set their sights on adding the other two domestic trophies and staging a remarkable Champions League survival act whilst the Black Cats will concentrate on preserving their Premier League status.
Both can feel relatively confident after this fine advert for the game with Sunderland’s perspiration eventually outdone by City’s inspiration.
Wembley can seldom have enjoyed a more colourful or noisy final. Two passionate tribes shouted and sang themselves hoarse in the pursuit of a trophy that is firmly back in fashion. There was no room for that rarest of football supporting beasts – the neutral.
The national stadium’s present incarnation doesn’t have the history of the old Twin Towers but memories are still distilled in this soccer smelting plant, bonds that will last a lifetime are created between fellow fans and those same supporters and their players.
Who in blue will ever forget Toure’s languid, brilliant 54th minute equaliser from around 25 yards or Nasri’s stunning right foot effort that nestled in the same part of the net even before cheers for the first one had died down.
This was City’s sixth trip to the ‘new’ Wembley which apart from the hiccup against Wigan in last season’s FA Cup decider has proved a home from home for Blues and their followers.
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City fans had been waiting for the goal taps to be turned back on. A joyous January led to a frugal February but this win – hard fought and fraught as it was - signalled better is to come in a month that will shape how full the Etihad Trophy cabinet might become at the end of the season.
Manchester’s contingent did, however, have to sit and suffer before the joy arrived. Fabio Borini fired Sunderland into a 9th minute lead after some slack defending and the Wearsiders then hung on doggedly aided by some passionate tackling.
There is always something of a dilemma for a manager of a top Premier League side on these occasions. Invariably he will have used the rounds preceding the final to give game time to some of the squad players and ensured that no-one gets stale or left out.
So what happens in the final? Does the boss select with his head or his heart? For Manuel Pellegrini this game represented a gilt-edged opportunity for a first trophy as a manager since moving to Europe. So would he stick or twist?
The answers arrived shortly before 1pm. Pellegrini went with his head which meant no starting place for England duo James Milner or Joleon Lescott who’d done so much to help the Blues reach the final. Spain stars Alvaro Negredo and goal scorer Navas also had to be content with a seat on the bench.
Sergio Aguero came straight back into the side to partner Edin Dzeko whose COC record had seen him score in all four previous rounds. The one nod to his heart from the manager was to rest Hart! Costel Pantilimon was in goal.
Sunderland arrived in this part of North London on the back of a drubbing at Arsenal just a few miles away. If the players were scarred by their Emirates good-hiding they didn’t show it. And why would they after all the Black Cats have had the uncanny knack of upsetting City in recent seasons.
City were beaten 1-0 at the Stadium of Light though that stat was tempered by the fact that Sunderland, making their first visit to the ‘new’ Wembley, had not got the better of the Blues outside of the north-east in nine attempts since a 1-0 away victory in January 1998.
Sunderland made it mighty hard for City. The kaleidoscope of movement, the blur of Blue that has epitomised the season for Pellegrini’s men wasn’t evident for long spells.
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Despite the Black Cat defenders resembling a striped shirted King Canutes (the oft wrongly maligned 11th Century monarch) attempting to repel a relentless wave of Blue, the favourites didn’t look comfortable until the dying seconds when the third goal arrived.
In the first half City were slipshod, disjointed, and lacklustre in the face of some determined tackling. After the break they were slick, purposeful and intelligent. The movement, approach and mentality were everything they weren't before the break or last May against Wigan Athletic.
After the Borini shock the killer goals came in the 54th and 56th minutes. Wembley specialist Toure’s goal was provided by Pablo Zabaleta and Nasri’s after Aleks Kolarov cross was deflected. Toure provided the ball for Navas’ third. That made it 22 goals on the way to winning the trophy.
These two sides may yet become even more familiar. They have yet to meet in the league at the Etihad and could still be FA Cup foes at Wembley should they both progress.