Manchester City's Toure celebrates with Navas and Negredo after scoring during their English Premier League soccer match against Hull City at The Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Manchester City 2-0 Hull City: Negredo and Toure seal hard-fought win (Video)

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Manchester City ground out a solid 2-0 win against newly promoted Hull City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

City were second best for most of the first half but the pivotal moment came in the games 65th minute as substitute Alvaro Negredo headed home from a fabulous Pablo Zabaleta cross, as Man City kept scored for the 52nd home league game in a row.

Then in the 90th minute captain Yaya Toure put some gloss on the scoreline by curling home a wonderful free kick from 25-yards out to make it 2-0.

Hull spurned several good chances early as Man City started slowly following their shock 3-2 defeat to Cardiff City last time out.

But Manuel Pellergini’s side held firm and struck the decisive blow in the second period to give them a second-straight home win to begin the season. The result was slightly harsh on the visiting Tigers who battled well throughout and could have easily snatched a draw.

In the first half Hull City were lively early on and in the 7th minute Sone Aluko spurned a terrific chance when clean through against Joe Hart.

source: AP
Negredo celebrates his opener off the bench.

The 24-year-old striker was played in and only had Hart to beat but he scuffed his shot wide of the post as Man City were let off the hook.

Then on 11 minutes Danny Graham slotted in at the back post as Hull boss Steve Bruce celebrated… but his jubilation was premature as the offside flag was raised. Graham, making his first start for Hull, should have really done better as he could clearly see across the line and was completely unmarked.

Manchester City soon hit back as Joleon Lescott powered in a header that McGregor tipped over the bar as City began to find space in Hull’s defense after a barrage of set pieces.

But the theme of the first half continued as Hull’s Robert Koren smashed a volley from the edge of the box just past the post after 15 minutes, as the Tigers started off impressively at the Etihad.

The rest of the first half saw City trying to push forward but Hull stayed firm and the home fans vented their frustration at the break. Pellegrini’s men had work to do.

You had to look way back to November 2010 for the last Premier League team to kept a clean sheet at the Etihad and Hull were looking like they could snatch a shutout.

In the second half City started off much better with substitute Alvaro Negredo offering more punch up front than Edin Dzeko. The Spaniard wormed free of his marker but headed a good chance horribly wide after 46 minutes.

City then came close once more as their diminutive Spanish duo of David Silva and Jesus Navas linked up on the right but the latter hit his volley over the bar.

Hull came back into the game once again as Graham had a few half chances but the real action was in the midfield as the Tigers flew into challenges and plenty of yellow cards were dished out to both teams by referee Phil Dowd.

In the 62nd minute Lescott was left unmarked at the back post but his header across goal was easily cleared for a corner as City piled on the pressure.

The Citizens continued to toil as the half wore on and struggled to break down the visitors but the all-important breakthrough for arrived in the 65th minute as substitute Alvaro Negredo headed home.

For the second week in a row the Spanish international striker came off the bench to score with a header after a fantastic ball from right back Pablo Zabaleta.

After the opener Hull City huffed and puffed to try and get back in the game but Joe Hart made some great claims in goal and City’s backline looked solid.

Then in the 90th minute Manchester City’s captain Yaya Toure stepped up to curl home a magnificent free kick to seal all three points and put the result beyond doubt. It was Toure’s second superb free kick in as many home games as the Citizen’s got the win they needed but Hull City certainly made them work hard for it.

Man City’s narrow win momentarily put them second in the Premier League table with six points from three games, while Hull remain 13th after one win and two defeats since returning to the Premier League.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Nastasic, Lescott, Kolarov, Toure, Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Aguero (Milner 76), Silva (Nasri 66), Dzeko (Negredo 45). Subs not used: Javi Garcia, Clichy, Pantilimon, Jovetic.

Hull City: McGregor, Elmohamady, Chester, Davies, Figueroa, Livermore, Huddlestone, Koren (Boyd 75), Aluko (Quinn 70), Brady, Graham. Subs not used: Rosenior, Bruce, Meyler, McShane, Harper.

Goals: Negredo, 65 (MC) Toure, 90 (MC)

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Mourinho lauds Pogba, Zlatan after EFL Cup triumph

United manager Jose Mourinho applauds during the English League Cup final soccer match between Manchester United and Southampton FC at Wembley stadium in London, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
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Jose Mourinho knows his side is fortunate to come away with the EFL Cup, and he’s fairly confident who deserves the credit.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored to help Manchester United build a 2-0 lead over Southampton on Sunday at Wembley Stadium, then added the winner in the 87th minute of the Red Devils’ 3-2 win.

[ MORE: Recap | Zlatan reacts | 3 things ]

Mourinho said his “outstanding” legendary striker won the game for United, adding that big buy Paul Pogba was close to the same level.

And while the manager didn’t appear too impressed with the win, admitting that Southampton did not deserve its fate, Mourinho is happy to win. From Sky Sports:

“I’m a bit emotional. It’s not easy to win titles so many times, it’s not easy to cope with the pressure I put myself under all of my career, It was a game I felt was difficult, so credit goes to Southampton. We have the cup in our hands but we should be playing extra-time. Winning is always special. The day I don’t get emotional when I win is the day I go home.”

United is still alive in the FA Cup and the UEFA Europa League, while Mourinho’s men sit sixth in the Premier League table with 48 points. They’ve played one match less than leaders Chelsea, which has 63 points.

Three things from Man United’s win vs. Southampton

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United scores their third goal during the EFL Cup Final between Manchester United and Southampton at Wembley Stadium on February 26, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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LONDON — Manchester United beat Southampton 3-2 at Wembley on Sunday in a thrilling EFL Cup Final.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s late winner gave Jose Mourinho’s men a largely undeserved victory as the Portuguese manager won his first major trophy as Red Devils boss.

Here’s what we learned from a pulsating, topsy-turvy encounter.


ZLATAN’S THE MAN

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the man for the big occasion.

He scored a superb free kick and a late header to make it two trophies from two trips to Wembley, as he also scored the winner late on against Leicester City in the Community Shield in August.

At the age of 35 he’s defied belief with his 26 goals this season and is showing the world just how good he is. Mourinho said in the week that Zlatan has got better with age and with 26 goals in 38 appearances he continues to look at home in the PL.

He didn’t have his best game, but the big Swede popped up with two vital goals to win the trophy for his team.

Zlatan is a born winner. It’s just what he does.


SLACK UNITED SUCCEED

Somehow Manchester United found themselves 2-0 up against Southampton after 38 minutes. They didn’t deserve it. Not at all. But then again, that’s the sign of a champion.

Southampton should have been 1-0 up after 11 minutes. Cedric cut the ball back from the right flank and Gabbiadini’s goal was chalked out for offside. The Italian striker timed his run to perfection and tapped home. Saints were in dreamland. Well, they should have been. Linesman Stuart Burt put his flag up presumably because he thought Bertrand was interfering with play at the back post. He wasn’t. It was a shocker of a call and ultimately changed the outcome of the game.

Even after going behind to Ibrahimovic’s free kick, Saints did all the pressing. Jesse Lingard put United 2-0 up before the break but United never got a grip on the game as Saints’ wide play bamboozled their full backs. As well as having a perfectly good goal chalked off, Saints also hit the post with Oriol Romeu‘s header in the second half.

Those are the kind of breaks which are going United’s way of late, as they’ve now lost just one game in their past 27 in all competitions.

Mourinho must know his team were lucky to get past Saints and lift the trophy. Then again, he’ll argue that the sign of a true champion is digging out a win when you don’t deserve it.

That’s what he is building.


OFFSIDE DENIES GABBIADINI, SAINTS

Manolo Gabbiadini has scored five goals in his first three games for Southampton after joining from Napoli on Deadline Day in January. He should have had six goals in three games and a hat trick in the EFL Cup Final.

The 25-year-old joined without much fanfare for a fee believed to be around $19 million, with the likes of Everton said to be close to signing him back in the summer. In recent months Gabbiadini felt out of favor at Napoli under manager Maurizio Sarri. Gabbiadini’s goal return hasn’t been too impressive with 25 goals in 76 appearances in the last three seasons.

His movement was sharp throughout and his finishing sublime. Southampton have done some incredible business in the past few years but he may turn out to be the best of the bunch. This defeat was a bitter one for Saints, but if they can continue to buy players of Gabbiadini’s quality then they’ll be fighting for trophies and top 10 finishes for many years to come.

As disappointed as they’ll be, the future is looking bright for Saints.

“My friend, I keep doing it” – Zlatan lifts another Cup

United's Marcos Rojo celebrates with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, on the ground, at the end of the English League Cup final soccer match between Manchester United and Southampton FC at Wembley stadium in London, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. United won 3-2. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has answered every question, including whether his big game prowess extends to England.

The Big Swede scored early and late as Manchester United won the EFL Cup with a 3-2 win over Southampton on Sunday.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 3-2 Southampton ]

Ibrahimovic has won trophies at every stop from Ajax to Old Trafford, and now has given Jose Mourinho the distinction of being the first manager to win the League Cup with two different clubs.

From the BBC:

“This is a team effort. This is what I came for – to win and I am winning. The more I win the more satisfied I get.

“You appreciated it more the older you get. Wherever I have gone I have won. I think this is trophy number 32 for me.

“This is what I predicted. To many I could not do it. My friend, I keep doing it. I’m enjoying it in England.”

He sure is.

Zlatan the hero as Manchester United wins EFL Cup

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United (C) celebrates with Eric Bailly (L) and Paul Pogba (R) as he scores their first goal during the EFL Cup Final match between Manchester United and Southampton at Wembley Stadium on February 26, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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  • Zlatan opens, closes scoring
  • Mourinho wins first tourney with Utd
  • Lingard scores
  • Gabbiadini with Saints brace

Zlatan Ibrahimovic rose to the occasion at Wembley Stadium, scoring early and late as Manchester United defeated Southampton 3-2 in an instant classic EFL Cup Final on Sunday.

Jesse Lingard also scored as Jose Mourinho became the first manager to win a League Cup with two sides (Chelsea).

Manolo Gabbiadini scored twice as Saints erased a 2-0 deficit in their first final since 1979.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Paul Pogba unleashed a furious shot from 20-plus yards in the 4th minute that Fraser Forster popped away from danger for the match’s first moment of danger.

Saints earned a corner with their first true bit of possession, which came almost exclusively from the dribbling of Nathan Redmond. It led to another corner, which Pogba eventually sent free of trouble.

Poor defending from United from Marcos Rojo nearly put Saints in front, but an incorrectly ruled offside Manolo Gabbiadini put the ball in the goal.

Oriol Romeu earned a yellow card for a late tackle on Ander Herrera, cueing up United for a 19th minute free kick that Ibrahimovic sent home.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Gabbiadini then fed James Ward-Prowse for a strong shot that De Gea did very well to slap away.

Soon after, it was Dusan Tadic‘s turn. Cued up by Redmond, he forced De Gea into another excellent save.

Lingard made it 2-0 before halftime, given plenty of room to position Rojo’s pass for a successful strike.

But Gabbiadini got his goal just before the break, slipping behind Eric Bailly to poke home Saints’ first.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  Manolo Gabbiadini of Southampton (20) celebrates as he scores their second goal with Oriol Romeu of Southampton (14) during the EFL Cup Final match between Manchester United and Southampton at Wembley Stadium on February 26, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The second half began just as lively, with De Gea making a stop on Redmond’s solid effort from inside the 18.

And Saints earned the corner that led to their equalizer moments later, Gabbiadini again the proverbial fox in the box to score on a half turn.

The game had passed the hour mark when Romeu headed a chance off the post.

Pogba and Ibrahimovic presided over another free kick in the 74th minute, but the wall did its job to keep the score 2-2.

Lingard lashed over soon after, and subsequently left the match for Marcus Rashford. Claude Puel also made a move, taking off Dusan Tadic for Sofiane Boufal.

It was fellow sub Shane Long who missed a chance to make it 3-2 when Ryan Bertrand blazed a run down the left to send an inviting ball across goal.

That’s when United won it. Ibrahimovic blazed down the field on a counter attack, but slowed up to let the Red Devils set up shop. Martial found Herrera on the right side of the box, and cross for the noggin of Ibrahimovic, who headed through the hands of Forster.