League Cup

Man City wins third-straight League Cup
(Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

Man City wins third-straight League Cup

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Manchester City won its third-straight League Cup trophy, outlasting a game challenge from Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: “Clinical” Foden reacts ]

It’s the eighth trophy of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City, as Rodri and Sergio Aguero scored in a 2-1 win. City’s seven league cups trail only Liverpool’s eight.

Mbwana Samatta pulled a goal back for Villa, who was denied extra time by a brilliant Claudio Bravo save. City had 70 percent of the ball and a 22-5 shots edge, but made a furious bid over the final few minutes.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]


Three things we learned

1. Another trophy for City, with new heroes: Winning silverware never gets old, and this one will feel especially nice given the tumultuous season at the Etihad Stadium and impending UEFA Champions League ban. Villa proving difficult to beat lent the occasion more intensity.

The names helping City to glory were mostly new to the trophy chase, or at least unusual to it. Rodri helped set up the first goal and scored the second. Phil Foden was an absolute menace. And Bravo made a tremendous late save to ensure the match didn’t go beyond 90 minutes.

2. Foden announces himself: It can be easy to tire of the “did the young English player play and how did he play?” storyline with Premier League, but this isn’t that: Phil Foden was electrifying in this one, recalling fellow spark plug Jack Grealish on the opposite sideline.

The kid was sensational, completing 90 percent of his passes including two key passes. He completed three of four dribbles, won 7 of 10 duels, and made an interception to go with two tackles. That says nothing of his ability to move the ball in tight spaces before finding a safe outlet. Wonderful from a kid who’s still a teenager until May 28.

3. Bad call burns Villa, as fans provide occasion: Neither the AR nor head referee saw the ball touch Ilkay Gundogan last ahead of a wrongly-awarded Man City corner. VAR isn’t going to be deployed for every corner, nor should it be, but the missed call allowed Gundogan’s corner that Rodri buried for 2-0.

Villa’s fans were tentative early, but snapped to life once Samatta scored and found another level after the hour mark. It will have been a memorable day for a big club even if Dean Smith‘s men can’t shake the relegation blues.

Man of the Match: It’s between Rodri and Foden, with an acknowledging nod to Villa defender Tyrone Mings. We’ll give it to Rodri, City’s underrated star.


Early chances went both ways, Anwar El Ghazi heading over the goal at one end before John Stones headed a Gundogan did the same at the other.

City took the lead on an incisive, clinical play. Rodri swept a pass over the line to a streaking Phil Foden, who cut back for Aguero.

The Argentine had plenty to do with a leaping side-footed finish of an airborne ball.

El Ghazi cut around Stones to shoot toward the near post, but Claudio Bravo was in position.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Rodri had it 2-0 off a Gundogan corner that should not have been. The ball went off Gundogan last on the end line, but VAR cannot review every corner.

Villa got one back when Stones fell over, allowing El Ghazi to cross between Fernandinho and Oleksandr Zinchenko for a waiting Samatta.

City couldn’t find the goal to put the game to bed and introduced Kevin De Bruyne for Ilkay Gundogan, Guardiola not content to ride out a one-goal win.

Rodri almost had another when Nyland pawed away a 74th-minute bid, and Aguero slipped in a bid to side volley a Sterling cross past Nyland.

Villa won a corner in the 87th minute through the industry of Trezeguet, the crowd again meeting the moment. Bravo made an incredible save to push Bjorn Engels‘ header off the post.

FOLLOW LIVE: Villa, Man City in League Cup Final

League Cup Final
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Can Dean Smith and Aston Villa deny Manchester City its eighth trophy under Pep Guardiola?

The heavy underdogs will try during the 2019/20 League Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, which kicks off at 11:30 a.m. ET.

[ FOLLOW: Aston Villa v. Man City ]

City has won the last two League Cups to give the reigning Premier League champions six in its existence. Only Liverpool’s eight number more.

Villa can join City on six with a Wembley win, the Midlands side last lifting the cup in 1996.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Phil Foden gets a start in Guardiola’s engine room, while John Stones partners with Fernandinho at center back.

Jack Grealish, of course, will captain Villa, with Mbwana Samatta leading the line and Orjan Nyland between the posts.

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Aston Villa:

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Villa boss Smith seethes at players ahead of League Cup Final

Aston Villa
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Aston Villa manager Dean Smith‘s team left him snarling after a 2-0 loss at Southampton on Saturday.

Villa remains a point above the drop zone after the loss, but could sit in the bottom three should Watford or West Ham get points later this match week.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Out-attempted by a resounding 28-4, Smith wasn’t interested in hearing about the side’s League Cup Final date with Man City next.

“I am not bothered about the cup final next week, this was our cup final today and we were terrible,” Smith said, via the BBC. “Certainly some players have played themselves out of next week.”

Smith’s Villans should’ve carried more urgency given their next six PL fixtures. Leicester City and Chelsea start the run before a Newcastle pallet cleanser leads into Wolves, Liverpool, and Manchester United.

Instead, they were insipid.

“We never laid a glove on them in the first 20 minutes. I try to defend the players but today was not good enough. They were miles off it in the first half. A bit better in the second half. It was a game that could have been won but we didn’t create enough and didn’t defend enough. They were deserved winners.

“We can’t keep talking about getting good starts. Not starting well is a concern. We can’t play that bad again. It gave me a lot of heart seeing them against Tottenham but today was dreadful.

Villa are too talented to go down in theory, and the Midlands set will love its day at Wembley Stadium next weekend. But Smith’s men are still in a position to be competing in the Europa League and the Championship. Wild.

Here are a few more Smith thoughts, transmitted via our own Joe Prince-Wright at St. Mary’s.

When Klopp phoned the youngsters at League Cup halftime

Jurgen Klopp
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Jurgen Klopp isn’t breaking from his vacation to sit in the dugout at Anfield during Tuesday’s FA Cup match with Shrewsbury Town, but he’ll be watching just as he did in December’s League Cup outing.

Liverpool is fielding a youth side in another domestic cup round. In December, it was because the club had Club World Cup duty in a few days and Klopp didn’t want to break up his squad.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ].

This time around, the replay falls during the Premier League’s winter break for Liverpool and Klopp’s Reds weren’t willing to miss out on time off during a grueling campaign.

Whether you approve of that or not, it’s happening.

And so U-23 boss Neil Critchley will be in the dugout while a mostly teenage side tries to deal with League One opposition under the bright lights of Anfield.

He and the boys may even get a call from a watching Klopp, who rang up the team room at halftime of the 5-0 loss to Aston Villa.

From the BBC:

“Even though we were going off the pitch at half-time thinking, ‘We’ve played all right there but we’re getting beat 4-0’, it creates that element of doubt in your mind about whether you are doing the right thing and if you need to do something different.

“So when you get a message from the manager saying, ‘Don’t change anything, carry on doing what you’re doing, you’ve been brilliant’, it just clears all that doubt in your mind and you can give that message to the players.”

It’s a little bit different this time; It felt like the majority of people were on Liverpool’s side over the first scheduling hiccup, as surely FIFA or the FA could’ve helped a bit more.

Klopp calling from the road was very much an, “I still see you” bit of recognition. And even if many believe Klopp is in the wrong to not oversee his youngsters on Tuesday, the kids aren’t going to hold him in any less high regard. Who knows? Maybe another phone call will do the trick and lead to a victory.

LIVE, League Cup semifinal: Man City v. Man United

Manchester City win appeal
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It’s time for leg two of the Manchester derby in the semifinals of the EFL Cup (Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET) at the Etihad Stadium.

[ LIVE: Man City v. Man United ]

Manchester City lead 3-1 following their first-leg dismantling of Manchester United at Old Trafford. In theory, it’s a mere formality to reach the final at Wembley, where they would take on Aston Villa following their late dramatics on Tuesday.

Click on the link above to follow the action live, while we will have you covered here at Pro Soccer Talk with all of the reaction and analysis.

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