Liverpool were left heartbroken at Wembley on Sunday, as they lost to Manchester City on penalties in the Capital One Cup final, Willy Caballero the hero for the Citizens.
Despite having been under the cosh for most of the game, going behind to Fernandinho's goal, the Reds ensured that they'd take it to extra time thanks to Philippe Coutinho's equaliser. The two sides couldn't be separated in an additional 30 minutes, leaving the shoot-out to decide the winner.
Liverpool started the final off on the front foot, threatening the Manchester City goal within the first minute. Alberto Moreno received the ball in space on the left side of the box, but Willy Caballero did well to hold onto the resulting shot.
Aguero hits the post in the first half's biggest chance
Liverpool would keep up their pressure, but it wasn’t long until Manchester City clamped down on the game. As City’s passing improved, Liverpool’s counter-pressing play waned. City’s attacking spell peaked as Sergio Aguero beat both Lucas Leiva and Mamadou Sakho to see his shot pushed onto the post by Simon Mignolet.
Mamadou Sakho’s final sadly had to end early after not being able to play on through injury. The Frenchman collided heads with Emre Can earlier on in the half and would make way for Kolo Toure.
With no goals and minimal chances on goal, it was the cut-throat defence of both sides that took center stage. Crushing tackles from Lucas and Fernando set the tone of the match that saw seven nine yellow cards. Liverpool had an appeal for a penalty late into the half as Moreno was taken down in the area. Referee Michael Oliver would disagree and play resumed.
Fernandinho scores the opener
It would be Manchester City that opened up the scoring early in the second half. Smart hold up play by Sergio Aguero afforded Fernandinho time to make the overlapping run and fire home. Simon Mignolet will have drawn plenty of criticism as the goalkeeper failed to stop an a shot that came directly at him.
Liverpool responded well to going down 1-0, attacking with more purpose. The Reds peppered the City area with cross after cross. Despite none of them finding their mark, Liverpool was beginning to look like they could level the score. However, their offensive play left plenty of spaces for City to exploit on the wings as Alberto Moreno consistently failed to track back.
Manchester City also had a penalty denied after Moreno tripped Sergio Aguero inside the box. Despite being a mere couple of yards away from the offense, Michael Oliver failed to see that Moreno’s tackle missed the ball and tackled the City forward.
Raheem Sterling had two clear cut chances to put the game out of his old club’s reach, but instead sent both of them wide of the post when only the slightest touch of his boot would have sufficed.
Coutinho leveller sends Reds wild
Better late than never, Liverpool finally equalised late in the second half through Philippe Coutinho. Daniel Sturridge found the ball in space and sent a beautiful ball across the face of goal to Adam Lallana. His shot rattled off the post, but Coutinho was in the right place at the right time, finishing from close range.
Despite a deluge of shots on goal to end regulation time, neither side was able to find a breakthrough as the game headed to extra time. Mignolet surely redeemed himself multiple crucial saves to keep the scores level and Liverpool’s cup hopes alive.
The first half of extra time was all Manchester City as Liverpool’s offense failed to generate any real threat on the Citizens' goal. Simon Mignolet would once again play the hero for Liverpool with the save of the tournament. Aguero had danced his way through the Liverpool defence and was clear on goal, but Mignolet’s fingertip save foiled Aguero once more.
Manchester City would stay on the front foot for the entirety of the extra time, but Liverpool’s defence would not falter as they denied the Citizens on the doorstep consistently to take the match to penalties.
It was Caballero show in the shootout as the City goalkeeper saved three penalties in a row to deny Liverpool their first trophy in five years. Liverpool had the advantage after Emre Can scored his penalty and Fernandinho missed. The Reds wouldn’t score another penalty, as Manchester City put away the rest of their's to lift the Capital One Cup.
It’s a hard loss for Liverpool who fought so hard to reach the penalties, but they can hold their heads high as the future only looks brighter for Jurgen Klopp’s young squad.