Trophy wait must go on for Tottenham, as Manchester City maintain vice-like grip on League Cup
Carabao Cup Final
Manchester City (0) 1 Laporte 82
Tottenham Hotspur (0) 0
Tottenham’s hunt for a first trophy in 13 years was undone by a set piece eight minutes from time – Aymeric Laporte heading in a free-kick from Kevin De Bruyne.
It was a stark conclusion to a match Spurs will not look back on with any great fondness and was their third League Cup final defeat in a row without scoring.
That last success back in 2008, when Dimitar Berbatov and Jonathan Woodgate carried the day against Chelsea, seems a very long time ago now.
Ryan Mason did his best to summon the stubborn spirit of Jose Mourinho with a blanket defence in a bid to stifle the life out of City’s passing and there was none of the gung-ho bravery promised by the shock departure this week of the Portuguese.
But if they managed to restrict the perennial League Cup winners, it was only because Pep Guardiola’s men were so profligate during a first half they dominated.
They peppered Hugo Lloris’ goal but were often off target and missed the dead-eyed certainty of an out-and-out striker. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus stayed on the bench for 90 minutes.
Spurs, playing in front of a crowd of 8,000, which included 2,000 of their own fans, took a punt on a half-fit Harry Kane but although the England striker’s influence increased during a far better second half for the north Londoners, he was simply unable to get into the telling positions he craves to make a difference.
The goal, when it came, was banal in the extreme. Serge Aurier was suckered into a cheap foul on Raheem Sterling near the by line on the left and the subsequent chip up from De Bruyne was nodded home by Laporte.
And that was that. Four League Cup wins in a row for City, six in eight years. This is very much their competition.
It was a ridiculously one-sided first 45 minutes, with Tottenham barely getting out of their own half. City were to eventually fire 21 shots at the Tottenham goal, though only four were on target.
The Premier League champions-elect looked composed and at home from the start – which is hardly surprising, since Wembley has been pretty much home from home in recent years.
Sterling’s trickery on the byline almost opened up an early chance for Phil Foden, but he was cramped for space by Eric Dier and could not wrap his foot around the ball to make the chance count.
Man of the match Riyad Mahrez chipped up for Sterling to head just wide, Sterling turned inside the area to thrash a low shot into Dier’s legs.
An even better chance came their way when Dier ran into trouble, coughing up possession to Mahrez and after a swift ball into the danger zone from De Bruyne, Foden span onto a half-clearance but saw his shot deflected onto a post and wide by Toby Alderwiereld.
As the one-way traffic continued, Sterling, from an acute angle, lifted the ball over Lloris but wide of the far post, then Mahrez twisted around Sergio Reguilon to angle a shot that somehow fell just outside the far post, before the Algerian bent another corkscrew effort just over from outside the box.
Sterling came within a gnat’s whisker of connecting with a beautifully weighted through-ball from De Bruyne. And as the first-half drew to a close, Joao Cancelo was thwarted by the diving Lloris.
Spurs had to show more and soon after the break, Gio Lo Celso curled in a great shot from the right edge of the area which was destined for the bottom corner until Zack Steffen threw out his right hand to turn the ball aside. It would, in truth, be the only real moment of danger they conjured.
City struggled to create the same sense of menace they had done before the break and it was a while before Lloris had anything serious to deal with – a shot from Mahrez testing him after a run from his own half.
Kane came alive a little at last and Gareth Bale was summoned off the bench as Tottenham peeked out from the shell. But really this was far too timid a display and frankly not deserving of the glory they wanted so badly. Seldom can Heung-Min Son have had such a quiet match.
City (4-2-3-1): Steffen – Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo – Fernandinho (Rodrigo 83), Gundogan – Mahrez, De Bruyne (Silva 87), Sterling - Foden. Subs not used: Ake, Jesus, Aguero, Zinchenko, Hernandez, Silva, Torres, Mendy
Spurs (4-3-3): Lloris – Aurier (Bergwijn 90), Alderweireld, Dier, Reguilon – Winks, Hojbjerg (Alli 84), Lo Celso (Sissoko 67) – Lucas (Bale 67), Kane, Son. Subs not used: Sanchez, Lamela, Hart, Tanganga, Ndombele