Chasing 4 trophies, Man City hits 1st target by beating Sunderland 3-1 in League Cup final
Sunday, Mar 02, 2014 02:15 pm
LONDON - The celebrations were still continuing in Manchester City's dressing room at Wembley Stadium on Sunday when Manuel Pellegrini started to move on from the League Cup triumph.
For the 60-year-old Chilean, collecting a first winners' medal after a decade in European football was just the minimum he expected from this expensively-assembled team — even if it had to come from behind to beat Sunderland 3-1. Two perfectly-placed, wondrous strikes from Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri inside two second-half minutes turned the final around for City.
"We won today just one trophy but I don't think nobody can think that's enough," Pellegrini said. "I don't think ever for top players or an important club you are satisfied with one trophy."
Not when City, with 121 goals this season, remains in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, with varying prospects of success.
Europe is the most unlikely route to glory, with City 2-0 down in the round-of-16 match against Barcelona. But City is six points from the Premier League summit with two games in hand on Chelsea, and facing second-tier club Wigan in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup next Sunday.
It was losing to Wigan in last season's final that spelt the end of Roberto Mancini's reign as City manager, and ushered in the era of Pellegrini, who had won trophies in South America but never in Europe. That ended on Sunday for the former Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga coach, although it seemed during the first half that Sunderland would emerge with a first major trophy since 1973.
Franco Borini put Sunderland in front in the 10th minute, completing a swift counterattack after City midfielder Fernandinho was dispossessed next to the Sunderland penalty area. Seb Larsson charged forward before passing to Adam Johnson, who sent the ball high down the flank. Borini got on the end of it, went past City captain Vincent Kompany and struck low into the net.
"What happened last year in the FA Cup final maybe played on their minds in the first half," Pellegrini said. "But the most important thing was for them to trust each other."
They did, and City made the devastating impact required at the start of the second half. The equalizer came when Toure's shot from distance looped over goalkeeper Vito Mannone into the top corner in the 55th minute.
"Maybe if we had two goalkeepers we would have stood a chance," Sunderland manager Gus Poyet said.
Before relegation-threatened Sunderland could regroup there was an equally fine finish from Nasri. Sergio Aguero sent the ball to Aleksandar Kolarov, who crossed for Nasri to net with a first-time volley.
Jesus Navas ensured there would be no risk of extra time by beating Mannone with a close-range finish in the 90th, after being set up by Toure following a rapid break.
"In the second half we came with better intention and we scored three goals," Nasri said.
The only joy for Sunderland on Sunday was Cardiff's failure to move above them in the relegation zone after the Welsh club lost 1-0 at Tottenham. Roberto Soldado's first-half goal put fifth placed-Tottenham within four points of City, having played two more games.
The day's biggest-scoring game was at Aston Villa, with Christian Benteke scoring twice as the hosts fought back to beat struggling Norwich 4-1 and move further from danger themselves. Norwich is sandwiched in 15th place between Swansea and Crystal Palace, who drew 1-1.