A rare goal by Aymeric Laporte gave a familiar result: Manchester City won the League Cup. For the fourth consecutive season, Pep Guardiola’s team triumphed in the final of the competition on Sunday with a 1-0 victory over Tottenham.
As Tottenham proved difficult to find a way out of the past despite City’s dominance, Laporte had to score their second goal of the season in the 82nd minute from Kevin De Bruyne’s free kick.
“We have to keep that pace, so we can win more titles,” said center-back Laporte.
What was less known to the finalists was officially allowed to play in front of supporters from both teams. This has not happened since March 2020, but pandemic restrictions have been eased to allow a crowd of 7,773 at Wembley to see the first silverware of the season handed out.
“It was good for us to share it with our people,” Guardiola said. “There was a good noise. We made it for them. They represented the people at home.”
An unfamiliar sight has also surfaced of 29-year-old rookie coach Ryan Mason, who has ruled Tottenham since Jose Mourinho’s shooting on Monday. The change of manager could not put an end to Tottenham’s landmill since the lift of this cup in 2008.
The pain in the locker room was very familiar to Mason, who was on the side of Tottenham, who lost the League Cup final in 2015 to Chelsea before the head injury ended his career.
“It’s normal for them to hurt,” he said, “because it shows they care.”
Defending the title ended the first part of the potential height for the escaped leaders of the Premier League of Guardiola with a semi-final match of the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday. De Bruyne was among City’s players to comfort the tearful Sin Hung-Min, who was also part of Tottenham, who lost the 2019 Champions League final.
Tottenham didn’t even have a shot until the 20th minute and only tested City goalkeeper Zack Stephen for the first time 80 seconds in the second half when Giovanni Lo Celso made a curling shot. While Harry Kane returned from injury, the striker did not create a chance, let alone strike.
Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris relied on Tottenham to maintain the level of the score until the break came from the placed figure. His colleague Stephen became the first American after goalkeeper Brad Friedel and Blackburn won the League Cup final in 2002.
Stephen and his teammates from City had to celebrate a victory in front of their fans for the first time since last year. A quarter of the crowd was made up of City fans – previously tested for coronavirus – as part of a pilot event to bring back a far larger number.
“I was like a kid on Christmas morning, I woke up excited, football for the first time in 13 months,” said City fan Simon Walker. “The pandemic was really difficult, but we overcame it and got out of it, and we hope that this test event will mean that we will start football next season more widely.”
The first crowd in a match after the announcement and the collapse of the attempt to secede from the Super League from City, Tottenham and 10 other European clubs last week did not provoke protests either at Wembley or outside it.
But there was an uncontrollable irritation at the failed revolt.
“Football was nothing without the fans, wasn’t it? They were just empty stadiums,” said Tottenham fan Martin Taylor. “So I think football fans need to be taken into account and consulted before this kind of breakage happens.”