Manchester City secured a record-equalling fourth successive League Cup triumph as Aymeric Laporte’s late header sealed a deserved 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Spurs had soaked up intense City pressure for most of the game to somehow stay in contention at Wembley Stadium.
But City finally made the breakthrough in the 82nd minute from an unlikely source as defender Laporte met Kevin de Bruyne’s free kick and headed past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
A combination of Lloris, last-ditch defending and some poor City finishing had kept the 8,000 crowd on tenterhooks but in the end Pep Guardiola’s side got their reward.
They have now matched Liverpool’s feat of winning the competition for four seasons in a row, and also join Liverpool with the most League Cup wins on eight.
Tottenham, who had rookie manager Ryan Mason on the touchline after Jose Mourinho’s sacking last week, are still waiting for their first trophy since 2008.
After last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final defeat by Chelsea, City chalked off the first part of what they hope will be a treble, with the Premier League title almost in the bag and a Champions League semi-final to come against Paris St Germain.
While the League Cup is lower down Guardiola’s priorities there was no disguising his joy as he became the first manager to win the League Cup in four successive seasons, claiming his 30th piece of silverware as manager in the process.
It had added significance as the final was played in front of the biggest crowd since Britain went into a first COVID-19 lockdown last March — one of the government’s test events to get fans safely back into venues as restrictions ease.
City’s permitted 2,000 supporters serenaded their team at the end with the club’s Blue Moon anthem although they would have had a more relaxing afternoon had their high-quality team turned their overwhelming first-half dominance into goals.
How the final reached halftime still at 0-0 was mystifying with Phil Foden denied by the woodwork and Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez both going close while Joao Cancelo forced a great save from Lloris on the stroke of halftime.
To their credit Spurs responded in the second half and Giovani Lo Celso almost gave them the lead when his curling effort was turned around the post by keeper Zack Steffen.
The zip went out of City’s attacks slightly but Frenchman Lloris was still by far the busier of the two keepers, producing saves to deny Mahrez and skipper Fernandinho.
Tottenham’s rookie manager Ryan Mason sent on Gareth Bale with around 25 minutes remaining and the stage looked set for the Welshman to produce something magical for his side.
It was Laporte who settled it in City’s favour though as he found space to head De Bruyne’s perfect delivery into the net.