Liverpool started well, but by the time Philippe Coutinho struck late to level the match there seemed a clear favourite to win the League Cup on Sunday and it wasn’t The Reds. Manchester City had grown into the game slowly, building off a solid foundation that prevented Liverpool getting any clear chances even while they were being outplayed.
By halftime, City were the better side. By full time, they could feel hard done by to be taken to extra time. And by the time penalties rolled around, that certainly hadn’t changed. They deserved their victory. Captain Vincent Kompany, though, would have rather it had ended before then, even if in the end things fell City’s way when the players lined up and took their shots.
"Sometimes it’s sad when it happens on penalties," said Kompany, "but for us it’s massive. In the we were all just knackered and it had to be decided some way. By the end we all accepted it was going to penalties although we still tried. We’ve never played against a club that was maybe a little bit favourites [in a final] so to win this gives everyone a little boost."
Whether Liverpool truly were favourites heading into the match is open to debate—they are, after all, five places and nine points back of City in the table and competing in the Europa League while City play in the Champions League—but most expected a close, hard-fought match. In the end, that’s what they got. And in the end, City got the result they likely deserved.
"I’m proud and happy for our fans and for the team," added Kompany, who was still thinking of the way Liverpool demolished City in the league in November. "I don’t think many people thought we could match such a hard-running Liverpool team for 120 minutes and we did more than that. I think we had many chances, many opportunities, so I’m just really happy."
City had been naive in the league earlier; this time around they were conservative. They were also more cynical, and it cannot be ignored that in the early going they were given a few favours by match referee Michael Oliver. Had it been a league game, Liverpool likely would have had a penalty and Fernandinho might well have been off within the first 20 minutes.
Liverpool later got their own gifts from Oliver, whose fear of making a big, game-altering call in the end only served to ensure he played a major role in its outcome. Keeping his whistle in his pocket early, though, did help City to find their feet, giving them time to grow into the game against that hard-running Liverpool side until, by the end, they looked more deserving.