Lucky Laporte lifts Carabao Cup king Man City to yet another Wembley triumph


Match statistics: Manchester City 1-0 Tottenham

Aymeric Laporte probably should not have been on the pitch at Wembley when Kevin De Bruyne curled a free kick across the Tottenham box in the 81st minute of the Carabao Cup final, but Manchester City will not care one bit.

Laporte rose highest to nod De Bruyne’s cross past Hugo Lloris, the defender scoring the only goal of the game after a dominant performance from Pep Guardiola’s side.

City had been headed for a nightmare scenario, with 30 minutes of extra time the last thing it would have wanted just three days before the first leg of its Champions League semifinal against Paris Saint-Germain.

But thanks to Laporte’s late intervention, City now has the first of potentially three trophies in the bag as the season enters its final furlong.

Spurs, though, were right to feel a little hard done by after Laporte was twice caught out by the pace of Lucas Moura during the first half, with his only way of stopping the Brazil international to pull him back.

Both offenses would normally have warranted yellow cards, and yet only the second was punished with a booking by referee Paul Tierney.

Whether he would have made the second challenge if he had been given a yellow card the first time is a question that will go unanswered, but that is unlikely to appease fans from north London.

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We will also never know whether Laporte would have started here had John Stones not been sent off against Aston Villa on Wednesday.

The England international, therefore, missed out through suspension, allowing Laporte to step up after a season in which he has been forced to watch on from the sidelines in a number of matches following Stones’ resugence and the arrival of Ruben Dias.

His pair of crude pull-backs on Lucas showed why he is no longer the mainstay he once was under Guardiola.

That said, it will be Laporte who goes down in the history books as the player who ensured City’s crazy love affair with the Carabao Cup goes on.

In winning the trophy for the fourth successive season, the club has now matched the record set by Liverpool in the 1980s for consecutvie triumphs, while Guardiola is now the joint-most successful manager in the competition’s history.

City last lost a Carabao Cup tie in October 2016 while captain Fernandinho — who lifted the trophy alongside fellow stalwart Sergio Aguero — has now won the competition a record six times.

The joy at claiming the trophy in front of the 2,000 City fans inside the stadium was matched by relief that the squad did not have to play for another 30 minutes after a game that it really should have had wrapped up inside the first half.

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Toby Alderweireld twice rescued Tottenham with blocks from Raheem Sterling and a close-range effort from Phil Foden, which was deflected onto the post.

Riyad Mahrez, meanwhile, was inches away from breaking the deadlock with two fierce strikes, before Lloris brilliantly clawed away Joao Cancelo’s effort as Spurs — whose only shot came from Giovanni Lo Celso — somehow survived until halftime.

There had been suggestions from inside the Spurs camp that the Lilywhites had returned to a similar style used by Mauricio Pochettino under interim manager Ryan Mason.

Gone, seemingly, was the “park-the-bus” football so disliked by Tottenham fans before Jose Mourinho’s sacking six days ago, and in had come a slightly more adventurous style.

Against City, though, Mason’s charges found it virtually impossible to get out of their half in the opening 45 minutes, as Lloris resorted to time-wasting inside half an hour to give his teammates a breather.

Spurs improved as the game went on, but Guardiola may have used the clash as a test run for Wednesday’s game against Pochettino’s PSG.

The City boss went with a similar fluid system that worked so well against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernebeu just over a year ago, this time with De Bruyne and Foden taking it in turns to fill the striker position as Tottenham failed to beat the press.

PSG, of course, has much better players. and Guardiola will hope that his defenders can handle Neymar and Kylian Mbappe better than Laporte did with Lucas.

But the celebrations with fans at full time suggest they will not worry about that until Monday morning.





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