David Hytner at Wembley
Perhaps Pep Guardiola ought to keep the trophy. His owners at Manchester City do not seem too bothered about the Carabao Cup; they would happily ditch it in the pursuit of a European Super League, of more money and action on the continent. But Guardiola keeps on winning it.
It is almost ridiculous to report that the City manager has lost just one tie in the competition – against Manchester United in 2016-17, his first season at the club. Since then he has won it every time, this his fourth successive triumph to equal the run of Liverpool in the early 1980s.
Manchester City 1-0 Tottenham: Carabao Cup final – as it happened
Inspired by the gliding menace of Riyad Mahrez and the touch and explosiveness of Phil Foden, City had far too much for Tottenham, whose fantasy of winning a first trophy since 2008 under the 29-year-old interim, Ryan Mason – in only his second game as a manager – was revealed as nothing more than that.
The Harry Kane team had Harry Kane on the field, after the talisman declared himself fit in the morning, following his latest bout of ankle trouble, but he ended the day still seeking his first silverware; a disconsolate figure to go with all of the others in Spurs colours. Son Heung-min sank to his haunches, hand across tearful eyes.
It was not that Spurs did not turn up; just that City did not allow them to play – apart from when their control lulled a little in the first half of the second period. That was when Kane came into it and yet there was never the sense that Spurs were about to score. A week that began for them with the sacking of José Mourinho and has seen the club’s Supporters’ Trust demand the removal of the board – partly for the crime of wanting to join the breakaway Super League – ended with yet more frustration.
Fernandinho lifted the cup for a remarkable sixth time after Aymeric Laporte’s late header and, with City seemingly having the Premier League title in the bag, the attention will now turn to their Champions League semi‑final first leg at Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.
Not that Guardiola held too much back for the tilt at the trophy that his club covet the most. Although Zack Steffen played instead of Ederson, it was a strong starting XI, with Laporte in for the suspended John Stones.
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The centre-half committed a pair of tactical fouls in the first half to prevent Lucas Moura from breaking – he could have been booked for the first and he was for the second, which he surely would not have committed if already on a yellow card – but it was his goal that allowed the 2,000 City fans in attendance to erupt in joy and relief.
It was lovely to see the supporters back, even if there were only about 8,000 of them in total, and they created a decent atmosphere.
City poured forward from all angles upon the first whistle, pressing high, dictating and it was difficult to imagine a more intimidating sight for Mason.
Spurs did not cross halfway until the 17th minute and there were not too many other occasions when they did so in the first half.
It was a minor miracle that Spurs reached the interval on level terms, although the courage and timing of Toby Alderweireld went some way towards explaining it. He blocked from Raheem Sterling in the early running but his best moment came on 26 minutes.
Mahrez had intercepted an Eric Dier pass and released the fit again Kevin De Bruyne, whose cross was half cut out by Alderweireld only for Foden to bang a shot at goal. Alderweireld threw himself at it and deflected the ball against the post and out for a corner.
Guardiola started with De Bruyne and Foden in the central attacking roles of what was broadly a 4-4-2 formation and City thrilled for the opening 45 minutes with the fluency of their movement, the twinkle toes of their creative players.
There was also the effective trick of João Cancelo stepping into central midfield from left-back to create overloads.
The tone had been set in the fourth minute when Son played a loose back pass that allowed Sterling to tear into the Spurs area, although Serge Aurier did enough to put him off. City created a high number of first-half chances, with Foden flicking wide and Sterling heading off target in the opening exchanges.
There would also be a Sterling dink over Hugo Lloris that went just past the far post; a Mahrez rocket that fizzed off target and a Cancelo shot that extended the goalkeeper.
Spurs did manage to check City’s momentum upon the second-half restart and there were signs of greater confidence from them on the ball. Giovani Lo Celso forced Steffen to tip away a low curler and Kane found a few spaces in the pocket.
He drove forward on 62 minutes, playing in Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, whose pass for the overlapping Sergio Reguilón was too heavy. It was better.
But City could not be suppressed. Ilkay Gündogan miscued a shot and Mahrez worked Lloris before Aurier needlessly fouled Sterling. De Bruyne whipped in the free-kick and, with the Spurs substitute Moussa Sissoko ball-watching, Laporte glanced into the corner.