Aymeric Laporte probably shouldn’t have been on Wembley ground when Kevin De Bruyne launched a free kick through Tottenham’s box in the 81st minute of the Carabao Cup final, but Manchester City won’t mind one bit.
Laporte soared higher to head a De Bruyne cross that overtook Hugo Lloris, the defender who scored the only goal of the match after a dominant performance by Pep Guardiola’s side.
City were heading towards a nightmare scenario, with a 30-minute extra time, the last thing they would have wanted just three days before the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain.
But thanks to Laporte’s late intervention, City now have the first of three potential trophies in the bag as the season enters its last furlong.
The Spurs, however, were right to feel a bit tough after Laporte was caught twice by Lucas Moura’s pace during the first half, with his only way of stopping the Brazilian international to push back.
Both offenses would normally have warranted yellow cards and yet only the second was sanctioned with a warning by referee Paul Tierney.
Whether he would have done the second challenge if he had been given a yellow card the first time is a question that will go unanswered, but unlikely to appease North London fans.
We will also never know if Laporte would have started here if John Stones had not been sent off against Aston Villa on Wednesday.
The England international therefore missed out on suspension, allowing Laporte to step forward after a season in which he has been forced to watch from the bench in several games following the resurgence of the Stones and the arrival of Ruben Dias.
His pair of raw setbacks 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 that City’s crazy love story with the Carabao Cup continues.
By winning the trophy for the fourth consecutive season, the club has now equaled Liverpool’s record set in the 1980s for consecutive wins, while Guardiola is now the most successful team manager in the competition’s history.
City last lost a Carabao Cup tie in October 2016, while captain Fernandinho, who lifted the trophy alongside his staunch teammate Sergio Agüero, has now won the competition a record six times.
The joy of claiming the trophy in front of the 2,000 City fans inside the stadium was matched by the relief that the squad didn’t have to play for another 30 minutes after a game that really should have ended within the first half.
Toby Alderweireld rescued Tottenham twice with blocks from Raheem Sterling and a close-range effort from Phil Foden, which was deflected towards the post.
Riyad Mahrez, meanwhile, came within inches of breaking the deadlock with two fierce punches, before Lloris brilliantly ripped through Joao Cancelo’s effort as the Spurs, whose only shot came from Giovanni Lo Celso, somehow survived until the middle. weather.
There were suggestions from within the Spurs camp that the Lilywhites had reverted to a similar style worn by Mauricio Pochettino with interim manager Ryan Mason.
Apparently, the “parking the bus” football that Tottenham fans so disliked before José Mourinho’s firing six days ago is gone, and a slightly more adventurous style had arrived.
Against City, however, Mason’s charges found it virtually impossible to break out of their half in the first 45 minutes, as Lloris resorted to wasting time within half an hour to give his teammates a break.
Spurs improved as the game progressed, but Guardiola could have used the clash as evidence for Wednesday’s game against Pochettino’s PSG.
The City manager opted for a similar fluid system that worked very well against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernebeu just over a year ago, this time with De Bruyne and Foden taking turns taking over as striker when Tottenham failed to beat La press.
PSG, of course, have much better players. and Guardiola will hope that his defenders can handle Neymar and Kylian Mbappé better than Laporte did with Lucas.
But the celebrations with full-time fans suggest they won’t worry about it until Monday morning.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.