Manchester City dashed Sunderland's dreams of ending their 41-year trophy drought with a 3-1 Capital One Cup Final victory at Wembley. Here, Sports Writer Richard Mason highlights five things we learned from yesterday's final
This is hardly rocket science. Manchester City won the game with a second-half display that would arguably have left most other Premier League teams in their wake, let alone Sunderland.
With the bit between their teeth, City set about the task of overturning Sunderland's slender lead and the 55th and 56th minute goals from Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri saw them do just that.
But it was Sunderland and City's substitutions afterwards which ensured that Manuel Pellegrini's side won the cup.
While City were able to augment their team with Jesus Navas, Javi Garcia and Alvaro Negredo – with Jesus Navas coming on moments after the second goal to replace the tiring Sergio Aguero – Sunderland brought Steven Fletcher, Emanuele Giaccherini and Craig Gardner into the fray.
At 2-1, Fletcher, still not fully fit having suffered an Achilles injury earlier in the season, spurned a fine chance to get his side on level terms but catastrophically miscontrolled a ball into the box, bouncing off his shin for a goal kick.
Moments later, City swept forward and hit their opponents on the break, with Jesus Navas sliding home from Yaya Toure's pass.
City's ability to call on such quality from the bench, allied with Sunderland's ineffective replacements, saw the blue half of a packed Wembley celebrate their victory.
CITY'S BIG GAME EXPERIENCE TOLD
Manchester City have a squad that has been assembled at considerable expense. While Sunderland's has not exactly been built with peanuts – many of the Wembley squad were big-money buys for the Black Cats, City were able to attract the world's finest players in Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Alvaro Negredo.
Sunderland's defensive duo of Wes Brown and John O'Shea aside, many of the Black Cats were making their Wembley debuts yesterday, and while they did not wilt on the big stage, City were able to call upon their experience and hit Sunderland at the right times and sit on their lead to eke out the win.
FABIO BORINI NEEDS TO PLAY CENTRE-FORWARD
It had been mooted throughout the week that Gus Poyet was considering playing Fabio Borini in a central attacking role instead of his usual wide berth, and so it came to pass at the expense of Jozy Altidore, who missed out on the squad completely.
Borini had spoken about his wish to play there – indeed, in post-match interviews he shrugged “It's my position – and Poyet granted his wish to great effect.
Borini was everything that Sunderland have lacked up top. He gave Martin Demichelis and Vincent Kompany the runaround, tirelessly pulling them this way and that, and a ball over the top deceived both of them for Borini to get in and poke past Pantilimon in the City goal.
But that was the tip of the iceberg. Borini did not stop running and chasing the ball, while positionally he was impeccable, winning balls that Altidore or indeed Steven Fletcher would never have gone for. His goal displayed real confidence which again, neither Altidore nor Fletcher have at present.
But it was the Manchester City big game players who were celebrating at the end
Sunderland's problem now is figuring out who could replace Borini on the left flank.
LEE CATTERMOLE DOESN'T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE THE VILLAIN
Lee Cattermole put in a disciplined, determined and dare I say classy performance at Wembley, shutting up a few of his critics in the process. It is often said that Cattermole has that in his locker, his ability to dictate the game from midfield, displaying a range of passing, attributes that are masked all too often by his tendency to dive into challenges and pick up needless bookings and stupid dismissals.
Many outside of the North-East have seen the good side of Cattermole. And as much as Sunderland's fans bang the drum for him, the Stockton-born midfielder has always been cast in the role of pantomime villain. Yesterday, he showed the rest of the country that he is much more than that.
SUNDERLAND'S FANS KNOW HOW TO PARTY
Again, nothing new here. It may be parochial to praise North-Easterners for their amiable natures. But any neutral that happened to wander past central London on Saturday night will have seen a hell of a shindig. From Covent Garden, to Leicester Square, from Charing Cross to Picadilly Circus, there were thousands of supporters clad in red and white. It was all good-natured fun as well, without a hint of any violence or disorder. They even managed to upset a Tory MP in the process. From the Labour heartlands of Wearside, that could be considered a minor success.