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Manchester City 2-1 Aston Villa: 3 Talking Points as Pep Guardiola's side retain their crown | Carabao Cup 2019-20

  • Manchester City retained the Carabao Cup by beating Aston Villa; here are 3 talking points from the game.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Feature
Modified 02 Mar 2020, 00:44 IST

Manchester City retained the Carabao Cup with a tight win over Aston Villa
Manchester City retained the Carabao Cup with a tight win over Aston Villa

Manchester City won the Carabao Cup for the third season running, defeating Premier League strugglers Aston Villa 2-1 at Wembley.

Early on the game looked like it could become a procession for City; Sergio Aguero scored from close range in the 20th minute after some good work from Phil Foden, and 10 minutes later Pep Guardiola’s side had a second goal through Rodri, who headed home following a questionable corner.

Despite their dominance, City’s lead was halved on the stroke of half-time, as Anwar El-Ghazi capitalised on a slip from John Stones to fire a perfect cross into the path of Mbwana Samatta, who headed home.

The second half saw City dominate possession, but they could not break Villa’s defence down, and by the end of the match it was Dean Smith’s side who were on the attack. They couldn’t find an equaliser though, and the match ended with City triumphant again.

Here are 3 talking points from the Carabao Cup final.

#1 Should City’s second goal have happened?

The corner that led to Rodri
The corner that led to Rodri's goal should never have been awarded to City

Manchester City’s second goal – a header directly from a corner from midfielder Rodri – was largely caused by some horrifically slack marking from Villa’s defence, but it wasn’t without some controversy. The awarding of the corner was hotly contested, and replays appeared to show outright that the ball went out of play after last touching Ilkay Gundogan.

Given the assistant referee stood so close to the incident, the question of quite how a corner was ever awarded has to be asked. And surely – if VAR is allowed to disallow goals due to fouls that appear to be miles back in the build-up, as we’ve seen on numerous occasions this season – then the replay should’ve been looked at in order to chalk the goal off.

Essentially, Villa fans – as well as their boss, Dean Smith – will likely blame the slack marking from the corner for the goal, but the fact is that Rodri’s goal turned out to be the key one in City’s victory today and it should never have happened in the first place.

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That’s a piece of rotten luck for the Midlands side however you see it, and ought to bring into question exactly how much VAR should be allowed to interfere in the game.

#2 Stones shows why Guardiola can’t trust him

Mbwana Samatta
Mbwana Samatta's goal was caused by a bad error from John Stones

At 2-0 down with just minutes to go before half-time, it looked like Aston Villa were dead and buried in this game. Manchester City were all over them, pinning them into their own half and barely letting them touch the ball, but somehow they conspired to allow Dean Smith’s side back into the game – with a goal caused almost totally by an individual error from John Stones.

A simple ball over the top should’ve been easy for the England international to clear, but Stones appeared to be caught in two minds – both watching the ball and trying to keep an eye on Mbwana Samatta, who was making a run behind him. And so the defender slipped and missed the ball entirely, allowing Anwar El-Ghazi to dash in before sending a cross into Samatta, who headed home brilliantly.

The moment summed Stones up in a nutshell; he’s got an unbelievable amount of talent and for the remainder of the game, looked comfortable under some pressure at times, defended well and completed 96% of his passes. And yet his mistake ended up allowing Villa back into the game and could well have cost City the trophy had things gone differently – namely a late header from Bjorn Engels that hit the post.

Many fans – particularly England supporters – have questioned why Guardiola has lost faith in Stones this season, as he’s often played the equally shaky Nicolas Otamendi or midfielder Fernandinho ahead of him; today’s mistake may go a long way in explaining why.

#3 Will Guardiola finally put his faith in Foden?

After a fantastic performance today, Phil Foden (left) should be given more playing time by Pep Guardiola
After a fantastic performance today, Phil Foden (left) should be given more playing time by Pep Guardiola

It came as no surprise today to see a handful of non-regulars in Manchester City’s first XI; Claudio Bravo, John Stones and Phil Foden had played in most of City’s Carabao Cup games this season and so Pep Guardiola was always likely to give them a start today. But while Stones’s mistake will make some headlines and Bravo performed decently, most of the press will surely be awarded to Foden.

The 19-year-old prodigy was absolutely fantastic playing on the right side of City’s attack, offering his teammates an option consistently, never drifting out of position and always threatening Villa’s defence.

And not only did he assist Aguero’s opening goal, he had the joint-most shots in the game with the Argentine (5), completed the most dribbles (3), and ended the game with a 90% pass success rate.

A lot of time has been devoted to discussing Foden’s future at the Etihad this season; the England U-21 international clearly has huge talent, and yet due to City’s packed squad, he’s made just 23 appearances this season – 13 of them from the bench. Performances like today’s, though, beg the question of how much more he needs to do to fully gain Guardiola’s trust.

For a long time now Foden has been viewed as the natural heir to David Silva – who is due to depart the club at the end of the season. The summer transfer window will tell us a lot; if Guardiola doesn’t sign a replacement, then hopefully Foden will be granted far more minutes next season.

If he spends millions on a new attacking midfielder though, the youngster will definitely need to weigh up his options – and maybe look for an exit. Simply put, he’s too good to be given just a handful of games per season.

Published 02 Mar 2020, 00:44 IST
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