Manchester City eventually emerged victorious from a tense League Cup final meeting with Aston Villa this evening, with one Citizens stars in particular having caught the eye.
City edge game Villa
Pep Guardiola’s men visited Wembley a short time ago, with hopes of securing a 3rd-straight Carabao Cup crown.
The Citizens no doubt headed into proceedings brimming with confidence, on the back of a fine spell of form of late.
After putting both West Ham and Leicester City to the sword in the Premier League over the last couple of weeks, City followed up with a stunning comeback victory over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, entered the matchup on the back of a 3-match losing streak, a run which had seen Dean Smith’s men slip into the Premier League relegation zone.
As such, ahead of kick-off, champions City were viewed as the overwhelming favourites to emerge victorious.
And, when all was said and done, this was precisely what the Sky Blues managed.
Guardiola’s men opened the scoring courtesy of a familiar source with 20 minutes on the clock, after a sustained spell of pressure eventually led to Phil Foden’s nod back across goal being slammed home by Sergio Aguero.
And it was 2-0 just 10 minutes later, as an incorrectly-awarded corner-kick saw Rodri afforded the freedom of the Aston Villa box to head home beyond the helpless Ørjan Nyland.
At this point, it looked a near-certainty that City would simply steamroll struggling Villa over the remaining hour, with the likes of Raheem Stering, Phil Foden and Aguero having all looked dangerous.
Dean Smith’s men, though, stood tall, before capitalising on a bizarre John Stones error to pull level shortly before half-time.
After the City stopper lost his footing under minimal pressure, Anwar El-Ghazi’s pinpoint delivery from the left was powerfully headed home by the arriving Mbwana Samatta, to pull one back for the underdogs.
This set up a tense second-half, with January signing Samatta’s timely finish having provided Villa with a much-needed boost.
In the end, though, the Claret and Blue were just unable to conjure up the final piece of quality required to level things up.
As such, when the 90 minutes were said and done, it was City who emerged victorious, to secure the club’s first piece of silverware of the campaign.
Evidently, as outlined above, Pep Guardiola’s men were not exactly at their brilliant best this evening, though.
The second 45 in particular saw the Manchester giants struggle to break down a surprisingly-resolute Villa backline.
One of the Sky Blues’ who did manage to catch the eye throughout proceedings, though, was Phil Foden.
English youngster Foden was handed the chance to impress from the off this evening, as Guardiola opted to rest the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva.
The 19-year-old was fielded in an unfamiliar right-wing position, with the idea having been for Foden to cut inside onto his left foot à la Mahrez.
And to say that the City youth product subsequently went on to impress in this role would be an understatement.
Foden displayed a full attacking repertoire this evening, combining touch, technique, vision, ability to beat his man and, crucially, final ball.
The midfield prodigy is a unique talent, with his inexperience out wide having not at all hampered Foden’s ability to influence the game.
Time and time again during the first-half, the English youth international managed to get in behind Villa’s backline with perfectly-timed bursts, one of which eventually led to Sergio Aguero opening the scoring.
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While Foden has largely struggled for game-time once again to this point in the season, it is clear to see why Pep Guardiola has stuck by his guns in consistently refusing to sanction a loan departure for his side’s crown jewel.
The teenage talent possesses all of the necessary traits of a ‘Pep player’, with Foden’s performance this evening just another example of why City’s fans should not be accused of getting carried away in their claims that the club have unearthed the future of their midfield from within.