Manchester City won the first trophy of the Pep Guardiola era on Sunday, brushing Arsenal aside 3-0 in the League Cup final with the help of an old-fashioned route-one goal from Sergio Aguero.
It was an impressive statement of intent from Guardiola’s team at Wembley after a shock FA Cup defeat to lowly Wigan last week ended their bid for an unprecedented quadruple.
City opened the scoring in the 18th minute when a long punt upfield from goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was controlled by Aguero, who coolly lifted the ball over a helpless David Ospina in the Arsenal goal.
Captain Vincent Kompany doubled the lead in the second half with just over half an hour to go and David Silva put the game out of the reach of Arsene Wenger’s team.
The runaway Premier League leaders will be hoping to use the victory as a springboard to greater glory as the season approaches its final stretch but defeat for Wenger means he has never lifted the League Cup.
On a bitterly cold, clear day in London, City, in their light blue kit, took control early, playing measured football and enjoying the lion’s share of possession against a side who have made Wembley a second home in recent years.
But Arsenal went closest to taking the lead within the first 10 minutes, with new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seeing his scuffed shot saved by a sprawling Bravo.
Seconds later Aguero found the side netting after an incisive break from City, who looked short of their fluent best.
But it was Aguero who broke the deadlock, controlling the ball as Arsenal’s defence failed to deal with the danger, silencing the boisterous Arsenal fans.
The Argentine striker has scored in each of his past five games in all competitions against Arsenal and this was his 199th goal in City colours.
It was an unusual goal for Guardiola’s team, who have been lauded for their silky passing game this season, which has already seen them hailed as one of the finest sides in Premier League history.
– Kompany goal –
City made a bright start to the second half and captain Kompany was in the right place to steer home Ilkay Gundogan’s shot from the edge of the box after a Kevin De Bruyne corner in the 58th minute.
It was no more than City deserved against a lacklustre Arsenal and the Belgian celebrated wildly in front of his own fans.
Just seven minutes later Arsenal were left with a mountain to climb when Silva smashed the ball past Ospina into the far corner of the net to make it 3-0.
Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola kept faith with reserve goalkeeper Bravo for the Wembley showpiece ahead of first-choice Ederson. Bravo has played in every round of the competition so far.
Wenger also played his number two between the sticks, fielding Ospina ahead of Petr Cech.
City look nailed on to win the Premier League and have virtually guaranteed a place in the Champions League quarter-finals after a 4-0 first win in the first leg of their last-16 tie against Basel.