Guardiola salutes Sterling and gives nod to Garcia as Man City land record Wembley win

By Sports Desk April 25, 2021

Pep Guardiola hailed an "incredible performance" from Raheem Sterling, despite the forward's goal drought continuing in Manchester City's EFL Cup final triumph.

City won the EFL Cup for a fourth consecutive season and record-equalling eighth time overall, matching Liverpool's haul, with defender Aymeric Laporte the unlikely goal hero.

Sterling had five goal attempts – the most of any City player – but did not hit the target with any of those, and he has not scored for the club since netting in the 1-0 win against Arsenal in February.

However, the England winger was certainly lively, troubling Serge Aurier with his pace and trickery from early in the contest, when he teed up Phil Foden for a chance that went begging.

That was to become a theme, with City creating but missing a host of chances before Laporte met Kevin De Bruyne's free-kick and powered a header past Hugo Lloris in the 82nd minute.

In terms of xG – Opta's expected goals metric – City had a score of 3.63 while Tottenham's total was just 0.06, reflecting the stark difference between the sides.

Asked about Sterling, Guardiola said the former Liverpool player had been "amazing".

"He showed the opponent we came here to win the game in the first actions. He was incredibly aggressive," said the City boss. "Aurier is a fast defender and they are incredibly good at defending the shot and the blocks. Lloris made some incredible saves but he was brilliant."

Guardiola is sure Sterling will soon start scoring regularly, saying: "We have no doubts of that, the mentality is great, he trained well and he made an incredible performance. He deserves it, he created a lot of chances and made a couple of assists for Ilkay [Gundogan]. All the players were brilliant."

Having become the first manager to win the competition in four consecutive years, Guardiola said City's success was "more than well deserved". There was no denying that, with Tottenham a blunt force going forward despite Harry Kane being passed fit to start after his recent ankle scare.

Now, though, City have more targets in their sights, with the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain coming up on Wednesday. Guardiola admitted that "one eye is always on the Champions League".

And, as the Spaniard pointed out, they need just two more wins from five games to wrap up the Premier League title following Manchester United's 0-0 draw at Leeds United earlier on Sunday.

"Now we just rest and prepare for the semi-final, the first leg against PSG," Guardiola said. "And after we are two games away to try to win the most important title of the season.

"The Premier League is the nicest one and the one I am proud of the most. We are so close. Marcelo Bielsa's team made a good draw against United so we are 10 points clear and need two victories.

"Between the crazy schedule, between games against PSG, we're going to try to win the first one against Crystal Palace."

Guardiola also praised those members of his squad who played no part against Tottenham, including Eric Garcia, the 20-year-old defender who is expected to join Barcelona at the end of the season.

"I would say he is one of my favourite players," former Barcelona head coach Guardiola said. "I'd love to have 15 Eric Garcias, for the way he conducts himself, his behaviour.

"He helps the manager and the backroom staff all the time. When people say the people are unsatisfied if [they] dont play, I think of Eric.

"Most of the time he's not on the bench because he's going to move to Barcelona, I hope so, but I think of them. It's tough, but it is what it is."

Tottenham's Ryan Mason became the youngest manager to take charge of a side in an EFL Cup final at 29 years and 316 days, with the caretaker boss surpassing Gianluca Vialli, who was 33 when he guided Chelsea in the 1998 final.

It was not to be for Mason, who has taken over from the sacked Jose Mourinho and said it was "tough" to see the chance of a trophy slip by.

"The players believed and gave absolutely everything," Mason said. "I thought we rode our luck at times in the first half but defended well, blocked well, but we knew at times we'd have to ride our luck and they'd have long spells of possession.

"It was disappointing to concede from a set-play, but I can't fault the players. They've had a change of manager, a game in midweek, two or three days to prepare for this and work in a completely different way. I've so much pride in those players. They believed and gave everything."

Related items

  • Madrid's Casemiro lauds 'difference maker' Vinicius after game-winning strike Madrid's Casemiro lauds 'difference maker' Vinicius after game-winning strike

    Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro hailed "difference maker" Vinicius Junior after the in-form Los Blancos star produced a moment of brilliance to sink Sevilla in LaLiga.

    Vinicius' stunning late goal helped Madrid overcome rivals Sevilla 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

    Rafa Mir's early header had Madrid on the backfoot against former head coach Julen Lopetegui, but Karim Benzema restored parity after the half-hour mark.

    Vinicius then stepped up three minutes from the end with a wonderful long-range shot as Madrid moved four points clear of Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad atop the standings.

    The Brazil international has now scored nine goals in 14 LaLiga appearances this season – one more than in his previous 82 games for Madrid in the competition, and Casemiro lauded 21-year-old.

    "He knows that the teams are going to make it difficult for him because they realise that he's a very important player for Real Madrid," Casemiro said of his countryman.

    "Great players score great goals whenever they get the chance.

    "We know he's a great player, he's a difference maker when he gets the chance."

    Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois added: "Vini struggled to get into the game, but then he got a great goal.

    "[He] trains really hard so that things like that come off in games. He didn't have the best of games, but the confidence he has in his own ability to make the difference is what we need from him and he delivered tonight.

    Madrid have won more points from losing positions than any other team in LaLiga this season – 10 points, two more than neighbours and defending champions Atletico.

    "It's important for us to play at home with the fans behind us. The coach makes it very clear that the substitutions are important," Casemiro said.

    "The players who came on today did very well. We're Real Madrid and we have to have a strong squad."

  • Ramos backs PSG team-mate Messi for Ballon d'Or Ramos backs PSG team-mate Messi for Ballon d'Or

    Sergio Ramos endorsed Lionel Messi for the Ballon d'Or as the Paris Saint-Germain superstar targets a record-extending seventh crown.

    Messi is among the favourites for the 2021 Ballon d'Or, which will be announced during Monday's ceremony in Paris.

    Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski is expected to provide stiff competition as well as Chelsea and Italy midfielder Jorginho, who celebrated Champions League and Euro 2020 glory.

    Ramos has often backed Cristiano Ronaldo for the top gong over the years, given they were Real Madrid team-mates and rivals of former Barcelona captain Messi.

    But Ramos now calls PSG home and wants ex-foe Messi to succeed once more following Argentina's drought-ending Copa America triumph.

    "Yes, of course [I hope he wins]," Spain international defender Ramos told ESPN.

    "I'm going to defend the guys in my team. I wish him all the luck in the world.

    "He's in good shape, and I think he's the kind of player who really makes a difference. He's a unique player and it's a privilege to have him in the team.

    "I think that bit by bit, each of us is going to bring our own quality to make Paris Saint-Germain even greater and achieve the things we want to achieve."

    In Sunday's 3-1 win at Saint-Etienne, Messi delivered three assists in a single league game for the third time of his career after March 2016 against Getafe and February 2020 against Betis.

    Messi became the first PSG player to achieve the feat in Ligue 1 since Blaise Matuidi against Angers in January 2016.

    At 35 years and 243 days, Ramos became the oldest outfield player to make his first appearance with PSG in Ligue 1 since David Beckham (37 years and 298 days against Marseille in February 2013).

    Ramos attempted 101 passes against Saint-Etienne – a game-high and the best tally for a PSG player making his Ligue 1 debut since Opta started analysing this data in 2006-07.

  • Rodgers shakes off toe injury to lead Packers past slumping Rams Rodgers shakes off toe injury to lead Packers past slumping Rams

    Aaron Rodgers was not slowed down by his toe injury as he guided the Green Bay Packers to a 36-28 win over the struggling Los Angeles Rams.

    Rodgers entered Sunday's showdown under a cloud, having missed practice in the lead up to the Lambeau Field clash due to fractured toe on his left foot.

    But the reigning NFL MVP shook off the problem with a pair of passing touchdowns while he rushed for another score as the NFC North-leading Packers (9-3) condemned the slumping Rams (7-4) to a third consecutive defeat.

    Rodgers completed 28 of his 47 passes for 307 yards and no interceptions and the Packers quarterback also rushed for a TD on two carries.

    The Packers led 20-17 at half-time and blew the visiting Rams away with a 16-0 third period, despite the loss of Randall Cobb.

    Cobb was ruled out at the start of the second half due to a groin injury, having set a season high for receiving yards with 95 on four catches in the opening two periods, including a seven-yard TD.

    Odell Beckham Jr. scored his first touchdown for the Rams on a 54-yard bomb from Matthew Stafford, but it was a tough outing for the quarterback.

    Stafford threw a pick-six that overshadowed his three-touchdown display on 21-of-38 passing for 302 yards and two sacks.

     

    Niners stay hot in San Francisco

    Deebo Samuel's two touchdowns helped the in-form San Francisco 49ers top the Minnesota Vikings 34-26.

    Samuel celebrated a pair of TDs before a groin injury cut short his outing as the 49ers (6-5) won their third straight game.

    The 49ers star became the first wide receiver in the Super Bowl era to score a rushing touchdown in three consecutive games in a single season.

    Elijah Mitchell put up 133 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries for the 49ers, while Jimmy Garoppolo finished 17-of-26 passing for 230 yards, a touchdown and interception.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.