Departing Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini insisted the overriding principle of fielding Willy Caballero was stronger than his desire to win the Capital One Cup after his understudy goalkeeper proved the matchwinner at Wembley yesterday.
The 34-year-old Argentine repelled spot-kicks from Lucas, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana in a dramatic penalty shootout after Coutinho had netted a late leveller to cancel out Fernandinho’s opener in normal time.
Former Malaga stopper Caballero endured a torrid time as City were thumped 5-1 in the FA Cup by Chelsea seven days earlier but repaid the faith of Pellegrini, who resisted the temptation to select No1 Joe Hart over his regular League Cup custodian.
“I’d rather lose the title than lose my word,” said Pellegrini. “A lot of media were waiting to criticise me if Caballero makes a mistake. I had a lot of trust in Caballero. I am very pleased for all the players and staff but more for him because he deserved it.”
Pellegrini was also adamant that winning the third trophy of his City tenure, coupled with last week’s Champions League victory against Dynamo Kiev, vindicated his decision to make wholesale changes against Chelsea in the FA Cup.
“I had a difficult decision with the FA Cup but I think this title and the win in Kiev support my decision,” added the Chilean.
Despite making a number of pivotal saves, Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was at fault for City’s goal as he allowed Fernandinho’s 49th minute strike from an acute angle to sneak under his body. Coutinho equalised inside the final 10 minutes as he drilled home the rebound after substitute Lallana’s shot from a Daniel Sturridge cross struck the post.
Neither side could force a winner in extra-time, which allowed Caballero to assume centre stage, as Liverpool lost only their fourth penalty shoot-out in 18 attempts.