Manchester City triumphed 4-3 against Chelsea in a Carabao Cup final that went the full distance, courtesy of Raheem Sterling slotting home the decisive penalty from the spot yesterday. Both teams could not be separated in regular time, despite Sergio Aguero having a goal chalked off by the Video Assistant Referee because of offside.
Given what happened the last time these teams met, nobody would blame Chelsea for setting up with a degree of caution.
On the evidence of the first-half, however, it would appear that Maurizio Sarri had taken the fans advice on what to do with the form of football that bears his name.
There was nothing ambitious or expansive about this, little that suggested possession and passing were being prioritised.
When Pedro got an ineffectual header on a Willian free-kick after 25 minutes and 36 seconds, it represented Chelsea’s first touch in the Manchester City penalty area. Eden Hazard had barely got into double figures with touches of the ball, when he finally got loose of Manchester City’s defensive shackles in the minute before half-time.
Hazard was deployed in his least favourite role – that of false nine – but it was not so much false as illusionary. Chelsea were not set up to get him in the game, bar a break against the run of play which, out of nowhere, is what happened. Hazard, because he is a lovely footballer although not best served right now, simply eased Aymeric Laporte out of his way and cut inside towards goal.