By Jeremy Roth
The Capital One Cup ended in penalty kicks 1(1)-1(3) in favor of Manchester City, as Liverpool pushed City to the limit in Wembley Stadium. However, the usual suspects for Manchester City like Sergio Aguero or Yaya Toure didn’t receive the glory and press for their trophy-clinching victory on Sunday, February 28th. Rather, it was Willy Caballero, who normally serves the role as Joe Hart’s backup keeper, who filled national headlines for his gutsy performance in the drama-filled and pressure-packed penalty shootout. The 34-year-old Argentinian did more than just play his part in the crucial match, as he saved 3 Liverpool penalty kicks to secure the victory for City, who added its first trophy to its shelf for the 2015/16 season.
After last weekend’s crushing FA cup defeat to Chelsea FC in which Caballero saw 5 balls go into the back of the net for Chelsea, many skeptics were critical of Manuel Pelligrini’s decision to start Caballero over the always reliable Joe Hart. However, many skeptics also failed to recognize that City’s FA cup match against Chelsea also showcased only 3 legitimate first team starters for City as Pellegrini chose to rest his top players for their ensuing Champions League match, which could have accounted for the alarming amount of goals that City conceded with Caballero in net. Regardless of the context, however, the critics believed Caballero was destined to fail against the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and the rest of the Liverpool attack. Willy Caballero proved the doubters wrong and really showed his prowess during the second half of extra time in which he forcefully denied a powerful, point blank header from Liverpool’s Divock Origi to preserve the 1-1 draw and pushed the match into penalties.
After 3 penalty kicks had been saved against Lucas Leiva, Philippe Coutinho, and Adam Lallana, Yaya Toure sealed the City victory with a beautiful penalty into the bottom left corner of the net. However, the Manchester City players weren’t rushing over to the winning goal scorer. Rather, a massive dog pile ensued with Willy Caballero being crushed on the bottom with pure joy. This stunning performance on one of the biggest stages proves why soccer’s unpredictability allows it to be the world’s most popular sport. Caballero’s poor performance last week was a distant memory after his heroic and gutsy performance to secure a victory in one of the most highly pressurized situations in all of sports. Caballero’s failure seemed to have been set in stone even before kickoff, however, Caballero was the only one not to have seen the stone. He wrote his own history and will be remembered for his fearlessness in net as the world waited to see him fail.