The ZLATAN FINAL; Ibrahimovic (Who Else?) Steals the Show with Two Crackers to Seal His 19th Major Trophy after a Stunning Wembley Thriller

The Mirror (London, England), February 27, 2017 | Go to article overview

The ZLATAN FINAL; Ibrahimovic (Who Else?) Steals the Show with Two Crackers to Seal His 19th Major Trophy after a Stunning Wembley Thriller


Byline: JOHN CROSS Football Writer

THERE was only ever going to be one man who could steal the show at Wembley.

Step forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic with the late winner and manof-the-match performance in an unforgettable EFL Cup final.

In typical Ibrahimovic fashion at the end, the all-conquering stood in front of the Manchester United fans and waited for each and every one of his team-mates to come up and congratulate him.

The giant Swede loves being the centre of attention even after the 19th major trophy of his glittering career and, make no mistake, this will go down as the Zlatan final.

The brilliant five-goal thriller was a fantastic shot in the arm for the League Cup, which has so often been derided.

It was a fabulous game. United went two up, Southampton roared back with a sensational double from Manolo Gabbiadini, and there looked to be only one winner. But Jose Mourinho's incredible record of never having lost a domestic cup final makes you feel that somehow he will always find a way to win.

The key to Mourinho's success must surely be his knack of recruiting winners - and Ibrahimovic has that in his DNA.

He found space in a busy penalty box in the 87th minute of a puslating final to head home the winner and break Southampton hearts.

While some of his teammates struggled, possibly because of the Europa League tie at St Etienne in midweek or because of the pressure of the occasion, Ibrahimovic was inspirational.

But even when United went two up, Southampton were arguably the better team and their comeback was so brave that they did not deserve to lose.

They were the victims of a refereeing mistake after 11 minutes. Gabbiadini had the ball in the net but linesman Stuart Burt put up his flag for offside.

TV replays showed he was onside and it was team-mate Ryan Bertrand was the offfender. Interestingly, there is a two-day International FootballAssociation Board conference at Wembley this week when they will discuss video technology again.

It cannot come soon enough. The sense of injustice got worse after 19 minutes. Oriol Romeu was booked for a foul on Ander Herrera 25 yards out and, as he stood over the freekick, you somehow knew this was Ibra's moment.

Up stepped the imperious Swede to smash a shot which just cleared the wall and just evaded the outstretched arms of Southampton keeper Fraser Forster.

As good as the strike was from Zlatan, questions must be asked about Forster's positioning.

United keeper David De Gea made super saves from James Ward-Prowse and Dusan Tadic as Southampton came back. And it looked game over when Jesse Lingard fired United two up after 38 minutes following great work by Marcos Rojo.

Yet Saints dug deep and in first-half stoppage time Gabbiadini gave them hope as he turned in Ward-Prowse's low cross.

Suddenly it was game on and Southampton were level three minutes after the restart. …

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