Zlatan Ibrahimovic heads home the EFL Cup Final winner
Image by: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Manchester United won a thrilling 2017 EFL Cup Final against Southampton at Wembley, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late goal securing the Red Devils a memorable 3-2 victory.
Ibrahimovic, who was awarded the Alan Hardaker Trophy for his performance, had set the ball rolling in the first half with a fine free-kick, but that strike came against the run of play as Southampton started on the front foot.
The Saints showed their early intent with Ryan Bertrand and Cedric causing problems down the flanks with overlapping runs, but it was United who had the first shot on target — Paul Pogba’s fierce fourth-minute effort was straight at Fraser Forster.
Seven minutes later, the Saints thought they had the lead when Manolo Gabbiadini tucked home from close range, but the Italian striker was ruled offside from Cedric’s low cross. Nathan Redmond was also proving a nuisance to the United defence, and he cut in from the left-hand side soon after before dragging his shot wide of the target.
Not long after, United went ahead. Oriol Romeu scythed down fellow Spaniard Ander Herrera around 20 yards out, and Ibrahimovic curled his set-piece over the wall and beyond the despairing Forster.
Southampton threatened an immediate response with Gabbiadini and Dusan Tadic both forcing saves out of David De Gea, and Marcos Rojo did well to avert the danger after a James Ward-Prowse corner led to panic in the box.
The Argentinian defender was then involved at the other end of the pitch, as United doubled their advantage with 38 minutes on the clock. Neat work on the left-hand side resulted in Rojo teeing up Jesse Lingard, and the midfielder coolly slotted into the far corner for his third Wembley goal with the Red Devils.
However, the Saints refused to lie down and they got their reward on the stroke of half-time. James Ward-Prowse was afforded space on the right, and Gabbiadini was on hand to tuck the ball home and reduce the arrears.
After the restart, Southampton started where they left off. Redmond forced De Gea into a save with a fierce back-post volley, and after successive corners, the game was all square when Gabbiadini brilliantly hooked home a loose ball from 12 yards out just three minutes into the second half.
It was United’s turn to respond, and they nearly did when Ibrahimovic got in behind the defence and forced Forster into another save. The ball stayed alive though, and a teasing Valencia cross looked like creating an opportunity, but Anthony Martial and Pogba got in each other’s way and the chance was gone.
Just after the hour, Cedric burst forward again for Southampton and forced a corner, which Ward-Prowse put on the head of Romeu, but his effort bounced off the post and away.
Manchester United picked up the pace after that let-off — the outstretched leg of Maya Yoshida brilliantly denied Lingard a shooting chance, and then the United midfielder should have restored the lead soon after but fired over at the back post with what was his last action before being replaced by Marcus Rashford.
Rashford nearly made an immediate impact but was denied by the legs of Forster, however the England goalkeeper could do nothing in the 87th minute when United struck the game's decisive goal.
Moments after clearing a goal-bound header at one end, Ibrahimovic led a United breakaway up the Wembley pitch. The counter attack was held up, but Mourinho’s men remained patient, and eventually Herrera delivered the perfect cross for the Swede to head home a dramatic winner.
It was harsh on Southampton, who were the better side for long spells of the match, but it was United’s day as they held the famous trophy aloft for the fifth time in their illustrious history.
Manchester United: De Gea, Rojo, Smalling (c), Bailly, Valencia, Herrera, Pogba, Martial (Fellaini 90’), Mata (Carrick 46’), Lingard (Rashford 77’), Ibrahimovic.
Subs not used: Romero, Blind, Young, Rooney.
Southampton: Forster, Bertrand, Yoshida, Stephens, Cedric, Tadic (Boufal 77’), Romeu, Davis (c) (Rodriguez 90’), Ward-Prowse, Redmond, Gabbiadini (Long 83’).
Subs not used: Hassen, Caceres, Hojbjerg, McQueen.
Referee: Andre Marriner