There will be no mid-season Wembley final for Manchester City this year. Winners of the League Cup for the last four seasons, Pep Guardiola’s side fell short in a penalty shoot-out at the London Stadium with Said Benrahma converting the final spot-kick to confirm it will be West Ham who advance into the last eight.
This week marked the fifth anniversary of the last time City were eliminated from the competition but they were unable to extend their impressive run of success after failing to convert a number of chances to settle the tie in 90 minutes. Phil Foden then dragged his penalty wide in the shoot-out and with David Moyes’s players showing unerring accuracy with their attempts, City’s hold on the trophy was finally loosened.
Guardiola inevitably rang the changes but despite retaining only Kyle Walker and Ilkay Gundogan from the side that started in Saturday’s victory at Brighton, the Catalans’s team was still looked impressively strong and certainly didn’t lack for experience.
The exception was Cole Palmer, the youngster who had caught the eye during a brief substitute appearance in the Champions League last week when he stepped off the bench against Club Brugge and scored his first goal in the competition in a 5-1 victory.
Palmer, 19, has been in outstanding form for the club’s junior teams and drawn comparison with Foden, prompting hopes he could be the next youngster to come through the ranks and establish himself in Guardiola’s first-team plans.
Included for only his third senior start, the teenager lined up in the middle of a front three, with Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling starting on the flanks. The committed West Ham defence meant it was difficult for any of City’s forward players to make an impression during the first half but Palmer did manage to conjure his side’s only shot on target during the opening 45 minutes with his effort denied by keeper Alphonse Areola who was forced to use his legs to save.
City’s attacking efforts too often lacked a spark with Sterling enduring a particularly frustrating night as he struggled to find space inside the crowded attacking third. Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan were able to get forward freely as the visitors dominated possession and Fernandinho anchored the midfield but West Ham displayed impressive concentration to limit City’s threat.
Gundogan did look as though he had found a pocket of space on the edge of the six-yard box but a heavy first touch allowed Ben Johnson, the Hammers right-back, to nip in and clear.
Moyes’s side were attempting to repeat their fourth round success when they knocked out Manchester United but faced with the prospect of competing at home and abroad this season – they face Genk in their latest Europa League group game next Thursday – the Hammers manager made eight changes to the side that beat Tottenham Hotspur here last Sunday.
Moyes could be satisfied with the way his side worked to contain City but they offered little as an attacking force in the first half and when Mark Noble did force keeper Zack Steffen to punch clear when he struck a powerful shot from outside the area, the speed of City’s counter-attack almost caught the home side out.
Despite a frustrating 45 minutes, City should stil