Aston Villa’s valiant effort wasn’t enough to topple Manchester City at Wembley.
Early goals from Sergio Aguero and Rodri put Pep Guardiola’s side in a commanding lead – only for Mbwana Samatta to strike before half-time to give Villa hope.
And hope it remained up until Bjorn Engels’ bullet header with just four minutes left on the clock. The Belgian’s header was palmed onto the post by Claudio Bravo from point-blank range.
However, it was City’s day but it wasn’t for the want of trying.
Here’s how BirminghamLive club writer rated the Villa players…
Orjan Nyland, 7
In from the start as Smith stuck with the cup goalkeeper following the Norwegian’s heroics in the semis. Aguero’s opener was made all the more awkward for Nyland after Mings’ deflection while, for City’s second, the goalkeeper stood no chance. Saved brilliantly to get down low to stop Rodri scoring a second with a little over 15 to go. Saved well again from Bernardo Silva late on in what was a confident performance with both hands and feet.
Frederic Guilbert, 7
The Frenchman’s selection was vindicated just moments in, with Guilbert’s abundance of pace used to keep up and halt Raheem Sterling. Had Elmo in front of him for protection for large parts but he did relish that battle with Sterling and, in all fairness, kept the England wing wizard quiet.
Bjorn Engels, 7
Back in for his first start since that stoppage-time error against Spurs a fortnight ago. Put in a combative display alongside partner Mings, often putting his head where it hurts in brave attempts to City’s goal-bound efforts on goal. Assured in possession, often making the right call whether to pass short or long. Leaped like a salmon with just moments left and was almost – almost – Villa’s saviour – only for Claudio Bravo to pull of a wonderful point-blank save to divert Engels’ header onto the post.
Tyrone Mings, 6.5
Villa’s leader among men at the back – but it was his deflection which helped Aguero’s opener into the net. Mings did everything he could to stop City and put in a solid show. He’s a lot better than City’s crop of centre-halves, it has to be said. Booked late on.
Matt Targett, 5
Allowed Phil Foden far too much time for City’s opener, the youngster getting the better of Targett before heading to Aguero for City’s first. Foden, though, continued to dominate this battle, with the youngster duly being rewarded man of the match. As for Targett, his awareness was lacking and gave City far too much room down their right-hand side. Guilbert, on the other side, was much stronger.
Marvelous Nakamba, 7
Villa’s best midfielder in that central area, looked bang up for it and put in crucial blocks and made interceptions for fun. Had a classy look about him, picking apart some of City’s slack passes while, in the second half, put in a crunching tackle on Aguero to get the Villa faithful fired up. Stand-out performer for Villa at Wembley, for me. Needs to find that consistency now.
Douglas Luiz, 5.5
Up against his old club and was Villa’s driving force from midfield on many a occasion. Lacked that final ball, though, and was wasteful in good areas. Did OK up against the likes of Rodri and David Silva.
Jack Grealish, 5
Not the skipper’s day at all and looked a shadow of his former self. Much more dangerous when Smith pushed him in his usual inside forward position late on. That No.8 role didn’t suit him, didn’t have enough room to manoeuvre and, on his fifth appearance at Wembley, failed to light it up as he promised. Grealish’s standards are that high now, though. A disappointing day and, after the full-time whistle, sank to the floor before being consoled by City players. Was this his last chance to win something with Villa? Who knows.
Ahmed Elmohamady, 6
In for his first start since mid-January, last starting in the 6-1 defeat by City. Played ahead of Guilbert for protection and to give Villa an aerial threat from pumped balls out wide. Tracked back when needed while putting in his usual dangerous crosses which failed to find their intended destinations. Him and Guilbert stopped Zinchenko and Sterling, resulting the pair of them to nothing.
Mbwana Samatta, 7
Powered home a brilliant diving header, launching himself at El Ghazi’s cross to give Villa a lifeline at the break. It was a tough afternoon’s work for the Tanzanian, who rarely had a kick amid City’s dominance in possession. When asked, though, he came up trumps but was often tasked with playing on the toes of Rodri in midfield. Villa struggled to get bodies around him – but what a goal it was as well but, in the end, it was all in vain. Now scored two in his last four appearances and the 28-year-old will be vital for Villa’s survival hopes in the weeks to come. Subbed off for Davis after running himself into the ground.
Anwar El Ghazi, 6
Back in after coming off early last week – and it was El Ghazi’s ball which found Samatta for Villa’s goal back. The Dutch winger caused City problems in the opening stages and latched onto Stones’ comical error. Fired a shot straight down Bravo’s throat after the break in a rare attempt on City’s goal. Was replaced by Hourihane, though, with 20 to go in a ploy to push Grealish further upfield.
Trezeguet (on for Elmohamady, 69), 4
Came on for his mate Elmo with 20 left but failed to hurt City. Didn’t get in behind enough as City dominated.
Conor Hourihane (on for El Ghazi, 69), 5
A surprise not to start this one after Smith’s cry for changes last week. Hourihane put in the corner for Engels late on – only for Bravo to dig out that save.
Keinan Davis (on for Samatta, 78), 4
Chucked on with a little over 10 to go. Barely touched the ball, though.