Pablo Zabaleta believes Willy Caballero’s Wembley penalty shoot-out heroics underline the collective strength of Manchester City’s squad.
Second-choice goalkeeper Caballero starred in Sunday’s dramatic Capital One Cup final win over Liverpool with three saves as the match was settled by spot-kicks.
The selection of Caballero ahead of Joe Hart, despite the Argentinian playing in all City’s domestic cup matches this season, raised eyebrows but his decisive stops vindicated manager Manuel Pellegrini’s decision.
Defender Zabaleta, who came on as a substitute in extra time, said: “I love Joe Hart. I have been eight years with him but before the game people had been talking too much about Joe Hart not being the preferred choice.
“I am so pleased for Willy. He was the hero of the day. We need to give a lot of credit to Willy because we are a team, we are a group. Players can win games but teams win trophies.
“I think Willy deserved to be in goal because he had been playing in this cup from the beginning. It was a great way for him to finish at Wembley and win his first trophy with Manchester City, to stop penalties and be the main man of the team.”
City have little time to celebrate as they must prepare to face Liverpool again in the Barclays Premier League on Wednesday.
Fourth-placed City lost on their last two league outings, to title rivals Leicester and Tottenham, and have fallen nine points off pace, albeit with a game in hand.
Zabaleta hopes the Wembley victory provides the perfect platform to launch a late charge for glory.
The 31-year-old Argentina right-back said: “We have got belief and confidence and we know we have a great squad. Now it is time to celebrate a little but then focus on Wednesday. We have another tough game. We know how tough Anfield is.
“It is going to be a huge game for us to try to win and get back on track.”
City were the better side for most of the game at Wembley, taking the lead early in the second half as Simon Mignolet failed to keep out Fernandinho’s shot.
Mignolet had earlier produced a fine save to deny Sergio Aguero, who also had a strong penalty appeal rejected. Raheem Sterling spurned a great chance to settle the contest against his old club before Philippe Countinho equalised after 83 minutes.
It eventually came down to penalties and City prevailed as Caballero kept out attempts from Lucas, Coutinho and Adam Lallana.
Zabaleta said: “We should have won the game in the second half after 90 minutes. We were better in big parts of the game, probably had the best chances. But we missed them, we were not clinical enough to kill the game off.
“Going to extra time and penalties is hard but at the end of the day we are happy because we won.
“It is fantastic. I am very pleased for the performance of the team.”