Manchester City deserved winners despite Tierney's shambolic refereeing

Pep Guardiola has used the League Cup as a springboard for the rest of City's season so many times in the past that it was little surprise that he fielded a very strong XI for the final against Tottenham. He was rewarded for his decision – his side were rarely threatened by Spurs as they secured their fourth League Cup in succession by the narrowest margin.

One key question was whether Tottenham could finally win something after a couple of near misses in the Premier League and Champions League appearance under Mauricio Pochettino. The answer was a resounding 'no' but Spurs were asking a lot of Ryan Mason to end their 13-year wait for silverware.

Mason borrowed a couple of pages from the Jose Mourinho playbook, setting up with every man behind the ball, but there was a passivity to the Spurs' press, and they never looked like winners. It was a fragile performance born out of months of conservative, introverted football under Mourinho.

That was especially apparent in the first half when City chances came with relentless regularity: Phil Foden's shot was deflected on to the post by Toby Alderweireld in the 25th minute, Raheem Sterling lofted the ball wide in the 29th, Riyad Mahrez sent a trademark curler around Hugo Lloris' back post in the 35th, then just over the same frame in the 37th.

The second half was more balanced but there was no doubt about which team had the greater control over proceedings and it was little surprise when the winner came.

Nevertheless the goalscorer, Aymeric Laporte, should have been off the pitch by the time he received a yellow card for a foul on Lucas on the stroke of half-time. It was his second such challenge of the first half but referee Paul Tierney – having what can only be described in football parlance as 'a mare' – opted not to book him. Laporte may not have made the second challenge had he been on a booking but, by the same token, Lucas was on a charge into City territory when he was felled. Mind you, it's doubtful whether Spurs would have taken advantage of their extra man anyway. Still, they could feel hard done by when the Frenchman leapt highest at a Kevin de Bruyne free kick to nod it past Lloris for the winner with eight minutes remaining and sore at Tierney's abysmal performance, in general.

Two tackles, two different decisions

Sometimes you have to go back weeks and months to find inconsistencies in refereeing decisions that make you scratch your head. In the case of West Ham's Fabian Balbuena's dismissal during his side's 1-0 defeat by Chelsea we only had to wait minutes. In one second-half collision, Balbuena's standing foot caught Ben Chilwell as he cleared long upfield and was shown a red card after a VAR referral by Peter Bankes which referee Chris Kavanagh backed up. Soon after, Vladimir Coufal did likewise and caught Antonio Rudiger with his follow through. The decision? No red card, no booking, no free kick.

Talking about the officials after the game, David Moyes, the West Ham manager, said it made him wonder “if they've ever played the game”. Despite knowing otherwise, it actually made you wonder if they'd ever refereed a game.

In the battle of the acronyms it's IFAB not VAR that's the problem

Steve Bruce said it best at Anfield in the aftermath of his side's 1-1 draw against Liverpool. Having watched Callum Wilson have a goal ruled out in injury time for a handball that had occurred by dint of Alisson's close-range clearance off the Newcastle striker's hand, he was in celebratory mood following Joe Willock's subsequent late equaliser.

“Look I don't think it's VAR that's the problem, I think it's the actual rule itself. Do we have to adhere to these rules?”

It's not often this column agrees with Bruce but he was on the money. The inadequacies of certain rules and subsequent tinkering with them by IFAB have created an ambiguity around even the most basic of laws. The sea of confusion has been made murkier by announcements mid-season that certain rules will change. The change to the rule on attacking handball will take effect at the end of the season but some believe that rule has been brought into operation already. Why? Because IFAB have already changed the rules on defensive handball this season. There was a time when rule changes were conveyed to players at the start of a campaign. It worked back then . . .

Too much Pottering about

There has been much talk about the merits of Graham Potter as a coach. His Brighton side have played some of the best football in the Premier League during the campaign but they find themselves in 17th and, while unlikely to go down, they're still not as safe as they should be given the manner in which they have dominated games. There is a train of thought that says they have been let down by their lack of a seasoned finisher and certainly Neil Maupay's miss against Sheffield United from inside the six-yard box would back up that theory. But there is also a case to be made for invoking Einstein's definition of insanity here – and that falls on Potter.

A phoney war

Ah, the blood and fury of a Pennines derby, the historic re-enactment of the Roses rivalry, which fixture can beat it for bitterness? Well, plenty actually, if yesterday's encounter at Elland Road was anything to go by.

This was once a match characterised by hooligan confrontations, controversial transfers and on-pitch clashes – notably Roy Keane's disgraceful tackle that ended Alf Inge Haaland's career in 1997.

Shorn of supporters, passion and quality football, Leeds against Manchester United was a benign affair with Luke Ayling's colourful mid-game diatribe against referee Craig Pawson just about the only moment worthy of note.