South Korea midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng was denied another memorable Wembley experience as Sunderland lost to Manchester City in the League Cup final.
Ki Sung-Yueng’s dreams of more League Cup glory were dashed in frustrating fashion as Sunderland squandered the lead in a 3-1 defeat against Manchester City in Sunday’s final.
Just 12 months ago, South Korea midfielder Ki had left Wembley with his first piece of silverware in English football after helping Swansea thrash fourth-tier minnows Bradford 5-0 in the League Cup final.
The 25-year-old admitted a win for relegation-threatened Sunderland over big-spending City would be a far greater achievement and for 55 minutes it seemed Ki would secure a second successive medal as Gus Poyet’s team tenaciously clung onto the lead earned by Fabio Borini’s early goal.
But Ki, on a season-loan from Swansea, was denied another memorable Wembley experience as Sunderland faded in the second half, with goals from Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas winning the trophy for City.
It was cruel on Ki, who had performed admirably to keep City’s superstars at bay for so long.
Poyet had decided to swamp the midfield areas in a bid to stop City establishing their smooth-passing style and Ki’s presence was crucial to the Sunderland manager’s plan.
Ki, operating in the centre of a midfield three flanked by Jack Colback and Lee Cattermole, was tasked with dropping deep to start Sunderland’s attacks.
On top of that he had to help Cattermole and Colback try to subdue the imposing figures of Toure and Fernandinho.
But Ki has a determined, resolute streak forged when he left his family in Korea aged 12 to live in Australia so he could improve his sporting skills and learn English at a Brisbane college.
And that highly focused approach was on display as Ki and his Sunderland team-mate snapped tigerishly into their tackles.
It was a far cry from 12 months ago when Ki, deployed at centre-back against Bradford, barely needed to break sweat as Swansea cruised to victory in one of the most one-sided finals in the competition’s history.
Ki had already played his part in Sunderland’s fairytale run to Wembley with a crucial goal in their shock quarter-final win against Chelsea and a penalty in the dramatic semi-final shoot-out triumph over Manchester United.
And after Borini’s 10th minute goal and an impressive first half showing from Sunderland he was on course for an even more stunning success.
The former Celtic star almost doubled Sunderland’s lead early in the second half with a 30-yard drive which Costel Pantilimon had to tip over at full stretch.
But that save proved a crucial moment.
A team of City’s class couldn’t be held in check forever and a pair of brilliant strikes from Toure and Nasri in the space of two minutes shattered Ki’s dreams.