Manuel Pellegrini secured his first trophy as Manchester City manager as they staged a second-half revival to beat Sunderland and win the Capital One Cup at Wembley.
Sunderland – seeking their first major trophy since the famous 1973 FA Cup win against Leeds United – deservedly led at half-time through Fabio Borini’s fine angled strike after 10 minutes.
This entertaining final turned inside two minutes just after half-time as City struck twice to finally exert their authority over Sunderland, who had dominated until that point and gave a fine performance throughout.
Yaya Toure equalised with a brilliant instant finish from 25 yards in the 55th minute, before Samir Nasri’s spectacular strike changed the entire course of the game and set City on the way to some sort of consolation for last May’s shock FA Cup final defeat by Wigan Athletic.
Substitute Jesus Navas added a third in the final minute to give the scoreline a harsh appearance given the manner in which the Black Cats had matched City for so long.
The Capital One Cup may not be at the top of Pellegrini’s list of priorities, but this first trophy will be welcomed by the Chilean, who was appointed last summer.
City’s focus now turns to the Premier League title, the arduous task of overturning a two-goal deficit in their Champions League last-16 tie against Barcelona and an FA Cup quarter-final clash with Wigan Athletic.
As for Sunderland, this will be a bitter disappointment for manager Gus Poyet, his players and the magnificent support who splashed their famous red and white stripes around Wembley – but they can take great confidence from a Cup run that claimed the scalps of Chelsea and Manchester United, as they attempt to stay in the top flight.
Pellegrini preferred Costel Pantilimon to Joe Hart in goal but the big lift came as he was able to recall striker Sergio Aguero after a month out with a hamstring injury.
City’s confident start was no indication of what was to come as Sunderland’s sheer passion – and plenty of quality, it should be stressed – reduced the favourites to a shambles on occasions during the first half.
Poyet plumped for the speed and mobility of Borini, ahead of the physical power of Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore, to put pressure on City’s central-defensive pairing of Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis.
And it produced the perfect reward after only 10 minutes when Italy striker Borini got the better of Kompany in the chase for Adam Johnson’s pass, shrugging him aside before showing great composure to sweep a finish past Pantilimon with the outside of his right foot.
The goal shook City and Sunderland threatened to take further advantage, Borini’s shot from the edge of the area deflecting just over off the back of Edin Dzeko and Wes Brown heading off target from a corner.
Borini, on loan from Liverpool, stretched City again and threatened to add a second as he raced clear but this time Kompany made amends by making a crucial tackle as he recovered his ground on the Italian.
City’s response was muted, and sometimes not even as good as that, with Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone’s only worry coming when he had to deal with Aguero’s low 20-yard shot.
It was inevitable that Pellegrini would shake up his sleeping side at half-time – making the opening phase of the second half even more crucial to the outcome of the game.
And so it proved as City showed their quality with two goals of the highest calibre inside two minutes to change the mood inside Wembley and the match itself.
Toure had been a peripheral figure until he collected Pablo Zabaleta’s pass 25 yards out after 55 minutes and the Ivory Coast midfielder, almost nonchalantly, lifted a spectacular finish over Mannone into the top corner.
The element of surprise caught the goalkeeper just too far off his line but it would be harsh in the extreme to attach any blame to the Italian.
He was powerless again as France international Nasri struck again almost immediately to put City in front, taking Aleksandar Kolarov’s cross in his stride to score with the outside of his foot with Mannone motionless.
Pellegrini immediately sent on Navas for Aguero and it was not long before Poyet made a double substitution, sending on Fletcher and Craig Gardner for Johnson and Seb Larsson.
Just as stoppage time was about to start, substitute Fletcher wasted a chance with poor control. It was to prove the final moment of hope for Sunderland.
As they pressed for the equaliser, City caught Sunderland on the break and Toure swept forward to set up Spain winger Navas for the goal that finally decided the destination of the trophy.