It’s unusual for a January signing has written himself into club history by the end of February, but Manolo Gabbiadini was just one refereeing decision away from doing so on Sunday afternoon as he was robbed of an EFL Cup final hat-trick by some poor officiating.
Just eleven minutes in was perhaps the moment that could have been decisive in deciding the tie as Gabbiadini was in a clearly onside position as Cedric Soares put a cross across the six-yard box for the Italian to put past David de Gea. The goal was ruled out by Andre Marriner and his linesman, clearly ignoring that the only player in an offside position was Ryan Bertrand, who did not interfere in play, meaning that the goal should have stood.
However, the former Napoli man did not let that stop him as he came back fighting just before half-time as he stabbed the ball between David de Gea’s legs to bring the Saints back into the game by halving the deficit just before the break. The poacher’s instincts were on show for the Italian, whose goal could have paid off the £14 million fee almost instantly.
It didn’t take him long after the break to make the crucial difference either, as he was alert to turn and volley the ball straight into the far corner of the net from a corner with only a few minutes gone in the second half, drawing his side back level.
Such clinical finishing is what Claude Puel’s side have been crying out for all season, so it did disappoint many even with Gabbiadini tiring when the 25-year-old was replaced by Shane Long with seven minutes left on the clock.
That lack of firepower proved costly, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s winner finding the net only moments later. Still, the Italian deserves recognition for one of the best individual performances in the tournament in recent years let alone this season.
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