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Pellegrini defends Sterling after cup success

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini defended Raheem Sterling after the attacker's below-par showing in his side's League Cup final win over Liverpool.

Sterling struggled to make an impact against his former club at Wembley on Sunday, missing an excellent chance on the hour-mark.

But the 21-year-old still finished a winner as City claimed a 3-1 penalty shoot-out victory after the 1-1 draw through 120 minutes.

Pellegrini said it was difficult for Sterling to deal with facing the club he left in the off-season, but was delighted he had silverware to collect.

"I don't want to analyse individual performances but I understand how Raheem felt," he said.

"It's not easy just for Raheem as a very young player, it's not easy for every player with more experience to play against your former team and he has a lot of friends.

"But Raheem took a very important decision at the beginning of the season. He wanted to come here to win titles and I'm very happy for him that he won already.

"I think he will be a very important player for a lot of years, so he will continue winning a lot of titles also."

Another player Pellegrini was thrilled for was Joe Hart, who watched from the bench as goalkeeper Willy Caballero was the hero with three penalty saves.

The Chilean said the England international had shown his leadership qualities with his response to missing out on starting.

"I'm very happy also for Joe Hart because he demonstrated tonight that he's not only a very good player, a very good goalkeeper, he's also a very good person," Pellegrini said.

"He was also supporting and shouting before the game in the dressing room. I'm very proud about the squad that I manage."