It was League Cup Quarter Final week and Brentford, Newcastle, Arsenal, Man City, Stoke, Spurs, Everton and Man United were the ones left vying to get into the Last Four of the competition and then hopefully onto the Final at the end of April.
Tuesday night saw the first two Quarter-Finals completed, so here is how those matches fared…
Brentford 1 Newcastle United 0
It was Championship Vs Premier League at the Brentford Community Stadium in West London, and the hosts had every right to feel confident ahead of this one, thirteen unbeaten and they had knocked out three Premier League sides in a row on route to this Last Eight battle.
Newcastle though had fielded a strong line up as Steve Bruce and his boys were taking this competition very seriously indeed, whilst The Bees made several changes from their weekend line-up, with one of those a big talking point prior to kick-off as scorer of sixteen goals for the season Ivan Toney was on the bench, was this a risk in such a big game perhaps?
The opening twenty or so minutes saw a Pinnock header fly over the visitor’s bar, whilst down the other end Callum Wilson saw an effort well saved by hosts keeper Daniels, and then Fraser swung in a superb ball which Wilson so nearly got on the end of for the visitors, but apart from this, there had not been much flow to the contest.
Brentford then missed two glorious chances to take the lead, firstly when after the visitors had lost the ball, The Bees saw a ball played into Ghoddos see him hit the ball into the ground and onto the bar, and then secondly when Canos somehow headed wide after Pinnock had headed the ball back into the danger zone, would the Bees rue those missed opportunities?
Fraser then saw a powerful effort well tipped over by Bees stopper Daniels, and with the rain teeming down in West London the pitch was taking a battering and looked quite bare in places, this probably down to the fact they share the facility with London Irish, so it looked like the football/rugby combo was not doing the surface any good!!!
Wilson then managed to get in on goal for The Magpies but was pushed wide by Daniels and the chance went, and it meant the contest remained goalless going into the break, with both sides dreams of a semi final place still very much alive.
The early exchanges of the second period saw a Wilson header fly over the Bees bar and then a Murphy effort fired wide, whilst the host saw a dangerous ball into the six-yard box just about dealt with by Toon defender Hayden, and although the ball did strike his arm, it came off his knee onto it and was most certainly not a penalty, and of course with no VAR in use here the referee’s decision was final, ahhhhhh how lovely.
Twenty minutes into the second half though Brentford went in front, and it was courtesy of the best player on the pitch Josh Dasilva, who slammed home a Canos cross, and the Championship club were twenty-five minutes or so away from a first major semi-final in their history.
Brentford then brought on Ivan Toney whilst Bruce had brought on Dwight Gayle and Joelinton to try and get his side back into the contest (albeit those two had come on just before the Bees goal) and soon after Wilson saw an effort well blocked inside the host’s box as Newcastle looked for a quick repost.
Brentford then had a wonderful chance to put this tie to bed but saw a Norgaard effort from point-blank range superbly stopped by Karl Darlow, how important could that save turn out to be, and now with Wilson, Gayle, Joelinton and Andy Carroll all on the pitch for the visitors, it was all-out attack to try and take the tie to penalties for the Toon.
The Bees had to deal with some late pressure from the visitors, but they remained resolute in defence, and then almost sealed it in injury time when Toney saw a good effort brilliantly tipped wide by Darlow, but soon after the whistle went, and Brentford had their first major semi-final to look forward to in January.
Dasilva had been superb in this one for The Bees, and it was his goal that settled this contest, he was so calm on the ball and always had time, a good sign of a quality player that, and he deservedly got MOTM too, so well played sir. Disappointing for Newcastle though who exit the competition and now will look to pushing up the Premier League table now.
The second Quarter Final to take place on Tuesday came from the Emirates and saw a struggling Arsenal take on a Man City side who had won the last three League Cups, and had won 20 of their last 22 in the competition, so a daunting task for a side who are having their worst season for some time…
Arsenal 1 Manchester City 4
Both sides rotated their squads, Arsenal made eight changes to Man City’s seven, but both were still packed full of quality, although some Gunners fans may disagree with that!!!
What Arteta and Co needed was a good start, but sadly they got the opposite as it only took City two minutes to break through as a Zinchenko cross into the six-yard saw a totally unmarked Gabriel Jesus head home from close range and the visitors had the perfect start to this one.
Arsenal defenders Gabriel and Mustafi just looked at each other, and young keeper Runarsson could have probably been more commanding too, but all in all it was poor marking and defending in general and you feared the worst for the hosts at this stage.
There was a moment during one of City’s attacks where Fernandinho’s fingers appeared to catch Gabriel in the face and see the defender go down, now initially I thought he was making a meal of it, but after seeing replays you thought hmm, and had VAR been in use for this one, which it wasn’t as it doesn’t come in until the semi final stage, they may have sent the City player off, but we will never know now will we.
The visitors had been totally dominant in the opening half-hour though, it had almost been like a training exercise for them, but just past the half-hour mark Arsenal from nowhere levelled, and it was mainly down to the efforts of Gabriel Martinelli, back after nine months out through injury and had looked like one of the only Arsenal players to show any passion and commitment.
His cross into the box found Lacazette who sent a decent header back from whence it came and into the far corner, and this tie was now all square.
City could and should have gone back in front just before the half time whistle when Jesus got in but Runarsson, who was having a difficult game so far, made a superb stop to deny the City striker, and then a blow for the Gunners when Marinelli tried to get on the end of a long ball forward and get round keeper Steffen, but the keeper got their first and cleared but in doing so caught Martinelli on the ankle.
The Arsenal star was down in a lot of pain and although he did come back out after the break, he was soon subbed off as he could not continue, let us hope it is not too serious and he is back soon.
To add to Arsenal’s misery, they saw City strike quickly before the hour to gain back total control of this contest once again, a Mahrez free-kick, although powerfully struck, was straight at Runarsson, but the keeper allowed it to burst through his hands and into the net, oh dear, it was not a good night for the Icelandic keeper that is for sure.
And then Foden got through to send a lovely deft finish over Runarsson although replays showed he may have been just offside when the ball was played, had VAR been in town that goal most definitely would have not stood, but it wasn’t, so it did.
The game was as good as done by now, but City did add a fourth goal with seventeen minutes left, and it was oh so simple too, as Foden played in a superb ball for Laporte to divert the simplest of close-range headers into the net, and Arsenal now just wanted this to end for sure, it had been way too easy for the visitors in truth.
City’s magnificent record in this competition in recent times continued, whilst for Arteta and his side it was another night to forget and they must now turn their attentions to trying to get out of what is fast becoming a relegation scrap for his side in the Premier League. Worrying times indeed for the hosts.
Onto Wednesday now and the other two Quarter-Final ties…
Stoke City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3
Could Mourinho’s Spurs do it on a cold wet and windy night in Stoke, well we would find out as it was a cold, wet, windy night in Stoke, and the hosts were looking to add another PL scalp to their name having already dumped Wolves and Aston Villa out on their route to the quarters.
And with the visitors having a bit of a wobble in the league could the hosts pile more misery on the Premier League side? Both sides made plenty of changes with the hosts making six changes and the visitors seven, squad rotation in full swing as per usual in this competition, but still strong sides, nonetheless.
Stoke had a bit of a keeper crisis and had to field 37-year-old Andy Lonergan, he kept an early Harry Kane strike out as Spurs dominated the early exchanges, but he could do nothing on 22 minutes as Spurs grabbed a deserved lead when a wonderful ball in by Harry Winks saw Gareth Bale glance into the far corner.
The visitors ended up dominating the entire half and Lonergan was certainly earning his corn, producing a couple of decent stops to keep out Dele Alli, and the visitors would have been disappointed to only be a goal up at the break, Stoke had offered nothing at all going forward and had been disappointing in such a big game.
Eight minutes after the break, through Stoke, who had come out of the dressing room which much more vigour, struck a blow when a decent cross from Jacob Brown saw Jordan Thompson fire past Hugo Lloris at the far post, it was his first for the club and a good time to open his account, could Stoke now make it a tough night for Spurs?
To be fair to the PL side they weathered that Stoke storm and were soon back controlling possession again, and with twenty minutes remaining got their noses back in front when Ben Davies struck a fabulous effort from range in off the post after a poor clearance from the hosts’ defence, and it settled them down a bit more and it meant Stoke had to chase the game.
Spurs then thought they had grabbed a third when Kane pinched the ball of a defender and sent his partner in crime through who produced a neat finish, but the flag had gone up, but on looking at the replays Son was onside, so a bit of bad luck for the visitors there.
It mattered not though and with just over ten minutes left another mistake from the hosts, giving the ball away in midfield, saw Sissoko’s lovely first time pass into Kane see the striker take a touch to set himself and then fire home brilliantly to seal this contest and Spurs passage into the Last Four.
Stoke did put up more of a fight in the second period after a poor first-half display, but ultimately their PL opponents were top much for them.
The final Last Eight tie came from Goodison Park, as Everton took on Man United for a place in the Last Four in front of 2,000 fans in the North West…
Everton 0 Manchester United 2
Both sides fielded strong line ups, The Toffees only making three changes from the side at the weekend, whilst United made nine changes but still had a side packed full of quality, both sides were taking this seriously and fancied a chance of a trophy.
United bossed the opening 20-25 minutes as Everton failed to settle, Cavani saw Olsen make a good double save whilst Greenwood saw a header glance off the outside of the post, but Everton did at least come into the contest past the half hour mark, Sigurdsson saw an effort blocked and Calvert-Lewin sent a header at goal.
Sigurdsson was looking Everton’s main threat though and he saw a free-kick palmed away by Henderson, although United had the final attempt of the half when Fernandes sent a dipping free-kick at goal by Olsen got down smartly to save it, and the half ended goalless.
Early in the second period came a talking point when Mila and Cavani clashed in the middle of the park and ended with Cavani appearing to grab his opponent round his neck and force him to the ground, yes Mila may have made a meal of it but had VAR been around Cavani may have been in trouble?
Everton was then dealt a blow when Richarlison was knocked out after a clash with Pogba and Fernandes, and the Everton forward had to come off looking rather dazed and not really knowing where he was, he wanted to come back on but there was no way the docs would allow that, and rightly so too. Ancelotti confirmed he was ok afterwards though so that is good news.
It seemed though that this tie was drifting to penalties, that was until Cavani, the man who could have been sent off early in the second period, produce a moment of magic to fire a brilliant left-footed effort into the far corner with three minutes left, and Everton now had that plus five minutes of stoppage time to rescue the tie.
Everton threw players forward in search of this, which left them in danger of being countered by a United side who now had Martial and Rashford on the pitch, and after Fernandes had struck the woodwork and Rashford had seen an effort saved by Olsen, they sealed the deal five minutes into stoppage time when Rashford played in Martial to slot home and seal United’s passage into the Last Four.
Everton may point to that flashpoint between Mila and Carvani and feel the United man should not have been on the pitch to score that late goal, and it might have been a totally different game and outcome, but United will in turn feel they were good value for their win, especially after there start to the contest. Ultimately it was United who prevailed and reached the Semi Finals.
The Semi Final draw was made following the match at Goodison, and this is what it came up with…
Semi Final draw (ties to be played over one leg in the week beginning January 4th)
Manchester United v Manchester City
Tottenham Hotspur v Brentford
So, a Manchester derby for one of the semi-finals, and an exciting Brentford team taking on Spurs for the other, should be a couple of cracking games, the winners, of course, meet at Wembley on April 25th, where hopefully we can have fans there to watch, fingers crossed for that!!!