EFL Cup Third Round - Round-up
Tuesday nights, muddled acronyms, fourth string strikers, academy products, and Nicklas Bendtner, the League Cup truly has it all. Jurgen Klopp would agree. The deranged German manager got his Liverpool side pumped for the midweek action by daring them to overcome their cup final heartbreak last season. The motivation worked a treat, the Reds running out 3-0 winners over a hapless Derby outfit. Meanwhile, Nigel Pearson looks a man defeated in the Pride Park hot seat, which means in a year’s time he’ll be taking credit for whatever miracle his successor engineers.
Fortunately, Derby fans were salvaged from the bowls of ignominy by Arsenal’s comprehensive thrashing of Nottingham Forest. On a day when headlines were dominated by the return to English football of its favourite Scandinavian son, Nicklas Bendtner’s infinite ego was dealt a disastrous blow. Former flame Arsenal put four past the hapless Reds, and the dogged Gunner defense left little space for the Danish target man who could well have used the square foot of land he owns in the Highlands that consummate his title of Lord.
Perhaps the tie of the round was Leicester-Chelsea, an epic battler of Mediterranean masters. On the day, the man from Lecce triumphed, but not without sustaining some severe checks to his indelible confidence by Ranieri’s foxes. Leicester ran out 2-0 thanks to a brace from Shinji Okazaki, but goals from Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta either side of the break put the game back into the balance. Leicester held firm until the 89th minute when the world’s favourite Polish wrecking ball Marcin Wasilewski, the equivalent of all three Tuilagi brothers rolled into one, got his marching orders for a forearm to the face of Machiavelli’s favourite son Diego Costa. Two goals from Cesc Fabregas, the League Cup regular of Conte’s regime, propelled Chelsea into the last sixteen.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Reading held on for a 2-1 win over Brighton despite the best efforts of Tyler Blackett to demonstrate the defensive skills he learned under Old Trafford’s finest. Blackett can well feel hard done by as he looks a perfect successor to Phil Jones, grotesque cringing abilities aside. Preston beat Bournemouth 3-2 thanks to a hat-trick from England’s second favourite Danish frontman Simon Makienok, the 6’ 7” behemoth bringing the Vitality Stadium to its knees. Leeds won the battle of incompetence late on against Blackburn, Chris Wood finding the net and applying a bit of lotion to Massimo Cellino’s perpetually itchy trigger finger. On Merseyside, Norwich dismissed Everton thanks to a happy homecoming from Steven Naismith. A response, one might postulate, to Moyes’ assertion that he was one striker away from the league title. Meanwhile, Rafael Benitez served up a bit of revenge to Walter Zenga, the Toon reversing this weekend’s defeat with a 2-0 victory over Wolves.
Things didn’t slow down for a moment on Wednesday night either. Jose Mourinho and Slaven Bilic went a long way to easing mounting pressure with consummate victories over storied opposition. Bilic’s Hammers rolled to a 1-0 romp over Accrington, Payet rounding off the scoring with a late stoppage time free-kick that will go a long way to calming the nerves and silencing the dissenters in the London Stadium. They like their silence in that corner of Stratford, and don’t even get them started on raucous, standing fans. Meanwhile, the Special One rolled out a United eleven headlined by crowd favourite Wayne Rooney. Second half goals from Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford won the tie for the Red Devils, who will go back to Manchester buoyed for the visit of Leicester.
Late victories for Bristol, Sunderland, and Hull saw them into the next round, while Charlie Austin continued his good form for Saints against Crystal Palace, his goal opening the scoring in a 2-0 win. Pep’s young charges triumphed 2-1 over Swansea, a late Sigurdsson goal suggesting a closer game than was reality. Finally, Spurs looked oddly driven to return to the comfortable confines of Wembley, romping to a 5-0 embarrassment of Gillingham. A wonderful display from Christian Eriksen got Lilywhites the nation over lusting over what performances Tottenham’s finest could conjure in London’s premier footballing cathedral.