The quarter-finals of the EFL Cup were played this week, and four teams have edged closer to the final at Wembley. One team who will not feature in the final this year are Manchester City, who have dominated the competition in recent years, but were surprisingly beaten by the Premier League’s bottom club.
Manchester United 3 Charlton Athletic 0
League One Charlton were the lowest ranked team left in the competition, and few gave them much chance when they travelled to Old Trafford to Manchester United. They fell behind to a first-half goal by Brazilian international Antony, but gave a good account of themselves, and held their opponents at bay for much of the rest of the match.
Two late goals by Marcus Rashford made the final score-line more convincing than the match itself had been.
Newcastle United 2 Leicester City 0
Newcastle’s pursuit of their first major trophy for more than 50 years continues to gather momentum, as they beat Leicester City in front of an expectant home crowd.
They had already created and missed a host of chances, when defender Dan Burn put them ahead with his first goal for the club he has supported all his life.
Joelinton then added a second from Miguel Almíron’s incisive through ball.
Southampton 2 Manchester City 0
Not much has gone right for Southampton this season, whose poor league form cost manager Ralph Hassenhüttl his job, whilst his successor Nathan Jones had been struggling to turn round their fortunes.
Although they were at home, they began heavy underdogs against a star-studded Manchester City side that have won the EFL Cup six times in the past decade.
Despite the likes of Erling Haaland and Kevin de Bruyne starting on the bench, City were still expected to be too strong for the Saints, but the understudies produced a lacklustre first half and the home side took full advantage.
Sekou Mara gave them the lead with a cool finish and then Moussa Djenepo added a second with a long-range lob, catching Stefan Ortega in the City goal off his line.
City threw on the cavalry in the second half, with both Haaland and de Bruyne thrown into the fray, but they could not save their side on this occasion.
Nottingham Forest 1 Wolves 1 (Forest win on penalties)
Forest reached their first EFL Cup semi-final in 31 years by beating Midlands rivals Wolves after a penalty shoot-out.
It was the home side that took the lead when Morgan Gibbs-White sent in an inviting cross for Willy Boly to stab home (both used to play for Wolves ironically!).
The visitors, though, got back on level terms, with new signing Matheus Cunha supplying a low cross for Raul Jímenez to convert.
With the scores level at 90 minutes, under the rules of the competition it went straight to penalties.
Both sides missed their first spot kicks but Forest scored all four of their remaining efforts from 12 yards. Dean Henderson then saved Joe Hodge’s attempt to book his team’s place in the last four.
The match though ended with stewards pulling both sets of players apart as tempers frayed.
Nottingham Forest will be at home to Manchester United in the first leg of their two legged semi-final, whilst Southampton will host Newcastle United.
With all respect to both Forest and Southampton, Manchester United and Newcastle will both expect to make it through to Wembley, which offers the prospect of an intriguing match between two teams that are effectively emerging from two different footballing projects.
Erik ten Hag inherited a Manchester United side in disarray on and off the pitch, and has taken his time to stamp his authority on the club, and impose discipline (culminating in the termination of Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract).
However, he has turned things round and they are now headed in the right direction again.
Meanwhile, Newcastle, following the Saudi takeover, have avoided going the easy route of spending mega bucks on expensive players, but have chosen to evolve instead, a policy that has already reaped dividends with the club already third in the Premier League.
Their manager Eddie Howe maintains that their progress this season is ahead of schedule, and if it was to end with the ending of their long wait for silverware, then that would be more than confirmed.
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