Winners and Losers from Capital One Cup Semi-Finals: Moyes Feels the Heat
The first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-finals took place this week as struggling Sunderland hosted champions Manchester United at the Stadium of Light, while relegation-threatened West Ham United made the daunting trip to Eastlands to take on in-form Manchester City.
And with nine goals scored across the two fascinating first-leg ties in both Wearside and the North West, we have picked out the winners and losers from Tuesday and Wednesday nights’ encounters.
Brazil Beckons for Black Cats Wide Man?
Sunderland coach Gustavo Poyet was full of praise for winger Adam Johnson after the occasional England international made a match-turning contribution as a second-half substitute against United on Tuesday night.
Johnson replaced Emanuele Giaccherini 11 minutes after half-time with the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg still very much in the balance at 1-1, and it was the 26-year-old’s driving run into the visitors’ penalty box that resulted in the award of Sunderland’s winning spot-kick.
And the Englishman’s impact delighted his Uruguayan manager, who is quoted as saying on Goal.com: "He made my day because we were desperate for him to do well.
"We couldn't find the right space and the right time until Adam came in and changed it."
Now if Johnson can keep producing eye-catching cameos like that between now and the end of the season, then maybe the Englishman can sneak into Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson’s 23-man World Cup squad as a replacement for injured wide man Theo Walcott at Brazil 2014?
An Evening to Forget in the North East for the Flying Welshman
What an eventful night it turned out to be at the Stadium of Light for veteran United midfield player Ryan Giggs.
The Welshman started the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg on the front foot and almost gave the favourites an early lead when his 20-yard piledriver was deflected onto the Sunderland crossbar by Vito Mannone.
However, thereafter things went rapidly downhill for the 40-year-old, who first somehow managed to block Adnan Januzaj’s goal-bound effort before the youngster’s follow-up was correctly disallowed after Giggs had strayed into an offside position.
And then Giggs did manage to finally get his name on the scoresheet just before the break, except that the winger’s strike to open the scoring came at the wrong end.
Don Fabio Brings a Smile to Supporters Both on Wearside and Merseyside
Italy international Fabio Borini may not have been a regular goalscorer since joining the Black Cats on a season-long loan in September, but boy, have some of the frontman’s strikes been important for the North East giants, though.
And when Sunderland fans look back in a fortnight’s time, maybe they will reflect that none of Borini’s three goals to date for his adopted club have been more important than Tuesday’s 64th-minute penalty that has now given currently the Premier League’s worst team a slender 2-1 lead to take with them into the decisive second leg at Old Trafford later this month.
Either way, the 22-year-old sure made himself a popular figure back at parent club Liverpool with his winning spot-kick against the Reds’ archrivals from Old Trafford.
There is no escaping the fact that Manchester United boss David Moyes is currently under intense pressure at Old Trafford, and none more so than after Tuesday night’s latest loss to Sunderland.
In fact, everywhere you looked on Wednesday morning, there was an unedifying statistic to make the Scot squirm, such as United have not lost three games in a row since the fag end of the 2001 campaign, when the Premier League title had already been won. Or not since April 1992 have the Red Devils been beaten three times in the space of just a week.
Meanwhile, it is 82 seasons since the club last lost its opening three contests in January.
And with the new man at the helm having now presided over an eyebrow-raising eight defeats already in all competitions so far in his brief tenure at the Theatre of Dreams, things are looking very bleak indeed for Moyes at the moment.
There’s No Place Like Home for Manuel’s City Slickers
City’s urbane manager, Manuel Pellegrini, is now within touching distance of leading the North West outfit out at Wembley Stadium on March 2 after Wednesday evening’s 6-0 demolition of West Ham.
And the way the Blues are playing at the moment, who would bet against the experienced Chilean winning his first trophy since 2004 against either City rivals Manchester United or Sunderland in the Capital One Cup final.
City, who had an incredible 32 shots against the Hammers, have now hit six goals against three London clubs at Eastlands and average almost four goals a game at home this season.
Meanwhile, in the 15 fixtures in all competitions that Pellegrini and Co. have played at the Etihad so far in this campaign, City have won 14, netting 59 times in the process.
Sam Allardyce is now really feeling the pressure at Upton Park after watching his team be thrashed 6-0 against Manchester City in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final.
And this comes only three days after the East Londoners lost 5-0 at Championship outfit Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round, while the club are also just one place off the foot of the Premier League table, three points from safety.
As a result, Hammers fans could be heard calling for Big Sam’s head at Eastlands on Wednesday night, having watched their team lose five of their last six, scoring just six goals and conceding 22 times in the process.
The Beast Mauls West Ham
Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo is currently enjoying a great run in front of goal, with the Spain international scoring his second hat-trick of the season against West Ham United on Wednesday night.
And after the full-time whistle, City coach Manuel Pellegrini described the 28-year-old, who made it 10 cup goals already for the Blues so far this campaign and 15 in all competitions against the East London club, as the “complete player” on Sky Sports News.