Winners and Losers from Capital One Cup Semi-Finals
We now know who will be competing in this season’s Capital One Cup final at Wembley Stadium on March 2 after the conclusion to this week’s semi-final second legs, with first as expected Manchester City disposing of West Ham United, before Sunderland then stunned Manchester United.
And after two showdowns of contrasting drama and emotions, these are the winners and losers from the League Cup semis...
The New Ronaldo Shines for City
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini handed Portugal Under-19 international Marcos Lopes just his second start of the season at Upton Park on Tuesday night, and he was rewarded with a man-of-the-match display from the 18-year-old as the visitors romped to yet another comfortable win against West Ham.
The Brazil-born attacking midfield player helped to create both of City’s first two goals, including an inch-perfect left-wing centre straight onto striker Alvaro Negredo’s forehead for their third-minute opener that made the rest of the tie all but a formality.
And after the full-time whistle, City defender Joleon Lescott was full of praise for the academy graduate, nicknamed “Ronaldo” by his team-mates, telling Sky Sports: “It’s not just his quality on the ball, it’s his desire off the ball as well. You can see how hard he works.
“We’ve known about him for a while, and is nicknamed ‘Figo’ and ‘Ronaldo’ around the club. He’s got a very bright future.”
Big Problems for Big Sam
Things just seem to be going from bad to worse for beleaguered West Ham boss Sam Allardyce, who not only had to watch his struggling side be completely outclassed by his expensively assembled opponents at an empty Upton Park on Tuesday night, but then saw key holding midfield player Mohamed Diame be stretchered off late on with a knee injury.
The away fans took great delight in chanting “9-0 in your cup final” for the last half an hour of the second leg, although seeing as there were only 14,390 supporters in the ground, the Hammers’ lowest crowd of the entire campaign and fourth-lowest in the last 10 years, they were virtually singing to themselves by that point.
However, at least Big Sam saw club-record signing Andy Carroll get through a much-needed 45-minute workout on his comeback from injury, although that was the only positive news on an otherwise bleak night for the struggling east Londoners.
No Place Like the Home of Football for Senor Pellegrini
In stark contrast, things are currently going swimmingly for Manchester City’s urbane coach, Manuel Pellegrini, with the Chilean remaining on course for an unprecedented and record-breaking quadruple in his debut campaign at Eastlands following his side’s thumping win against West Ham in the Capital One Cup semi-finals.
And Pellegrini will now have the honour of leading City out at Wembley Stadium in March after the north-west outfit’s 3-0 second-leg win at Upton Park confirmed both the club’s first appearance in the League Cup final for 38 years and their third domestic final in the last four years, while all thanks to a record-breaking 9-0 aggregate triumph at this stage of the competition.
However, no one can argue that Pellegrini and Co. did not deserve their victory over the two legs, during the course of which City managed a staggering 33 efforts, 17 of which were on target, while they also took their tally of goals scored so far this season to a whopping 106 in the process.
Beware the Ex
Phil Bardsley’s 119th-minute strike in effect ended up keeping Sunderland in the competition, albeit via a huge slice of fortune from the flapping hands of Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea.
And incredibly, the Salford-born full-back scored exactly six years to the day that he left Old Trafford to join the Black Cats, and not only that, it was the north-east outfit’s only effort on target in the entire two hours of action.
However, Bardsley and Co. were not complaining after Sunderland won a dramatic penalty shootout to take their place in a first domestic cup final for 22 years, where a first trophy in 41 years will be up for grabs.
Wednesday night’s shock loss to Sunderland was the fifth time already in just six matches in three different competitions this year that David Moyes’ Manchester United have now tasted defeat, an incredibly worrying statistic for the Scot to digest.
However, after the shock of seeing his side fail to convert four of their five spot-kicks in the shootout to virtually put an end to any hope he may have had of winning a trophy in his first season at Old Trafford, the United boss was forced to concede on Sky Sports News that “Sunderland deserved to win tonight.”
And to add injury to insult, key midfield player Michael Carrick also limped out of the action late on after damaging his ankle.
The Italian Job
Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone produced a commanding display between the posts for the visitors at the Theatre of Dreams on Wednesday night, and none more so than in the kamikaze-style penalty shootout that finally settled the memorable semi-final.
In the first half, the former Arsenal shot stopper had to be alert to keep out Danny Welbeck’s close-range effort after Darren Fletcher had struck a post; however, the Italian really came into his own after the end of extra time.
And in total, an incredible seven spot-kicks out of the 10 taken were not converted, with Mannone himself saving from both Adnan Januzaj and then decisively right at the very end, Rafael da Silva.