Manchester City 3, Arsenal 0
The Carling Cup could prove the perfect outlet for Mark Hughes this season. City have clattered a few hurdles in recent weeks—seven to be exact—with consecutive league draws hampering their pursuit of European football.
So it came as no surprise to see Mark Hughes’ team sheet for tonight’s Carling Cup clash with Arsenal. It was a refreshing sight to see a manager field a full-strength team in the competition, which has seen its value decreased annually.
Arsene Wenger’s team contrasted sharply with that of the home side. It is common knowledge that the French manager entertains the philosophy that the League Cup provides him with the perfect opportunity to blood his youngsters who are brimming with talent.
Tonight’s trip to Eastlands was no different. It had been suggested that he might be tempted to field a strong side after September’s tempestuous affair between the two sides, but he stuck with his prodigies.
Of course, Adebayor was singled out by the travelling away fans, despite his best diplomatic efforts in the tunnel as the teams readied themselves for battle. No amount of embracing or hugging will resurrect his tarnished reputation, in the eyes of the Arsenal fans at least.
Arsenal looked dangerous at times in the first half. Carlos Vela and Jack Wilshire displayed accomplished control of the ball, but lacked the strength to hold off robust challenges from Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott.
Nevertheless, it was Wilshire and Vela who combined to carve out the away side’s only real opening of the first half. Wilshire’s delicately threaded ball unleashed Vela, but Lescott recovered just in time to exert enough pressure on the Mexican who ultimately fired over the bar.
Arsenal showed strength in defence. On numerous occasions they blocked off the runs of Adebayor and Tevez, much to the frustration of Hughes who felt the referee was being too lenient.
Shaun Wright-Phillips appeared in a ruthless mood. His pace and sharp skills tormented Traore and the Arsenal left back didn’t take long to pick up a booking for a reckless lunge at the right winger.
Arguably the best action at the City of Manchester Stadium was occurring on the touchline as Hughes and Wenger constantly exchanged a barrage of choice words. Hughes didn’t take kindly to Wenger wasting time by displaying his "keepy-up" skills in the technical area.
Hughes barked out orders of "keep up the tempo" to his players. They responded.
Manchester City tightened their grip on affairs as the game ebbed and flowed towards halftime. They pressed the visitors all over the pitch, not affording Arsenal the time and space to deploy their total football mantra.
Arsenal began to look ragged and Chris Foy’s whistle came at an ideal time for Arsene Wenger. Unfortunately for the travelling fans, his words appeared to have little effect as Arsenal conceded five minutes into the second half.
Dogged persistence from Carlos Tevez paid off as the Argentine meandered his way past three defenders before driving the ball into the top corner. Rosicky was careless in cheaply surrendering possession to Craig Bellamy who had promptly slipped Tevez the ball.
It was Hughes’ turn to show off his talents, his Strictly Come Dancing credentials leave something to be desired, but regardless, he entertained the City fans with a gleeful jig. Wenger wasn’t impressed.
Silvestre avoided what seemed an obvious red card before Wright-Phillips reaped his reward from an accomplished performance. The right winger easily out-paced the leggy Silvestre before drilling an emphatic shot past Fabianski and into the roof of the net.
Before the end, City added a cheap third goal. Bellamy waltzed down the right wing, streaking to the by-line and laying the ball across the goal, allowing the substitute Weiss to easily tap the ball into the vacated goal. The youngster was clearly delighted with his effort.
The whistle sounded and City marched triumphantly into the semi final where they will be greeted with a mouth-watering derby clash with Manchester United.
Arsene Wenger refused to shake Hughes’ hand at the end, choosing to ignore the Welshman’s peace offering. Speaking after the match, he declared he was "free" to shake hands with whom he wanted.
If City produce more displays like the City fans witnessed in the second half, Hughes might be shaking off Wenger’s grip of that pivotal Champions League spot.
Manchester City: Given, Richards, Toure, Lescott, Bridge, Wright-Phillips, Ireland, Barry, Bellamy, Tevez, and Adebayor.
Arsenal: Fabianski, Eboue, Song, Silvestre, Traore, Eastmond, Merida, Ramsey, Rosicky, Wilshere, and Vela.
Man of the Match: Sean Wright-Phillips
The right winger was in sparkling form and much more adventurous in attack after a disappointing display against Brazil a couple of weeks back. He merited his fantastic finish.