Mickey Mouse cup? Waste of time? A distraction? Not on your nelly!
Burton Albion v Manchester City, Wednesday 23 January, 7.30pm + Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur, Thursday 24 January, 7pm, Sky Sports Football/HD (CH 513/503)
Once upon a time, claims that big clubs regarded the Carabao Cup as an unnecessary interference threatened to compromise the integrity of the long-standing competition. Thankfully, the naysayers have since been proved very, very wrong.
A quick glance at the past five winners shows Manchester City (thrice), Manchester United and Chelsea. So far, so big! In fact, you have to go back to 1991 for the last time a team outside the top flight held the title – and that remains the only final-stage upset in the past 42 years.
This week, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester City continue their hunt for a first piece of seasonal silverware (Pep Guardiola kicked off his City revolution by winning this very trophy last February) in the second leg of the semi-finals.
It’s been a headline-grabbing tournament up to now, with thrills and spills at every turn. Read on to relive the best bits from the competition (so far!)...
Farewell extra time, hello added drama. In a move to maintain early round excitement, the extra 30 minutes no one could be faffed with on a Tuesday night was scrapped this season. This has resulted in 17 penalty shootouts (special mention to the 10-9 epic involving Nottingham Forest and Bury), with four teams relying on penalty wins to see them through two of their three games in the competition. Splendid, spot-kicking stuff.
West Ham v Macclesfield Town
Quite literally. Prior to their third-round encounter with West Ham, two of Macclesfield’s three wins from their first 12 games had come in this competition. Buoyed by the prospect of a surprise scalp against a team struggling to acclimatise under Manuel Pellegrini, they kept the Hammers at bay for 27 minutes, and then conceded eight – yes, EIGHT – in 54 minutes. That’s a goal every seven minutes. Ouch.
Wilson’s wonder strike
Derby County v Manchester United
“It was a bit too far out to curl it,” said Derby’s Harry Wilson at around 10pm on Tuesday 25 September. No kidding. The 21-year-old Welshman was referring to the moment he instead produced a rocket to fire The Rams level in their second-round tie with Manchester United. Sergio Romero stood no chance, Liverpool loanee Wilson blew kisses to the Old Trafford faithful and Derby went on to win on penalties. Job done.
Nottingham Forest v Newcastle United
Penalty! Ref… Ref?! After clattering poor Ayoze Pérez in the box as Newcastle chased a last-minute equaliser at the City Ground, Nottingham Forest keeper Luke Steele could not believe his luck when man in the middle Jeremy Simpson waved play on. The home side duly went up the other end to kill the game off, prompting manager Rafa Benítez to run on the pitch in a bid to calm the Pérez pandemonium that ensued. See, they do care!
What the L?
Yeovil Town v Aston Villa
Oh dear. Yeovil’s Diallang Jaiyesimi had bold intentions when he bundled home what he thought was a perfectly legitimate goal in their first-round clash against Aston Villa. The visitors’ 2,000-strong following were treated to a rendition of the “Take the L” dance popularised by video game Fortnite (ask your kids). Sadly, the goal was disallowed and Jaiyesimi ended up on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat. We’re guessing he didn’t take that particular “Loss” too well.
Tottenham Hotspur v Watford
“White Hart Lane?” “Not ready mate.” “Wembley?” “Too big mate.” “Oh. Er… Milton Keynes it is then.” Not in their wildest nightmares would Spurs fans have considered schlepping to north Buckinghamshire for a home game this season, but that’s exactly what happened, as Watford weren’t deemed high profile enough to play at the national stadium. As it goes, the third-round tie was an absolute cracker, with three goals and a red card – all in the final ten minutes. Worth the trip really…
Oggy, oggy, oggy… ouch, ouch, ouch!
Derby v Chelsea
When the ball hits your heel, like you think it’s not real, that’s Tomori. Following their Old Trafford heroics, Derby and returning Blues legend Frank Lampard visited Chelsea with the rare scenario of also having two Chelsea loanees in their starting line-up. One of those was defender Fikayo Tomori who, five minutes in, skewed a clearance into his own net, much to the bewilderment of both sets of teammates. Incredibly, captain Richard Keogh did the same thing a short time after, and The Rams’ Carabao Cup capers came to a bizarrely self-inflicted end.
The Clough clash
Under the stewardship of his father Brian, Nigel Clough won successive EFL Cups as a player with Nottingham Forest in 1989 and 1990. Fast forward 28 years and Clough Jr, now Burton Albion manager, defeated his old club in a humdinger of a local derby to send the League One side into the last eight for the first time in their history. Oh, and Aston Villa and Burnley were beaten along the way, too. Bravo Brewers.
Stoke City v Huddersfield Town
Yes, you read that right. Stoke’s Saido Berahino, a striker who narrowly missed out on a £20m move to Tottenham just a few short years ago (they ended up giving some kid called Harry Kane a chance instead) ended a goalless run of 913 days, 48 games, 40 hours and 26 minutes when he opened the scoring in a first-round win over Huddersfield. And then, just to take the gloss off his big moment, Terriers midfielder Juninho Bacuna marked his debut with a 50-yard own goal in injury time. You’ve just got to love the Carabao Cup.
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