Carling Cup Tuesday review and Wednesday preview
Who would have thought it? Despite both managers complaining bitterly about the fixture scheduling that forced them to play quarter-final ties just 48 hours after playing each other in a bruising league encounter, both Kenny Dalglish and Roberto Mancini’s second string sides managed to prevail in London to take their places in the semi-final draw of the Carling Cup. Plus, on this most tragic of football weeks, it was fitting to see a Welsh team join the big guns in the final four.
Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool
Dalglish had commented previously about whether it was wise for his own team’s fans to make the trip to Stamford Bridge but they didn’t listen, turned up in their droves and were rewarded with a comfortable win that extended their manager's proud unbeaten record over Chelsea, a team fast descending into crisis mode. Liverpool could even afford to squander a first half spot-kick, well blocked by young Chelsea goalkeeper Ross Turnbull from Andy Carroll, before making their superiority count later on thanks to goals from Maxi Rodriguez and Martin Kelly.
The Blues were largely short of ideas and toothless up front to the delight of the travelling fans who for the third time in 2011 were able to remind poor old Fernando Torres just what he’s apparently missing. Liverpool, with many a star rested, dominated and can now reasonably dream of a mouth-watering semi final tussle against one of their bitter rivals from the other end of the East Lancs road.
Arsenal 0-1 Manchester City
A near full-house at the Emirates didn’t quite witness the thriller they’d hoped for as two much changed teams struggled for cohesion, with chances at a premium. City’s reserve keeper Costel Pantilimon made two crucial saves in the first half, one following a thunderbolt strike from the impressive Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The home side dominated possession after the break only to fall asleep defensively following a corner that allowed the excellent Edin Dzeko to lead a City break away resulting in the only goal scored by Sergio Aguero in the 83th minute. City were workmanlike rather than spectacular but take their place in the last four. Are they destined to meet Manchester United again in a cup semi-final for the third season running?
Cardiff City 2-0 Blackburn Rovers
At the Cardiff City Stadium the Welsh side played with pride and passion befitting the memory of the late national manager and emerged way too strong for a hapless Blackburn Rovers side. Manager Steve Kean would have been hoping for a morale boosting victory ahead of a crunch league clash at Ewood Park against Swansea City this weekend, but instead more misery was piled on the Lancastrian outfit.
The Championship side eased into the semis for the first time since 1966 thanks to goals from Kenny Miller and Anthony Gerrard and a lucrative New Year tie awaits them against an English Premier League giant. How they will relish that in the valleys!
Manchester United vs Crystal Palace
Thanks to the Sky TV cameras we still await the full semi-final line up. Despite Sir Alex Ferguson's insistence in playing his reserves and promising youngsters for this one, the events of Tuesday should ensure that the United fans will be more than keen for their side to overcome Dougie Freedman’s Palace.
The Eagles hope to include goalscoring midfielder Darren Ambrose in their squad tonight but Lee Hills, Alex Marrow and Jonathan Williams are all ruled out through injury.
A possible meeting against one of their two biggest rivals is the reward for the Red Devils progression and they should have enough to get through against opposition whose impressive start to their season has faded lately. The draw for the last four follows directly after the Old Trafford encounter and should prove to be very interesting.
By Phil Nicholas