Had you switched off your TV or DVR in anticipation of a dull night of useless Carling Cup ties filled to the brim with unknowns, B squads and fringe footballers, your premature condemnation of the old Football League Cup while not monumental, was at least a bit judgmental.
The restoration of the League Cup wasn’t conceived Tuesday and Wednesday night. In fact, the little Cup competition that could has enjoyed somewhat of a revitalization in years past with some brilliant matches while Manchester United has captured the silverware for the past two seasons.
Whether it’s the romantic in me, the about-to-make-my-first-trip-over-buoyant enthusiasm, or simply my admiration for all things good football, the Carling Cup’s illuminating energy has reinvigorated mid week football (at least this week) in England as early Champions League group stage matches, full of mismatched blotches and missed opportunities, flatter to deceive.
Tuesday night witnessed another mixed bag of Arsenal youngsters and current first team-ers claim first blood in this season’s most recent installment of the North London derby. Arsenal ran riot on Spurs 4-1 after added extra time thanks to their familiar brand of fabulous free flowing football (and two well taken Samir Nasri pens).
Also on Tuesday, Everton continued their woeful start to a new campaign by exiting the competition at the hands of League One side Brentford. Everton new boy Jermaine Beckford and England international Phil Jagielka both missed from the spot during the penalty shoot out either side of Brentford’s Charlie MacDonald who converted to secure the famous win at Griffin Park.
Whatever Tuesday can do, Wednesday can do better. Manchester United saw off Scunthrope United 5-2 while Bebe came on late for the holders to make his Senior debut. Although his 15 or so minutes weren’t quite enough for a serious look at the Portuguese youngster, the few touches he did get were positive.
United went down early in the match thanks to a stunning Josh Wright strike when it was an equally stunning Darron Gibson chip that saw the holders draw level. Michael Owen (remember him?) scored two for United while the Red Devils proved a bit too much for the Championship side in the end.
In arguably the match of the round, Newcastle United traveled to Stamford Bridge and defeated Chelsea 4-3 with two decisive goals from Shola Ameobi. Chelsea saw themselves down 3-1 until Nicolas Anelka made it 3-2 in the 70th. Anelka, providing the much needed spark for Chelsea, again scored for the home side from the spot (an outright terrible decision to award a penalty) in the 87th before Ameobi’s second, this time a header, claimed the match in stoppage time. A true Cup classic.
In the upset of the round, if Everton’s wasn’t enough, Liverpool exited at the hands of the mighty Northampton. The League Two side saw themselves level 2-2 with Liverpool as the full 90 minutes expired, while it was Northampton who held their nerve through the ensuing penalty shoot out. Liverpool’s Nathan Eccleston missed from the spot in front of a home crowd at Anfield while Northampton went through 4-2 on pens as Liverpool exit another Cup competition as giants slain.
Other Premier League sides to advance to the Carling Cup fourth round include: Aston Villa, Wolves, West Ham, Stoke City, Birmingham City, Wigan and West Brom while Manchester City, Blackburn, Bolton and Fulham all exit.
A full Carling Cup round three results table can be viewed here.