League Cup Quarter Finals Roundup
So... we're now down to the last four in the competition. Manchester City, Spurs, Chelsea and..... er..... Burton Albion.
The Brewers did brilliantly to beat Middlesbrough at the Riverside and have been rewarded with a semi final tie with Manchester City. Surely a bridge too far for them, but hey, haven't they done well...!!
City played several youngsters, including two debutants at Leicester but more tellingly, gave a start to Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero, both slowly recovering from injuries. KdB took all of 20 minutes to completely flat foot the Leicester goalie with a shot from 18 yards that hit the net before he even realised it was coming.
Mark Albrighton hit an equaliser as Leicester came back into the game when KdB and Aguero were replaced in the second half. The game went to penalties and City saw that out 3-1.
Chelsea struggled to overcome a resolute Bournemouth but Hazard's wickedly deflected shot somehow found the far corner of the goal six minutes from time to see Blues over the line. This was the first match at the Bridge since the Raheem Stirling incident and their fans were on best behaviour, which made for a somewhat subdued atmosphere.
In the North London dust-up at the Highbury Library, Spurs eased it. Arsenal were nothing like the pumped-up war machine they were in the second half at Wembley two weeks ago. Spurs were always in control and goals by Son, a clinical finish after he broke the offside trap, and Ali, who totally wrong-footed Cech with an "I'll-look-one-way-and-put-the-ball-in-the-other-side" chip to make it 2-0. Game over.
Shame on the moron who threw a plastic bottle at Ali that bounced off his head harmlessly, but all the same, there will be repercussions. It would take more than an empty plastic bottle to hurt something as thick as Dele Alli's head but it's the act that counts, not the object.
The FA have to get a grip on this. Identify and ban the idiot. And ban him for life. If they don't, it will encourage the idiots and today it might be a plastic bottle, but tomorrow it will be a brick.
I think Spurs should beat Chelsea in the semi. Just. It will be close and both teams are well matched when they have their 1st XI's out. But I think Spurs want it more. Pochettino needs that trophy and the players really want to give it to him and their long-suffering supporters.
Spurs have just that little more 'desire', I reckon and that could be the difference.
Getting back to Burton Albion who are managed by Nigel Clough, son of the old Derby County and Nott'm Forest warhorse, Brian. It would be quite poignant if he could get the team to Wembley in this of all competitions. Old Man Cloughie won the League Cup 4 times and, when some managers were dismissing the competition as an unwelcome distraction (some still do), he used to say it was worth winning because by March, Forest would have a trophy on the table and would be qualified for next season's UEFA Cup (now Europa League). Tangible reward for the effort. I can see where he was coming from.
Son Nigel played in the last two of Clough Senior's wins, in 1989 (scored twice in the 3-1 win over Luton) and in 1990 against Oldham.
Wouldn't it be one for the old man if his son - who he would always refer to as "Our number 9" in his Forest days, rather than call him by name, - got his team to a major cup final at Wembley, just like dad did. I think old Cloughie would be looking down from his cloud and saying "Well done, young man."
I can't see Burton getting past City. Not over two legs. If the match were a one-off tie then there would be the hope that Brewers could hang on for 90 minutes, take it to pens and perhaps get through. But in a two-leg tie, I think City will unpick forest like a loosely made pullover. Sad, but that's professional sport these days.
Still.... Burton are in the Semis. Kinda gives you faith in the Gods of sport, doesn't it..?