Here We Go Again, Then
Deja vu is a strange feeling, isn’t it? You might be forgiven a double dose of it this week, as the League Cup reached the quarter-final stage. Still, the four matches brought about considerably more than twice the entertainment that “Super Sunday” did last weekend, even though we’re not really supposed to care about it very much. Everton had already dumped West Ham United out of the competition, but this week’s three ties brought up three tempestuous matches which can only lead the casual observer to believe that, once out on the pitch and playing, every match still matters to the modern professional footballer.
On Tuesday night, Tottenham Hotspur put in one of their best performances of the season to end Manchester City’s unbeaten home record with a 2-0 win at the City of Manchester Stadium. Jermaine Defoe had given Spurs an early lead, but Spurs were reduced to ten men when Didier Zokora was harshly sent off (Steed Malbranque, for the record, did deserve to go for a considerably worse tackle a few minutes later. With Defoe withdrawn after the sending off, Spurs tried to soak up everything that City threw at them, but they were still reliant on a newly resurgent Paul Robinson, who made one absolutely stunning save from Darius Vassell. Spurs tried to nick a second on the break, and achieved this with eight minutes to play when Steed Malbranque broke away and scored a second goal.
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s kids were given a night off the homework to play out a similarly (though somewhat less surprisingly) bad tempered 3-2 win at Blackburn. They seemed to have the game all sewn up at 2-0, but managed to get themselves pegged back to 2-2 thanks to the very seasonally named Roque Santa Claus (ho ho ho, indeed). Denilson got himself sent off, and it looked as if they might be heading out of the competition, but a late goal in extra time saw them through. In tonight’s Battle Of Half Of The Giants Mixed With Some Fringe Players And A Couple From The Reserves (as I presume Sky billed it), Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-0 with a massively fluke-tastic goal from Frank Lampard and a second from Andriy Shevchenko being enough, and Peter Crouch getting himself sent off for an uncharacteristically nasty tackle.
The draw for the semi-finals was made this evening too, and Arsenal will play Spurs, while Chelsea play Everton. Will the Arsenal kids be good enough to beat Spurs over two legs for a second year in a row? Well, there’s a question. If Juande Ramos has turned Spurs around in the way they he appears to have done (six wins and just one defeat in his first ten games), they just might. If not, prepare for a battle of attrition between Arsenal and Chelsea (who will surely beat Everton over two legs) in the final next year. Manchester United’s players, meanwhile, were using their time off “wisely” by having a massive piss-up in Manchester which has ended with one of their reserve players, one Johnny Evans, being arrested and bailed on suspicion of raping a 26 year-old woman. Is this what the clubs mean when they go on and on about the “need” for a mid-season break?