Manchester United, Chelsea, West Ham, Stoke and Leicester all progressed through to the last eight of the Capital One Cup last night.
It was a largely uneventful evening, with regards to the winners of each game, but Leicester and Stoke played out thrilling cup games against opposition that were not in the same league as them.
Leicester overcame Fulham 4-3 at the King Power stadium in a game filled with twists and turns. Lloyd Dyer struck a winner in the 89th minute to cancel out Giorgos Karagounis' 87th minute equaliser and send the Foxes into the last eight. Incidentally, the last time that the boys in blue got this far in 2000 they went all the way in the competition.
Even though Fulham are in a division higher, this result was maybe not so unexpected, considering the Cottager's woeful away performance at Southampton. There were nine changes brought in by an under pressure Martin Jol, but it was to no avail. If Fulham's performances do not pick up, he may be in danger.
Stoke were comfortably 3-1 up away at a 10-man Birmingham side, who had had Wade Elliott sent off late in the first-half. However, a remarkable resurgence from Lee Clark's side forced the match into extra time. Birmingham fell 4-3 down thanks to Kenwyne Jones, but Olly Lee struck a very late leveller deep into extra time to force penalties. Perhaps the Premier League side's experience and ability shone through, with Birmingham losing 4-2.
Burnley were the other non-Premier League side in action tonight, but unlike Leicester they were unable to get passed higher opposition. West Ham were relatively comfortable throughout the game, and two reckless choices gifted the Hammers with two penalties that Matt Taylor and Jack Collison converted with ease. Burnley played good football but were unable to really threaten the away side's goal, with Kieran Trippier coming closest with a free kick that flew past Adrian in goal, but hit the bar.
Chelsea vs. Arsenal and Manchester United vs. Norwich were the only all top-flight matches to take place. United ran out comfortable winners against Norwich, putting four past the Canaries thanks to Javier Hernandez, Phil Jones and Fabio. Perhaps this has given David Moyes a bit of rest bite after a difficult spell, but selection headaches might have arisen after stand out performances by United's youngsters.
In the biggest game of the night, Chelsea outclassed a lack-lustre Arsenal side at the Emirates, with Juan Mata stealing all the headlines. The game exposed vulnerability with Arsenal's strength in depth.
Olivier Giroud seems to have a lot of weight on his shoulders at the moment, but if they continue performing the way they have in the Premier League up until this point then there may not be any real concerns for Arsene Wenger.
After all, this is another competition that is not maybe of that much importance for a man concerned with more significant silverware. Chelsea's squad strength once again shone through, with high class and high priced players performing well against their London rivals. A lot can be said about the fact that Arsenal had Nicklas Bendtner up front, Chelsea had Samuel Eto'o.
It might be too early to predict a winner of the competition, with a lot of quality teams still left to play and attempt to make it to the last eight. Tottenham and Manchester City will be looking to join the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United, and it could come down to luck of the draw as to who makes it to Wembley.
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