League Cup underdogs' reality check

Kevin de Bruyne celebrates after scoring the final goal for Manchester City in the 4-1 win against Hull City in the League Cup encounter at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.
Kevin de Bruyne celebrates after scoring the final goal for Manchester City in the 4-1 win against Hull City in the League Cup encounter at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • The plucky underdogs were brought down to earth as Manchester City, Everton and Stoke City reached the League Cup semi-finals on Tuesday, ending the hopes of second-tier English football sides who felled fancied opponents in the last round.

Manchester City were far short of their best at home to Hull City, but still managed a comprehensive 4-1 win. Meanwhile, Everton won 2-0 at Middlesbrough and Stoke beat visitors Sheffield Wednesday by the same scoreline.

Wilfried Bony's 12th-minute goal calmed City's nerves at the Etihad Stadium, but resilient Hull defending ensured it stayed close before late efforts from Kelechi Iheanacho and a Kevin de Bruyne double put some gloss on the scoreline.

Hull, who grabbed a late consolation from Andrew Robertson, had knocked out surprise Premier League contenders Leicester City in their last League Cup outing.

Middlesbrough, who knocked out Manchester United in the fourth round, saw their luck run out against Everton, who went in front at the Riverside with a superb piece of individual skill from Gerard Deulofeu after 20 minutes.

The Spaniard ran from inside the Middlesbrough half before beating two defenders and finishing low from the edge of the area.

He then set up striker Romelu Lukaku eight minutes later with a delightful cross from the right that the leaping Belgian powerhouse headed superbly into the net.

Wednesday made the biggest splash in the previous round, crushing visitors Arsenal 3-0, but any hope of a repeat at the Britannia Stadium looked faint when Ibrahim Afellay volleyed into the corner on the half-hour for his first Stoke goal.

The tie was wrapped up with 15 minutes to play when Phil Bardsley smashed home a low free kick with Stoke reaching their first League Cup semi-final since they won the trophy in 1972.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2015, with the headline 'League Cup underdogs' reality check'. Print Edition | Subscribe