Football: Arsenal, Spurs suffer League Cup setbacks

Brighton & Hove Albion's Danny Welbeck (left) is fouled by Arsenal's Karl Hein resulting in a penalty being awarded to his side. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON – High-flying English Premier League leaders Arsenal came crashing down along with north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur following their exits in the League Cup on Wednesday.

Mikel Arteta’s men were booted out of the third round after losing 3-1 to Brighton & Hove Albion, while Spurs went down 2-0 to newly promoted Nottingham Forest.

Arsenal took the lead through Eddie Nketiah at the Emirates, but a slip from goalkeeper Karl Hein on his Gunners debut gave Danny Welbeck the chance to level from the penalty spot.

Kaoru Mitoma’s powerful finish turned the tie around before Tariq Lamptey slotted home 19 minutes from time, ending Arsenal’s hopes of winning their first League Cup since 1993.

Despite the error from Hein that changed the complexion of the match, Arteta backed his decision to leave out regular starter Aaron Ramsdale or his No. 2 Matt Turner.

“He deserved a chance,” said the Arsenal boss, of the 20-year-old Estonian. “He is the first-choice goalkeeper of his national team and that is unusual (for his age). If I had to pick the team again tomorrow, I would play him because you need the experience... Errors are a part of the game.”

The loss to Roberto de Zerbi’s Seagulls also highlighted Arsenal’s thin squad depth, after their much-changed side suffered their first home defeat in all competitions this season.

“We know where we are,” said Arteta, who is already looking to put the defeat behind him.

“We know as well that we have certain injuries, that the squad is already very, very short, and we have tried to manage that in the best possible situation. We now have to concentrate on the Premier League, which is the priority.”

De Zerbi acknowledged his side had made “stupid” errors but was glad to secure an “important” victory.

“We can play better,” said the Italian. “We made stupid mistakes. But I’m happy because we were a bit lucky in the first part of the second half, as Arsenal could have scored from two or three chances.

“For me, it’s very important to have a cup run and for this win against Arsenal. It’s an honour to win in this stadium, but we have to think about the next game from tomorrow and prepare the best we can for the next game.”

Over at the City Ground, goals from Renan Lodi and Jesse Lingard dumped Spurs out of the Cup. However, the talking point centred around a possible injury to England captain Harry Kane ahead of the upcoming World Cup after he was taken off by Antonio Conte before the hour mark.

The Italian allayed such concerns, saying his star man was substituted due to fatigue.

Kane has played in all 21 Spurs games this season. The 29-year-old also played the full 90 minutes in both of England’s Nations League games in September.

With England facing Iran in their Group B opener on Nov 21, an injury to Kane would have been a major setback for Gareth Southgate’s squad.

“It was a problem of tiredness,” Conte said. “Really, really tired and yesterday we had a soft training session and, at one point, he stopped himself to recover energy. But he’s okay, it’s only fatigue but it’s normal because Harry played every game.”

Conte said Kane was not the kind of player who would step back from his club commitments with the World Cup on the horizon.

“Other players maybe they could tell me, ‘I’m tired and don’t want to play and help the team’,” the former Italy boss said. “Another could be selfish and think for himself because in one week, they have to play the World Cup. Instead, Harry Kane showed to be a really good man.” REUTERS

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