League Cup: Man City, Liverpool ease through; Everton out
Bidding to win the English League Cup for a fifth straight season, Manchester City's players fell behind during a game in the competition for the first time in nearly four years yesterday.
They immediately put that right.
City responded to conceding a surprise opening goal at home to third-tier Wycombe Wanderers in the 22nd minute by scoring three times before half-time and eventually easing to a 6-1 win. Among the scorers for City were Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden as they build up their match fitness after early-season injuries.
Pep Guardiola's team last tasted defeat in the League Cup in October 2016, and have not trailed since the first leg of the semi-finals in January 2018.
Like City, Liverpool used the competition to hand starts to fringe players and senior debuts to a number of its promising youngsters - including a 16-year-old in Kaide Gordon - and they enjoyed a 3-0 victory at fellow Premier League team Norwich. Japan forward Takumi Minamino started and finished the scoring.
Liverpool and City are tied on a record eight League Cup titles. Six of City's have come in the eight previous seasons.
Everton were one of three Premier League teams taken to a penalty shoot-out by lower-league opposition, and fell to an 8-7 loss to second-tier Queens Park Rangers following a 2-2 draw after 90 minutes. Southampton and Leeds fared better to overcome teams who were in the top flight last season - Sheffield United and Fulham, respectively.
Brentford thrashed Oldham 7-0 and Burnley cruised past another third-tier opponent, Rochdale, 4-1.
MIX AND MATCH
Guardiola fielded an interesting team, with a back four of academy graduates - CJ Egan-Riley, Luke Mbete, Finley Burns and Josh Wilson-Esbrand - getting first senior starts in front of American goalkeeper Zack Steffen, making his first appearance since recovering from the coronavirus.
Thankfully for Guardiola, he had a stellar cast in the attacking positions and he needed them to deliver after Brandon Hanlan put Wycombe ahead in front of a stunned home crowd at Etihad Stadium.
De Bruyne equalised within seven minutes and there were further goals from Riyad Mahrez (2), Phil Foden, Ferran Torres and young substitute Cole Palmer.
Guardiola was delighted with the performance of his young defenders and said City "can count on them, absolutely" in the bigger competitions this season.