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Arsenal eased into the fourth round of the Carabao Cup with a comfortable victory over spirited League One side AFC Wimbledon.

The Gunners have returned to winning ways of late and Mikel Arteta would have been pleased to see his side add goals to their recently-discovered guile with this 3-0 victory.

It took them until the latter stages to do so, however, with Alexandre Lacazette’s early penalty not built on until the final 13 minutes when substitute Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah wrapped up Arsenal’s place in the next round.

This was a chance to give much-needed game time to the likes of Lacazette, Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli and, in the main, Arteta’s fringe players did well.

Arteta insists Lacazette can play a key role for Arsenal this season despite limited opportunities and his contract expiring next summer.

The Frenchman captained the side and was the man to make the breakthrough in the 11th minute, coolly slotting home from the penalty spot after Martinelli had been felled by Nesta Guinness-Walker.

If those inside the Emirates Stadium expected the floodgates to open at that point they would have been disappointed, Nik Tzanev in the Wimbledon goal going largely untroubled for the remainder of the first-half.

The visitors held their own without truly testing Bernd Leno, back in the Arsenal side having lost the gloves to summer signing Aaron Ramsdale.

The former Wimbledon goalkeeper was not even among the substitutes as Arteta made 10 changes, only Thomas Partey retained from the weekend win at Burnley as he continues to build up fitness ahead of the north London derby.

The Ghana midfielder came close to doubling Arsenal’s lead with a drive from the edge of the box which Tzanev pushed behind on the hour, with Partey making way shortly after.

Nuno Tavares saw a back-post header kept out by Tzanev as the hosts pushed for the goal to kill off the tie but Wimbledon were defending resolutely in numbers – repelling most balls in and around their box.

They could not set up a grandstand finish, however, Arteta throwing on Bukayo Saka for Martinelli with the England man immediately involved in the attack which saw Smith Rowe double the lead.

The result was put beyond doubt just three minutes later, Saka again involved as he worked the ball wide for Cedric Soares to cross and Nketiah to flick in with aplomb.

Ethan Chislett headed wide when he should have done better as the visitors chased a consolation before Saka arrowed a shot inches wide and drew a late save out of Tzanev as Arsenal progressed.

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Stoke struck twice late on to see off Watford and reach the fourth round of the Carabao Cup for a third season in succession.

Ashley Fletcher had equalised for the Hornets following Nick Powell’s opener but the Sky Bet Championship side would leave Vicarage Road victorious as Sam Clucas and Josh Tymon struck from distance to seal a 3-1 win.

Watford head coach Xisco Munoz changed his entire starting XI from the weekend win at Norwich but the majority of his fringe players failed to impress, while Stoke – showing eight alterations of their own – recovered from their loss at beleaguered Derby last time out.

With two unfamiliar line-ups the game started slowly before bursting into life just after the midway point of the first half.

Watford right-back Jeremy Ngakia was caught in possession by his own corner flag as Alfie Doughty stole the ball before crossing low for captain Powell to turn home from close range.

The goal seemed to wake the Premier League side from their slumber as both Adam Masina and Dan Gosling drew smart saves out of Adam Davies in quick succession shortly after Powell’s opener.

Masina was guilty of missing a fine opportunity to level, spooning over in front of goal from a Christian Kabasele knockdown.

The Watford left-back was the one popping up unmarked in and around the Stoke box but again fired off target as the ball broke to him on the edge of the penalty area.

Davies was again called into action shortly after the restart, shovelling away Fletcher’s header after the forward had been picked out by Cucho Hernandez.

Debutant Ozan Tufan was the next to be thwarted by Davies, with Watford now dominant and Stoke’s counter-attacks becoming a rarity.

Gosling fired badly wide after the visitors had gifted possession in midfield – but they were finally level soon after.

A shot from Hernandez was saved by Davies but this time the ball spun up and into the path of Fletcher, who finished from point-blank range.

They somehow failed to take the lead 10 minutes later, Hernandez hitting the post and Fletcher’s follow-up deflecting behind for a corner.

Those close calls would come back to haunt Munoz’s men as it would be Stoke who would hit the front once more.

Clucas had come on shortly after Fletcher’s equaliser and steered home from the edge of the box, a slight deflection taking the ball past debutant Rob Elliot in the Watford goal.

The winger would crack the crossbar with a fine long-range effort shortly after before the tie was wrapped up in more fortuitous circumstances.

Tymon broke clear down the left and seemed to miscue a cross which caught Elliot off his line, drifting in over his head to establish a two-goal cushion for the visitors, who saw out stoppage time to reach round four.

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Leeds won 6-5 in a penalty shoot-out to come out on top in their Carabao Cup clash with Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Neither side had been able to find a breakthrough in normal time, and after five penalties each there was still nothing to separate the sides with both successfully converting three apiece.

Teenager Stuart McKinstry scored for Leeds to make it 6-5, but Fulham’s Rodrigo Muniz was unable to convert, leaving Leeds to progress.

It had been a close game, with both sides showing promise but lacking quality.

Fulham had started brightly and looked to make an impact when Muniz had two chances, a header just wide and a drive parried by goalkeeper Illan Meslier.

However, it was Leeds who should have been ahead when Tyler Roberts had a shot saved only for the rebound to fall to Rodrigo but he mistimed his effort.

Despite a promising start from the home side it was Leeds who continued to dominate possession as Fulham struggled to get out of their half.

Rodrigo made a promising individual run towards the Fulham box, including a clever one-two with Mateusz Klich, but his final shot did not have the same quality and was wide of the target.

Marek Rodak was forced into a low diving save to deny Rodrigo’s low curled free-kick and keep the scores level.

Just before the half-time whistle, it was Meslier’s turn as he kept out Neeskens Kebano’s free-kick from just outside the area.

At the start of the second half, a sliding tackle from Michael Hector was needed to prevent Rodrigo scoring after he was played in by Dan James.

The second half lacked the energy of the first, with both sides short of quality in the final third as they tried to break the deadlock.

Fulham came close in the 68th minute when Muniz, who had had their best chances of the game, headed just over the crossbar from a well-struck cross.

Josh Onomah drove forward before unleashing a strike, but Meslier was able to tip the drive over the bar with just over 15 minutes remaining of normal time.

Muniz had another header in the 86th minute, which he was unable to keep down, with Leeds’ Rodrigo also missing a headed opportunity at the other end in added time.

The game headed to penalties, with Onomah and Joe Bryan missing for Fulham and Stuart Dallas and Adam Forshaw unable to convert for Leeds.

At 3-3 after five penalties the game went to sudden death, with no mistakes for either team until Muniz’ tame effort which saw Leeds go through.

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Marcus Forss scored four goals as Brentford battered lowly Oldham 7-0 in a Carabao Cup mismatch.

The 22-year-old from Finland filled his boots against the hapless Latics, who lie rock-bottom of the English Football League and played like it.

Yoane Wissa also found the net twice, including a spectacular seventh, on a comfortable night for the Bees.

These two sides were regular opponents in the third tier around the turn of the century but this fixture was a stark illustration of how their fortunes have differed since then.

Brentford, currently adapting well to life in the top-flight and semi-finalists in this competition last season, were able to make 11 changes whereas Oldham, one of the founder members of the Premier League in 1992 but now propping up League Two, could name only four substitutes.

A tough task for the visitors got instantly tougher when they gave away a penalty with less than two minutes on the clock.

Carl Piergianni tripped Wissa in the area and Forss stepped up to tuck away the spot-kick.

Forss, leading the line with regular strike duo Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo on the bench, doubled Brentford’s lead after a quarter of an hour, tucking in the rebound after Wissa’s curling shot came back off the far post.

Wissa went close with a flick which grazed the crossbar but he got on the scoresheet with a neat finish after a fine through-ball from Mathias Jensen.

It was hard not to feel sorry for Oldham when defender Raphael Diarra turned a cut-back by Saman Ghoddos into his own net, and Forss completed his hat-trick moments later to make it five before half-time.

Oldham’s 599 travelling fans were ironically cheering when they had a shot on target, but they almost had an actual goal to celebrate when substitute Benny Couto spotted goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez off his line only for his shot to float over the crossbar.

Forss took his personal tally to four, and Brentford’s to six, on the hour when he tucked away a cross from Mads Roerslev and Wissa scored the goal of the night with an acrobatic overhead kick to complete the rout.

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Jay Rodriguez scored four second-half goals as Burnley beat Lancashire rivals Rochdale 4-1 to book their place in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup.

After Jake Beesley had given Rochdale a shock 1-0 lead, Rodriguez ran riot at Turf Moor as two headers sandwiched a right-footed finish before a lucky rebound put the Clarets out of sight in the 75th minute.

Burnley secured their first home win in any competition since January, but were given a scare after falling behind in the first encounter between the two Lancashire sides in 28 years.

Sean Dyche made eight changes following Saturday’s narrow home defeat to Arsenal and one of them, summer signing Maxwel Cornet, could have marked his full debut with a first-half hat-trick.

But the Ivory Coast international was twice denied by on-rushing Rochdale goalkeeper Jay Lynch and later fired wide with the goal at his mercy.

Dale striker Beesley was thwarted by Burnley goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey’s legs and Aaron Morley curled a free-kick just off target.

Burnley did not fully bare their Premier League teeth until the 37th minute, but when they did it was by far the highlight of the first 45 minutes.

Matej Vydra and Rodriguez combined beautifully on halfway to set Cornet free, but he dragged a low left-footed shot wide.

Burnley took control as half-time beckoned, but failed to capitalise and Dale winger Jimmy Keohane served warning for the visitors when he curled a shot off target.

Dale caught Burnley cold at the start of the second half. Beesley showed excellent composure when picked out by Morley’s pass into the box and slid home a low finish into the bottom corner.

But the visitors’ lead did not last long as Burnley swept forward and Rodriguez rose highest to head home a 50th-minute equaliser from Cornet’s header.

Rodriguez slammed home his second after being teed up by Vydra and two minutes later headed home Ashley Westwood’s cross at the near post.

Tempers flared immediately after Rodriguez had sealed his hat-trick and referee Geoff Eltringham was quick to diffuse a melee.

Dale battled bravely on and threatened twice more through Danny Cashman and Corey O’Keeffe, but Rodriguez was not finished.

Aaron Lennon’s cross was cut out by unlucky Dale defender Eoghan O’Connell and the ball ricocheted on to Rodriguez and into the net.

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Cole Palmer’s first senior goal for Manchester City put the final flourish on a comfortable 6-1 Carabao Cup win over Wycombe as key players shook off some rust and young debutants made their mark.

Sky Bet League One side Wycombe snatched a shock 22nd-minute lead through Brandon Hanlan but that was a distant memory by the final whistle, with Riyad Mahrez scoring twice alongside strikes from Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Ferran Torres to banish some frustrations from Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Southampton.

Guardiola had promised to give youngsters their chance as injuries hit ahead of Saturday’s Premier League trip to Chelsea, but though he was true to his word there was a clear imbalance in the side he fielded to begin the pursuit of a fifth straight League Cup.

Five teenagers – Conrad Egan-Riley, Finley Burns, Luke Mbete, Josh Wilson-Ebrand and Romeo Lavia – started, but all in defensive roles, while captain De Bruyne led a powerful attacking unit also comprising Foden, Mahrez, Torres, and Raheem Sterling.

The early signs were promising but there was plenty of rust too – Sterling, Foden and Torres were all guilty of taking too long when finding space in the box.

At the other end, Wycombe’s veteran powerhouse Adebayo Akinfenwa looked ready to feast on City’s young back four – none of them born when the 39-year-old was collecting his first honours in Lithuanian football.

The threat from set-pieces was obvious, and Wycombe took the lead when City failed to deal with a 22nd-minute corner.

American goalkeeper Zack Steffen – fit to start after recovering from Covid-19 – could only punch the ball as far as Sulley Kaikai, whose shot was deflected, spinning into the path of Ryan Tafazolli who squared it for Hanlan to side-foot home.

City were level seven minutes later. It started with superb work from Foden in midfield, side-stepping two before hitting a defence-splitting pass to De Bruyne on the left, with the Belgian calmly passing the ball into the far corner of the net.

Guardiola’s side were getting into a groove as the manager enthusiastically applauded the efforts of his younger players pushing forward. Sterling and then Mahrez both bent shots on to posts before two quick goals put them in control before the break.

Mahrez got the first with a crisp finish, but much of the credit belonged to the young Wilson-Ebrand, who teased Wycombe full-back Jason McCarthy before pulling an inviting ball back to the penalty spot.

And moments later Foden underlined City’s superior class, collecting a short corner and unleashing a thunderbolt from 25 yards, leaving David Stockdale unable to do more than help the ball in.

City’s teenagers might have been grateful to see Akinfenwa withdrawn just after the hour, replaced by Sam Vokes, but Wycombe could still threaten and Steffen did well to close down and block Jordan Obita’s shot.

But City effectively killed the tie off moments later as Torres capped a sweeping move, side-footing home as Foden sent a low ball across goal.

It was the Spaniard’s last touch – with Guardiola already preparing a double substitution which saw him replaced by Palmer while another teenager, Jason McAtee, became the sixth debutant on the night in place of Wilson-Esbrand.

The fifth goal came from familiar sources with De Bruyne releasing Sterling to pull the ball back for Mahrez to bag his second of the night.

But the biggest cheer came in the 89th minute as Palmer got City fans off their feet. The 19-year-old picked up the ball inside his own half and ran at the tiring Wycombe defence before curling a shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the net – the highlight of an encouraging night for City’s future.

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Arsenal ease pressure with thumping Carabao Cup win at West Brom

Arsenal got their season up and running by coasting to victory in their second-round Carabao Cup tie at West Brom – with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hitting a hat-trick on his return to the side.

With pressure building on manager Mikel Arteta already after two defeats at the start of the new Premier League campaign, there was welcome relief as the Gunners smashed their hosts 6-0.

Aubameyang had been struck down by Covid on the eve of the new season, missing the loss at Brentford and coming off the bench in defeat to Chelsea.

He will not have scored many easier goals than the first-half brace he grabbed here before adding a fine third for the match ball as Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette also found the back of the net.

Saka was lively and Martin Odegaard impressed on his second debut for the club following his permanent switch from Real Madrid last week – but Arteta and his side will not be judged on such tests as this.

While the Arsenal starting XI boasted 348 senior international caps and three national captains in Aubameyang, Odegaard and Granit Xhaka – West Brom made 11 changes from their win at Blackburn, handing out five debuts with an average age of under 23.

Aaron Ramsdale made his Arsenal debut in goal and got off to a shaky start with his feet in front on an unfamiliar back four, which included Sead Kolasinac at centre-back.

He did, however, make a smart low save to keep out Tom Fellow’s low strike as the hosts started well – only to fall behind on 17 minutes.

Saka’s smart feet saw him evade a number of challenges before his low shot was pushed out into the feet of Aubameyang, who tucked home from close-range for Arsenal’s first goal of the campaign.

Odegaard should have marked his second debut with a goal but hit the post from a tight angle with the goal gaping.

The tie was wrapped up as Arsenal scored two in quick succession on the stroke of half-time.

First, Aubameyang doubled his tally for the night as he tapped home after Pepe hit the post following a fine Mohamed Elneny pass.

Then he turned provider, seeing his own shot saved before his acrobatic shot fell to Pepe who slid in to finish.

Saka got his name on the scoresheet soon after the restart, finishing with aplomb following a fine flick from Odegaard.

Lacazette opened his account for the season just four minutes into his first appearance, tucking home at the front post as Pepe claimed another assist.

That was the end of the rout as Arteta enjoyed a fine evening all round ahead of Saturday’s trip to reigning Premier League champions and Carabao Cup holders Manchester City.

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Pep Guardiola dedicated Manchester City’s 2-0 win over Manchester United to reach a fourth consecutive League Cup final on Wednesday to the family of Colin Bell, a day after the City great died aged 74. John Stones and Fernandinho were the unlikely goalscorers for Guardiola’s men, who will face Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham in the final at Wembley on April 25.

Bell scored 152 goals in 492 appearances for City during a 13-year career in which he won five major trophies. City players warmed up in number eight shirts in honour of Bell’s old number.

A minute’s silence was held before kick-off with Bell’s former teammate Mike Summerbee reduced to tears as he watched on from the stands.

“That’s for him and his family. This person helps to build something for this club,” said Guardiola.

“It is an incredible victory for us to beat United away and reach another final and, especially today, it is for him.”

City now have the chance to equal Liverpool’s record between 1981 and 1984 of winning four successive League Cups.

“I know the Carabao (League) Cup is not the Champions League but four times a row is incredible,” added Guardiola. “I’m so impressed with the quality of this team.”

Mourinho was United boss the last time they lifted a trophy in 2017 and the Red Devils’ wait for silverware under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer goes on as they lost a fourth semi-final in the past two seasons.

“It’s not psychological, sometimes you meet good teams in the semis,” said Solskjaer, whose side also lost to City at this stage of the competition last season.

“We met the best team in England and for me we didn’t have enough today.

“But we’re getting closer. This is a much better Manchester United compared to a year ago in those semis, that’s positive but not enough.”

Both sides have hauled themselves back into contention for the Premier League title in recent weeks, but neither manager took the opportunity to rest key players as both made just two changes from the weekend.

Any fears of a repeat of the goalless draw between the sides last month in the league were quickly dispelled as both had goals ruled out inside the first five minutes.

Stones breathed a sigh of relief when his own goal was chalked off for offside by Marcus Rashford in the build-up before Ilkay Gundogan was also denied by the offside flag.

Zack Steffen was deputising for first-choice goalkeeper Ederson, who was one of City’s absentees due to a coronavirus outbreak, and the American produced an incredible save to deny Bruno Fernandes his 16th goal of the season with a curling effort that was destined for the top corner.

City looked more like their old selves in a thrilling first-half performance to blow away Chelsea on Sunday and they were inches away from the opener thanks to a stunning move that started deep inside their own half and ended with Kevin De Bruyne smashing against the post from the edge of the area.

The deadlock was finally broken five minutes into the second half when Stones cushioned in Foden’s free-kick with his thigh for his first goal in three years.

The England international’s poor form saw him fall down the pecking order in recent seasons, but City have now kept nine clean sheets in the 11 games Stones has started this season as he has formed a formidable partnership with Ruben Dias.

City’s issues this season have been at the other end and they again failed to make the most of their chances in the second half.

Joao Cancelo’s piledriver flew just over before Dean Henderson made fine saves to deny Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez.

However, Henderson could only watch as Fernandinho volleyed into the bottom corner after United failed to clear a corner for his first goal in two years, seven minutes from time.

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Tottenham Hotspur reached the League Cup final after goals from Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-Min sank Championship side Brentford 2-0 on Tuesday to set up a clash with Manchester United or Manchester City in April’s showpiece match.

Fellow London side Brentford, playing in their first semifinal in a major cup competition, started brightly but fell behind in the 12th minute when unmarked French midfielder Sissoko headed in a fine Sergio Reguilon cross from the left.

The visitors, who had beaten four top-flight teams on their way to the semis, thought they had drawn level after the break when striker Ivan Toney headed home but the goal was disallowed for a very tight offside, which was spotted by VAR.

Toney’s grounded knee was ruled to be offside before he rose to head in from close range after Ethan Pinnock nodded a cross back across the face of goal.

Jose Mourinho’s Spurs side responded to that let-off with South Korean forward Son collecting a fine pass from Tanguy Ndombele and bursting goalwards before slotting past goalkeeper David Raya to make it 2-0 after 70 minutes.

Brentford’s disappointment was compounded when Josh Dasilva was sent off six minutes from time for an over-the-top challenge on Tottenham’s Denmark midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who was immediately substituted with blood streaming down his shin.

“It’s a game that takes us to a final to, probably, but I hope not, an empty Wembley final but of course I’m very happy,” said Mourinho, who has won the League Cup four times in his career — three with Chelsea and once with Manchester United.

“The final is now in a pocket for three months, we have to wait for the final so we have to focus on what we have coming up… so let’s forget the final for now. But when April arrives we have to be ready and to fight for the trophy,” he added.

Brentford boss Thomas Frank added: “It was an open game, we had a top attitude, we were brave and an equaliser wouldn’t have been a totally unfair result against a world-class team.

“If you want to go to a final against a top team, you need the margins with you but then they show class to get a second and after that it was game over.”

Spurs have not lifted a major trophy since their League Cup triumph over Chelsea in 2008 but this will be their ninth final in the competition, which they have won four times.

The showpiece match will be held at Wembley on April 25, after the Football League moved the date back from February to increase the chances of fans being able to attend.

United host City in the other semifinal at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

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Tottenham Hotspur reached the semifinals of the League Cup with a 3-1 win over second-tier side Stoke City on Wednesday thanks to goals from Gareth Bale, Ben Davies and Harry Kane.

On the sort of inhospitable evening that Stoke’s stadium became famous for in the Premier League, Spurs boss Jose Mourinho paid the now-Championship team the compliment of fielding a strong side from the off including goal-machine Kane.

Chasing a first major trophy since winning the League Cup in 2008, the Premier League side totally dominated the first half and took a deserved lead when Gareth Bale flicked in a cute 22nd minute header from a Harry Winks cross.

It was Bale’s third goal since returning to Tottenham on loan from Real Madrid.

The hosts lacked their famously passionate crowd at the Bet365 stadium, but the chill wind and pre-match rain bore out the old cliche about the toughest test in football being a “cold, wet night at Stoke.”

And indeed, as those few present to watch huddled in their woolies, Stoke brought scowls to Mourinho’s face in the second half with an equaliser by Jordan Thompson, who beat Hugo Lloris from close after Jacob Brown’s pass in the 53rd minute.

Tottenham weathered the mini-storm, however, to restore their lead with a fine low shot from outside the area by Ben Davies in the 70th minute before Kane, inevitably, blasted into the top of the net from close range in the 81st minute.

“We’re really happy. We knew that a cold, wet windy Wednesday night at Stoke was going to be tough,” man-of-the-match Winks said afterwards.

“The boys were brilliant. It’s a tough place to come.”

Spurs were top of the Premier League earlier this month but they have dropped to sixth after collecting only a point from their last three matches. Mourinho has already won the League Cup four times with Chelsea and Manchester United and is now two wins away from a fifth triumph in the competition.

“We deserved it,” he said after beating Stoke. “Now we have two tough games to come.”

Tottenham join holders Manchester City and Championship side Brentford in the semi-final draw, along with either Everton or Manchester United who were playing later on Wednesday.

At Stoke, Mourinho started with out-of-favour Dele Alli, but he was substituted after Stoke’s 37-year-old debut goalkeeper Andy Lonergan thwarted him twice with smart saves. It was Lonergan’s first competitive game since turning out for third tier League One team Rochdale in 2019.

Stoke manager Michael O’Neill said Stoke were too timid in the first half, but he was not displeased overall.

“We expected Spurs to come with a strong team — maybe not as strong as they started” he chuckled.