This week’s Capital One Cup fixtures produced quite the spectacle for a number of reasons.
Sunderland’s triumph is surely a boost for their supporters (and many neutrals) while City continued their impressive march towards silverware.
It was more misery for David Moyes and Sam Allardyce however, as Manchester United and West Ham continued their respective nosedives. Both managers face growing pressure after a string of poor results.
United have slumped to their fifth defeat in the year of 2014, three at Old Trafford, while West Ham have now lost five of their last six, including maulings at the hands of City and Nottingham Forest – losing 6-0 and 5-0 respectively.
The week’s fixtures also revealed much about the future of the Premier League, with young stars Adnan Junazaj of United and Marcos Lopes of City taking centre stage. With that in mind, here is a look at the Capital One Cup Semi-Finals’ defining moments.
David De Gea’s blunder
Not new to indifferent form, De Gea’s latest gaffe may have cost David Moyes more than a place at Wembley. The Spaniard carelessly mishandled Phil Bardsley’s seemingly speculative effort, and could only watch in horror as the ball slipped through his grip and nestled in the bottom corner. A horrified De Gea hung his head – much to the delirium of Sunderland. The goal came in the dying moments of extra time and would have sent United home, barring a Hernandez equaliser less than a minute later to send the match to penalties.
The penalty debacle
Penalty shootouts can be a nervy affair for players as well as supporters. Wednesday’s contest between United and Sunderland proved to be just that, as a remarkable six players missed the mark. Craig Gardner and Danny Welback skied their efforts, as did Phil Jones. Adnan Junizaj saw his tame effort easily saved by Vito Mannone, while Steven Fletcher’s would be winning effort was marvelously denied by an acrobatic De Gea stop. Vito Mannone in the Sunderland goal was the hero on the night however, as he read Rafael to deny the Brazilian, palming away his effort down to his right hand side.
The Ballad of Big Sam
There was no sign of relief for Sam Allardyce as West Ham’s woes continued. The Hammers entered the second leg on the wrong end of a whopping 6-0 deficit, after being thrashed at the Etihad. Man City showed no signs of letting up, and only took three minutes to pile on the agony. Alvaro Negredo headed home to wrap up an already certain result. Sergio Aguero added another before Negredo got his second, to round off a miserable night for West Ham. The match ended 3-0 – 9-0 on aggregate – as City cruised to Wembley, condemning the Hammers to their fifth defeat in their last six matches.
Marcos Lopes shows us a glimpse of the future
The Portuguese starlet put in an impressive performance, threatening on the wings and pulling the strings for many of City’s attacks. Lopes made the switch to Manchester after spending time in his native land with Benfica. After impressing for the youth academy, he made his first senior appearance on Tuesday night, and many would make the case that it won’t be his last. It was the 18-year-old who was responsible for creating City’s second, when he glided past three West Ham players before feeding Aguero who beat two more defenders before dispatching his effort past the oncoming Jaaskelainen.
Adnan Januzaj is a bright spark in a misfiring United side
Januzaj has been the shining light of United’s otherwise dismal campaign. He continued his string of dazzling performances on Wednesday night. The young Belgium international was lively throughout and spearheaded many of United’s attacks; including providing the assist for Havier Hernandez’s dramatic last minute equaliser. After a clever exchange with Chris Smalling, Januzaj pulled back a low cross to the back post where Hernandez tapped into an empty net. The Janujaz and Hernandez combination almost broke the deadlock early in the proceedings too, when Janujaz’s cross from a set piece met the oncoming Hernandez. Mannone did well to deny the Mexican’s downward header however. And aside from a dreadful penalty and few sliced shots, Januzaj put in a man-of-the match worthy performance, that United fans will be hoping is the first of many.