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The League Cup in its many incarnations may not have the same sense of history attached to it as its famous cousin the FA Cup, and managers like Arsene Wenger may have publicly denounced it to be a fifth priority for them in their season's objectives, but as the Gunners showed on Tuesday night, there is no replicating the pride of putting on your team's jersey and stepping out onto the field trying one's hardest to win. With the footballing universe still coming to terms with Arsenal's miraculous 7-5 win against Reading on Tuesday, they were to be served up another classic when Chelsea welcomed Manchester United to Stamford Bridge for the second time in a week.
For once the refeering was not the center of attraction, and while the game may have had both its share of controversies and unpopular decisions, it was the football on display that stood out. There continued to be defensive horror shows by both sets of teams, but there was also more than its fair share of brilliance as Chelsea came back at the death to level the game at 3-3 to force extra time, and went on to win the match 5-4 in extra time.
There was no shortage of excitement in the other games as well as Brendan Rodgers' former club Swansea City produced a typically brilliant passing display that the Northern Irishman helped instill to beat a much changed Liverpool rather convincingly 3-1 at Anfield. Meanwhile at Carrow Road, Clint Dempsey missed an 89th minute penalty which would have sent Tottenham's match against Norwich into extra time as the Canaries picked up a morale boosting 2-1 win.
Chelsea 5-4 Manchester United
Both teams made a host of changes to the sides that battled at the Bridge on Sunday with United putting out a very experienced but decidedly second string front six, but their back five was completely the opposite with Rafael the only man who would expect to get a game on a regular basis. Chelsea meanwhile were without the suspended trio of Terry, Ivanovic and Torres, while Eden Hazard and Oscar dropped to the bench to give their fringe players a chance to impress.
It was one of those newcomers who was at fault for the opening goal as Petr Cech's goal kick played short to Oriol Romeu saw the Spaniard caught in possession and the ball made its way to United skipper for the night Ryan Giggs, who placed the ball comfortably past the keeper to open his account for the season. Chelsea drew level in the 31st minute through a David Luiz penalty after Victor Moses was brought down in the box by the inexperienced Alex Buttner. United though retook the lead on the stroke of half-time with the extremely influential Anderson playing the ball through for Javier Hernandez to finish.
Ramires came on for Jon Obi Mikel at half-time and the move did the trick as a re-energized Chelsea, roared on by their adoring fans laid seige to the United goal. The Blues were back level seven minutes after the restart through their other center-back Gary Cahill, only for Nani to restore United's advantage on the hour mark with a sumptuous finish.
United were in a position to see out the game despite wave after wave of Chelsea attacks, but Nani lost possession twice in the dying moments trying to create an extra goal instead of looking to kill time. The move backfird as Chelsea were awarded another penalty late in injury-time, which substitute Hazard stroked calmly just left of center with United keeper Anders Lindegaard going the wrong way.
For the second straight night it was off to extra-time, and young Scott Wooton, who had played so well for most of the game, before conceding the late penalty gifted the ball to Daniel Sturridge, who rounded the keeper with ease to put Chelsea ahead for the first time on the night. Ramires killed the game off late in the second period, and though Giggs reduced the deficit with the third penalty of the evening, there was no time on the clock for United to force a penalty shootout.
It was sweet vengeance for Chelsea after their disappointing defeat at the weekend where they felt they were robbed off a result by some poor refereeing, while United will be disappointed to have not seen the game out when they had it virtually in the bag.
Liverpool 1-3 Swansea
Joe Cole, Jamie Carragher and Stewart Downing were the star names to return to starting eleven as new boss Brendan Rodgers rung in the changes to freshen up his squad after a thrilling Merseyside derby on Sunday. Swansea though made the trip over to Liverpool looking for nothing other than a win as Michael Laurdrup played his best eleven. The stark quality in the two sides showed, and the Swans were good value for their half-time lead as Jose Chico put the visitors ahead in the 34th minute.
Rodgers threw in Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez at the break to instill some energy in his listless side, but it was the Swans who went two ahead through Nathan Dyer in the 72nd minute.
Luis Suarez helped the Kop find their voice by halving the deficit four minutes later, but the Swans held out comfortably enough for the last 15 minutes, and even added to their lead deep in injury time through Jonathan de Guzman to book their place in the quarter-finals.
Norwich 2-1 Tottenham
For the second time this month, Norwich picked up a win over one of North London's elite, and this time had former Blackburn keeper Mark Bunn to thank for their Capital One Cup win. Bunn, making just his second start of the season, produced a stellar display, reminiscent of his glorious performance against Manchester United a few seasons ago.
After a goal-less first half, Gareth Bale opened the scoring with a stunning strike from 20 yards in the 66th minute only for Norwich to draw level when a powerful effort from substitute Alex Tettey was deflected into his own goal by summer signing Jan Vertonghen.
Norwich went in front in the 87th minute when Simeon Jackson latched onto an error from Hugo Lloris, but Tottenham had every chance of sending the game into extra-time when they were awarded a penalty in the dying moments.
Clint Dempsey stepped up to take the spot kick, but Bunn won that battle to give Norwich a spot in the quarter-finals. Tottenham had dominated the game, and will no doubt feel hard done by the result, but a crazy 7 minute spell towards the end dictated the outcome.
The draw for the quarter-finals of the League Cup will see Chelsea travel to Elland Road to take on Leeds, while Arsenal face League 2 side Bradford City. Swansea will host Middlesbrough believing they have every chance of advancing to the semi-finals, while the only all-Premier League tie will see Norwich take on Aston Villa with Paul Lambert certain to receive an interesting reception at Carrow Road. The matches will be played in the week starting 10th December.
Leeds United v Chelsea
Bradford City v Arsenal
Swansea v Middlesbrough
Norwich City v Aston Villa
File Photograph Copyright: Ryu Voelkel
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