EFL Cup Excitement
Rounds One and Two of the EFL Cup have already provided plenty of excitement and drama, with all clubs setting their sights on a Wembley appearance next February.
The EFL Cup presents all 92 professional teams from the top four English divisions with the opportunity of winning the season’s first piece of major silverware and of course a pathway to European football.
The Round Two games, attended by almost 250,000 fans, concluded on Wednesday evening after 25 matches and 86 goals scored, that’s not even including the 27 penalties scored in Derby County’s 14-13 shootout victory against Carlisle United at the iPro Stadium.
A total of 49 players that were involved in the European Championships earlier this summer featured in Round Two of the EFL Cup for their club sides. The standard has been set and this is before the seven Premier League clubs involved in European competitions have even got involved.
Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp, who steered his side to the final last season, signified the importance of the competition. “We want to be as successful as possible. And when we say we want to fight for everything then of course the EFL Cup is involved.”
And the Merseyside team showed that they meant business, with a comprehensive 5-0 win at Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, with seven of their starting line-up playing at Euro 2016 just over two months ago.
Five time winners Chelsea fought off a spirted Bristol Rovers by three goals to two to reach Round Three, with five players starting that lined up in their Premier League match at Watford the previous weekend, including World Cup winners Cesc Fabregas and Pedro.
New Chelsea boss Antonio Conte said: “On Tuesday I knew the EFL Cup, I knew the atmosphere, and I can tell these games are very tough for all.”
Liverpool’s city neighbours Everton, who were captained by academy graduate Ross Barkley, had new multi million pound summer signings Yannick Bolasie and Ashley Williams on show in their 4-0 victory against Yeovil Town at Goodison Park.
Five quick-fire stats from EFL Cup R2
- 49 Euro 2016 players featured in the second round
- 22 different clubs had players that competed at Euro 2016
- 25 matches played, 86 goals scored
- 236,089 spectators watched the games combined
- Derby County and Carlisle United matched the record for the longest penalty shootout with 27 in total
Meanwhile, in the capital, Crystal Palace showed their fans a glimpse of their new star striker Christian Benteke, as he made his debut in the 2-0 win against Blackpool.
Nine Premier League teams advanced to EFL Cup Round Three, however there were a few shocks along the way.
Northampton Town extended their unbeaten home record to 26 games with a penalty shootout win against West Bromwich Albion, after the game finished 2-2 after extra time.
Albion boss Tony Pulis fielded a strong line up, with five players retaining their starting positions from their previous Premier League fixture at home to Everton, but the newly promoted League One side came from behind to advance.
The Cobblers weren’t the only side from Sky Bet League One to eliminate a top flight side on Tuesday. Gillingham came from behind to beat Watford at Vicarage Road as Bradley Dack, last season’s League One Player of the Year, scored in extra time to seal a 2-1 win. Euro 2016 duo Costel Pantillimon and Christian Kabasele completed the full 120 minutes for the Hornets, leaving manager Walter Mazzarri disappointed to exit the competition at such an early stage.
On Wednesday evening, Burnley were dealt a last minute extra time blow at neighbours Accrington Stanley as Matty Pearson scored a dramatic 120th minute winner. On the Thames, in form Fulham beat Premier League new boys Middlesbrough 2-1 courtesy of Lasse Vigen Christensen 113th minute strike.
With the EFL Cup Round Three draw setting up some fascinating ties, we are sure to see more international players involved come the week commencing 19th September.
EFL CUP ROUND 3 DRAW 2016/17
Nottingham Forest V Arsenal
Leeds United V Blackburn Rovers
Queens Park Rangers V Sunderland
West Ham United V Accrington Stanley
Southampton V Crystal Palace
Swansea City V Manchester City
Fulham V Bristol City
AFC Bournemouth V Preston North End
Tottenham Hotspur V Gillingham
Everton V Norwich City
Derby County V Liverpool
Northampton Town V Manchester United
Brighton & Hove Albion V Reading
Newcastle United V Wolverhampton Wanderers
Stoke City V Hull City