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English Cup, Welsh Teams, Spanish Hero
by Ian Plenderleith, September 24th, 2008 7AM
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[ENGLISH LEAGUE CUP] Despite the reward of a Wembley final and a place in the UEFA Cup, the English League Cup has been an increasingly neglected competition over the past decade, with Premier League teams fielding reserve lineups and fans largely staying away, in particular during the early rounds. Yet Tuesday's third round action proved that there's still life in the competition. Cristiano Ronaldo played and scored for Manchester United, while over 56,000 turned out to watch a team of virtually unknown Arsenal youths and reserves whup second-tier Sheffield United 6-0.

One of the games of the round was between two Welsh sides. Swansea City, newly promoted to the Championship (one level below the Premier League), and managed by Spaniard Roberto Martinez, overcame southern Welsh rivals Cardiff City 1-0 in an intense game before a fervent and appreciative crowd of over 17,000. One of the Swansea squad's six Spanish players, Jordi Gomez, scored the only goal from a free kick just before the hour to seal Swansea's first win over its neighbors for nine years.

By then, U.S. national team striker Eddie Johnson, on loan to Cardiff from Fulham, had long since departed, subbed out at halftime.

Johnson looked less than sharp when he failed to follow up on a shot parried by Swansea keeper Dorus de Vries. His compatriot Clint Dempsey had no better luck for Fulham, playing the full 90 minutes but failing to score as Championship side Burnley knocked the west London side out of the competition with a late goal from Jay Rodriguez (an Englishman, despite the name).

Highly rated Mexican striker Carlos Vela, 19, took his chance to shine for Arsenal in a first-team shirt, scoring a hat trick against Sheffield United, with Nicklas Bendtner (two goals) and Aaron Ramsey completing the rout. Manchester United at least started the game with Cristiano Ronaldo (no doubt part of his rehab) and Ryan Giggs among a handful of established first-teamers in a majority reserve team lineup. An Old Trafford crowd over 20,000 short of full capacity saw both players score as United topped Middlesbrough 3-1.

American Jay DeMerit's Watford beat West Ham 1-0, while Sunderland struggled to beat third-tier Northampton Town at home, tying the game with two late goals in a 2-2 draw, then winning on penalty kicks. Liverpool barely snuck its way past Crewe Alexandra by two goals to one before a half-empty stadium (or half-full, if you?re an optimist), with even Sami Hyppia and Jermaine Pennant getting to start.

Bobby Convey was subbed out half way through extra time as Reading held Stoke to a 2-2 draw, but lost on PKs.

Energie Cottbus can't win in the Bundesliga, but took advantage of no less than three penalty kicks in Tuesday's German Cup tie to beat Borussia Moenchengladbach.



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