League Cup semifinal: Three goals see Manchester City to 9-0, two-legged romp past West Ham

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The drama was left in Manchester, where City built a 6-0 lead two weeks ago. Today at Upton Park, any hope the Hammers had of saving face dried up in the third minute, with Álvaro Negredo’s early opener paving the way for the Citizens’ 3-0, second leg victory in England’s League Cup semifinals.

Scoring the first of his two on the night, Negredo headed home from seven yards out in the third minute after being left unmarked on a Marcos Lopes cross. Sergio Agüero, making his first start since returning from a calf injury, doubled City’s lead in the 24th minute, giving the visitors the 2-0 lead they would carry into halftime. When Negredo dribbled through the Hammers’ defense to put City up three in the 59th minute, the Spanish international had his fifth goal of the tie, one that gave the visitors their final margin of victory.

Though City now moves on to face the winner of Wednesday’s Manchester United-Sunderland semifinal, the focus will be on West Ham’s failures. Though the team improved on a first leg performance that saw them out-shot 32-3, the Hammers’ inability to do more against a City team clearly in cruise control only underscores the club’s recent slump. Despite resting six of their regular starters, the Citizens still eased to a three-goal win, leaving West Ham with one win in their last eight matches.

In their last four outing, West Ham has been outscored 17-3, including an embarrassing 5-0 loss at second-tier Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup. With only one win in league play since Nov. 30, the East London club find themselves in the Premiership’s relegation zone, with their lopsided exits from both cup competitions only increasing pressure on Allardyce. Trying desperately to add talent in the transfer window, the West Ham boss may not get a chance to save his team from a Championship return.

Manchester City, on the other hand, move one step closer to their first piece of silverware under Manuel Pellegrini. Whether it’s rival Manchester United or an improving Sunderland they face in early March, City will be heavy favorites to claim their first trophy in two years – the first of what Pellegrini hopes will be four titles this season.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

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Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

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Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)