English League Cup roundup: Balotelli a hero, and thrills all-around

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By this time Wednesday, the final eight contestants for the League Cup will be settled and preparing for the quarterfinals.

Last season saw seven Premier League clubs and one Championship side (Leicester City) advance to the quarters, but this year there will be a minimum of two non-PL teams in the Fifth Round thanks to two matches featuring clubs from the Championship or lower.

Mario Balotelli and Dejan Lovren helped Liverpool overcome a deficit against Swansea, while Chelsea had to work hard to beat Shrewsbury Town and West Brom crashed out of the competition.

[ VIDEO: Balotelli puts home Borini’s cross to save Liverpool ]

Newcastle/Manchester City, Stoke/Southampton and Spurs/Brighton will tangle on Wednesday. Here’s what we’ve seen today:

Shrewsbury Town 1-2 Chelsea
The Shrews were applauded off the field after holding Chelsea scoreless in the first half, but Didier Drogba put one on the scoreboard shortly after the teams came out of the locker rooms for half No. 2.

But wait! Lower league journeyman Andy Mangan subbed on to score an equalizer for Shrewsbury, only to watch as an own goal cost the Shrews their brief deadlock. That was all Chelsea would need to advance.

Liverpool 2-1 Swansea City
Dutch attacker Marvin Emnes’s 65th minute volley gave Swansea the lead after Liverpool controlled the first half but could not score.

And then along came Borini and Balotelli. Yep, the two Italians much-maligned in Liverpool combined for a goal in the 86th minute to level things up for the Reds (Watch it here). And another red, a card, came via a sliding tackle by Swansea City’s Fernandez in stoppage time.

The last Red to matter was Dejan Lovren, who finished a stoppage time chance off a Balotelli-drawn free kick to win it for the hosts.

Fulham 2-5 Derby County
Moussa Dembele struck twice in the first half, but the Rams converted a 45th minute penalty to keep the match within one headed to the break before Johnny Russell leveled things up in the 47th minute.

Simon Dawkins completed the comeback in the 54th minute. American teen Emerson Hyndman started for the Cottagers. Jeff Hendrick later scored, with Dawkins adding another to complete the comeback from 2-goal deficit to runaway blowout.

Bournemouth 2-1 West Bromwich Albion
The Cherries carried possession early and got a 49th minute goal from 24-year-old Irish midfielder Eunan O’Kane to give the Championship side a lead over their Premier League opponents. West Brom drew level, but the even score line existed for less than a minute before Callum Wilson put in the eventual match-winner.

MK Dons 1-2 Sheffield United
They took care of Manchester United in a blowout, so why wouldn’t MK Dons be able to handle Sheffield United. It was a man on loan from Arsenal, Benik Afobe, who did the trick to open the scoring with a half-hour or so to play.

But that’s where the dream died, as the Blades found two goals in the match’s final moments courtesy of former Nijmegen man Michael Higdon.

Chelsea needs to wait “48 hours” to assess Mount

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Mason Mount‘s move from the Championship to the Premier League has been nearly seamless.

His adjustment to the Champions League was cut down too quickly to get an understanding of whether it would be too big of a jump.

[ MORE: Match recap | Barkley drama ]

Mount, 20, was chopped down by Valencia’s Francis Coquelin, the former Arsenal man, and had to leave the game after just 16 minutes.

Here’s Frank Lampard, from ChelseaFC.com:

“He’s got an ankle injury but we don’t know how bad it is. We’ll have to assess it in the next 48 hours to see the scale of the injury. It was a shame because he started the game well and it meant we had to make the change early on.”

Mount scored nine times with four assists on loan under Lampard at Derby County last season, and has already chipped in three goals for Chelsea this season.

Lampard turned to Pedro off the bench on Tuesday, but any lengthy absence for Mount will spell more time for American youngster Christian Pulisic.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City

American coach Marsch speaks after landmark Champions League day

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Jesse Marsch made his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, a historic first for not just the Wisconsin native but also his country.

Marsch, 45, oversaw Red Bull Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk, becoming the first American to win a UCL match as manager.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

“We knew we were going into the match full of confidence,” he said, via the Salzburg site. “We knew too that we could put in a performance of this quality. I wasn’t pleased with a few situations, such as conceding for 3-1. That shows our incredible mentality though as it prompted us to give a few more percent and immediately score two goals.”

The ex-New York Red Bulls manager and RB Leipzig assistant manager got another three goals from incredible 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who nows has 17 goals in nine matches this season.

“It is an absolute joy to work with this team. We have a lot of players who just know how to battle, and that rubs off on the others. You can see that on the pitch on nights like tonight.”

There will be tougher nights ahead for Marsch, who is in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, but Tuesday was a fine start for the tactician. And it was a banner moment for American coaches abroad, who’ve been led by past and present USMNT coaches Bob Bradley and Gregg Berhalter.

Maybe one day that’ll be Marsch’s title… but it seems like he may have some loftier ground to cover on his path through world soccer.

Klopp: Liverpool made wrong decisions; Penalty also incorrect

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is going to bat for his left back after Andrew Robertson gave away what became the decisive penalty in a 2-0 loss to Napoli in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty,” Klopp said. “What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty. He jumps before any contact, we can’t change that.”

[ RECAP: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool ]

For what it’s worth: It sure seemed like both a foul on Robertson and a comical embellishment from Callejon, but we digress.

Liverpool just didn’t have it on the day, like when Sadio Mane played a terrible pass to Mohamed Salah on what could’ve been an easy 1-0 lead.

In the moments they did have it, there was Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret making a splendid save.

“We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off. We controlled moments but had not enough chances in the end. We made decisions that were not right and have to accept the result. It was very often the final ball that was not right.”

Also, forgive Klopp if he has stopped enjoying the beautiful country of Italy.