Eunan O’Kane

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.