England’s top clubs showcased their strength in depth in the League Cup on Wednesday, with Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Everton all advancing to the last 16 despite fielding virtual second-string lineups.
Back-up forwards had a particularly fruitful time on an evening when the yawning gap between the Premier League and the lower leagues was highlighted.
Michy Batshuayi netted a hat trick for Chelsea in a 5-1 win over Nottingham Forest, while Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were paired up front for Manchester United and both scored in a 4-1 win over Burton Albion.
In other Premier League vs. League Championship matchups, Everton beat Sunderland 3-0 thanks to a double from young striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Arsenal overcame Doncaster 1-0 courtesy of a first-half goal from Theo Walcott.
Leroy Sane scored in each half for Manchester City in a 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion, with the result soured for the visitors by the sight of Ilkay Gundogan going off injured in the midfielder’s first start in nine months after a cruciate knee ligament injury.
A closer look at the Wednesday’s five third-round games:
Batshuayi is facing another season as the reserve striker at Chelsea after Alvaro Morata was signed in the offseason as a replacement for Diego Costa, who doesn’t figure in coach Antonio Conte’s plans.
The Belgium international took his chance to impress with Morata having the night off, scoring in the 19th, 53rd and 86th minutes at Stamford Bridge. Kenedy and Charly Musonda also scored for the English champions, for whom Ethan Ampadu became the first Chelsea player born this millennium - a week after his 17th birthday.
Eden Hazard impressed on his first start of the season after a broken ankle.
UNITED BEGINS TITLE DEFENSE
Two goals in the opening 17 minutes by Rashford set Man United on its way to an easy win in the first game of its title defense.
Jesse Lingard and Martial added more goals for Jose Mourinho’s side, which has also scored four goals in three of its first five games in the Premier League.
“We look happy playing football in this moment,” said Mourinho, who didn’t even include top scorer Romelu Lukaku in the squad for the match.
It was a contrasting evening for Man City’s two Germany internationals at West Brom.
While Sane was scoring in each half - including the winning goal at the end of a rapid counter-attack in the 77th minute - Gundogan lasted just 59 minutes before being substituted with an apparent knee injury following a heavy tackle from Claudio Yacob.
Yacob went on to equalize for West Brom.
“He has a small issue with his knee, but not like before,” City manager Pep Guardiola said of Gundogan, “and I don’t think it will be anything serious.”
RESPITE FOR KOEMAN
Everton ended a run of four straight losses, when the team didn’t score a goal, to provide some relief for manager Ronald Koeman.
Without Romelu Lukaku, who was sold to Man United in the offseason, Everton lacks a prolific striker this season but two forwards were on the scoresheet against Sunderland.
The 20-year-old Calvert-Lewin scored in the 38th and 51st minutes, while Senegal international Oumar Niasse grabbed the third - his first goal for Everton in his first appearance for the club since May 2016.
The draw for the last 16:
Tottenham vs. West Ham
Bristol City vs. Crystal Palace
Swansea vs. Manchester United
Arsenal vs. Norwich
Chelsea vs. Everton
Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Leicester vs. Leeds
Bournemouth vs. Middlesbrough
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80
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