Darren Fletcher completed the full 90 minutes on his first start in 10 months as Manchester United eliminated Newcastle from the Capital One Cup with a 2-1 third-round victory at Old Trafford last night.
The Scotland captain has slowly but surely been finding his way back to fitness since it was revealed he was suffering from a chronic bowel complaint which put his career in jeopardy.
But after coming through last night unscathed, it has heightened the possibility that Fletcher could yet continue playing at the highest level, while he will also now be considered an outside contender for Scotland’s crucial World Cup qualifying double-header next month.
On what was a satisfactory evening for United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Wayne Rooney also made a successful comeback from his gashed thigh.
Tom Cleverley scored what proved to be the winner with his first United goal, adding to a superb opener from Anderson. Papiss Cisse came off the bench to give Newcastle some hope and he almost conjured an equaliser when his late overhead kick came back off the bar.
Holders Liverpool rang the changes but came from behind at West Bromwich Albion to win 2-1 thanks to two goals from Nuri Sahin. Liverpool fell behind on three minutes when West Brom’s Gabriel Tamas finished from close range after a mistake from the visitors’ stand-in keeper Brad Jones. Sahin, on loan from Real Madrid, levelled with a speculative shot from distance and struck again late in the second half when he converted Oussama Assaidi’s cross at the back post. Arsenal eased into the fourth round with a 6-1 victory after a searing second-half display proved too much for their League One visitors.
The home side made a slow start to the game but took the lead six minutes before half-time as summer signing Olivier Giroud scored his first goal for the club. The former Montpellier striker endured a mixed evening as he missed a second-half penalty before the game was wrapped up courtesy of a superb strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Andrey Arshavin and Ignasi Miquel also struck with a Theo Walcott brace imposing Arsenal’s dominance on the scoreline. Callum Ball had scored Coventry’s consolation with his team 4-0 down.
Goals from Jan Vertonghen, Andros Townsend and Gylfi Sigurdsson ensured Tottenham’s safe passage into the fourth round with a 3-0 victory at npower League One side Carlisle.
Spurs took the lead in the 37th minute when Vertonghen headed in Sigurdsson’s set-piece delivery, the Belgian registering his first goal for the club.
Townsend then doubled the advantage with a decent solo effort eight minutes after the restart before Sigurdsson, also opening his account for the visitors, wrapped the scoring up by nodding in Kyle Walker’s cross a minute from time.
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas would have been relieved to avoid a potential banana skin at Brunton Park as his team – showing eight changes from the 2-1 Barclays Premier League win over QPR on Sunday – dealt with what Carlisle were able to throw at them and did enough at the other end to complete the job. The debate over Spurs’ goalkeepers will continue after Villas-Boas’ selection, with the Portuguese opting to play Carlo Cudicini and name Heurelho Gomes as his back-up on the bench, with Hugo Lloris not featuring in the squad.
Pavel Pogrebnyak’s late backheel saw Reading edge in a five-goal thriller at QPR in which they twice had to come from behind twice. QPR got off to a great start when Junior Hoilett scored a superb solo effort 14 minutes in, although Kaspars Gorkss levelled against his former club minutes later. Djibril Cisse restored Rangers’ lead from distance, but Nicky Shorey’s superb 25-yard free-kick saw Reading draw level before Pogrebnyak backheeled home nine minutes from time. Alexander Tettey fired Norwich into the last 16 with a 1-0 win over Doncaster at Carrow Road, where there was a minute’s silence before kick-off in memory of former manager John Bond, who died aged 79.
The Ghana-born Norway midfielder, signed from Rennes, marked his debut with a fine 22-yard effort midway through the first half.