EFL Football Manager Cup | Round of 16 Review
We’re heading towards the business end of the tournament and the round of 16 provided arguably the best entertainment yet in the EFL Football Manager Cup.
We saw five all-Championship ties, three local derbies and one all-time classic cup encounter that featured three red cards, three disallowed goals and an incredibly tense penalty shootout.
Forest in a Thriller
Nottingham Forest and Mansfield Town played out the most dramatic and entertaining match of the tournament so far. Forest boss Joe Lolley had marked this out as a potential banana skin and he was proven right as Mansfield, the only League Two side left in the competition at that point, more than matched their Championship counterparts.
The Stags had the better of the opening exchanges and took the lead after 21 minutes when Harry Charsley turned in Jack Evans’ tame shot to the delight of their manager, Jamie King. Their hopes of an upset were dealt a blow later on in the half as Hayden White was shown a second yellow card and the advantage of the extra man saw Forest push forward in search of an equaliser before half-time.
They got their reward deep into first-half injury time when Joao Carvalho slammed the ball home from inside 10 yards at the second time of asking after his initial shot was blocked by Stags defender Krystian Pearce.
Nicky Maynard scored the last minute winner that put them into the round of 16 and he bagged himself another crucial goal in this one with a tap-in midway through the second half to leave Mansfield dreaming of an upset over their local rivals.
Lolley’s men had other ideas though. After the 5-0 win against Southend last time out, Lolley said he was looking forward to seeing Ben Watson replicate his long-range effort from that game and the veteran midfielder did not disappoint. He stepped up and lashed in a free-kick from all of thirty yards to level things up once again.
Mansfield saw another man sent off when Ryan Sweeney was given his marchingPreston North End continued their fine run of form in front of goal with a 2-0 win over Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers. Rovers, managed by their striker Adam Armstrong, looked like they might become the first side to shut Preston out when both sides went in at the break at 0-0. orders 13 minutes from the end but they held on to force extra-time. Forest started extra-time brightly and thought they’d taken the lead towards the end of the first half but Tyler Walker saw his 103rd minute goal ruled out for offside. Joao Carvalho also had the ball in the back of the net on the stroke of half-time but again saw his strike chalked off by the linesman’s flag.
Incredibly, Mansfield went down to eight men at the start of the second half after Jack Evans was shown a straight red for a two-footed tackle on Walker. Forest continued to press forward and, once again, thought they’d won it when Carvalho rifled one in from the edge of the area with just 2 minutes left to play but, once again, the goal was ruled out for offside.
The game headed to penalties and what followed was pure sporting drama. Both sides missed spot-kicks early on and Mansfield had a chance to win it but Brice Samba produced a great diving save to deny Alex MacDonald and send it into sudden death. Both sides were flawless until Samba made himself the hero for Forest, sprawling across his goal to palm out Matt Preston’s penalty to confirm the Reds’ place in the quarter finals, much to the relief of manager Lolley who admitted on social media how much that’d taken out of him.
It’s a shame there wasn’t a bench cam set up because my goodness I was on the floor at one point. At least the game is as real as it gets with @grabbs22 missing his penalty.— Joe Lolley (@JLolley23) May 6, 2020
Local Bragging Rights
Preston North End continued their fine run of form in front of goal with a 2-0 win over Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers. Rovers, managed by their striker Adam Armstrong, looked like they might become the first side to shut Preston out when both sides went in at the break at 0-0.
Sean Maguire had other ideas though and slotted Preston in front 15 minutes after the restart and despite Blackburn’s best efforts, Tom Barkhuizen doubled the Lilywhites’ lead in the 69th minute and booked a place for James Moulding’s men in the last eight.
Over in West London, Brentford edged out QPR in an entertaining derby clash. Brentford looked threatening early on and duly took the lead after just 12 minutes when Christian Norgaard powered a header past Liam Kelly in the QPR goal. The Bees continued to press forward and bagged a second goal 15 minutes later as Said Benrahma reacted quickest to a long-throw and flicked the ball home. Rico Henry probably should have made it 3-0 moments later, but he shot straight at the keeper.
QPR got themselves back into the game when Ebere Eze was brought down in the box and despite Eze missing the resulting spot-kick he put the rebound away to make it 2-1. Buoyed by that, the Rs almost made it 2-2 but Jordan Hugill’s effort was well saved by David Raya. Brentford put the game beyond their opponents in the last ten minutes when Emiliano Marcondes slammed home a penalty after a tangle in the QPR area resulting from another Brentford long throw.
Championship Clashes and Medieval Football
Swansea City and Middlesbrough both continued their smooth progress through the tournament. Swansea have still not conceded in the tournament after seeing off Wigan 1-0 and manager Gareth Richards will be hoping the old adage of ‘attack wins you games, defence wins you titles’ is proven true.
Middlesbrough picked up a 2-1 win over League One side Bolton with Britt Assombalonga taking his goal tally to six in three games to sit joint-top of the top scorers chart. Neil Trewick’s men look a handful for any side left in the competition.
Karlan Grant’s Huddersfield once again produced a late winner as they beat Bristol City 2-1. His side had dominated possession and the shooting stats in their previous matches but found it much more difficult to control the play against a spirited Robins side.
Lee Camp’s Birmingham City continued to entertain as they saw off Luton Town 3-2. An unlikely hat-trick from centre-back Harlee Dean saw them through and Camp was full of praise for Dean in his post-match interview from his car.
? Some technical difficulties, but Lee Camp stopped on his way out of the training ground earlier today...— Birmingham City FC (at ?) (@BCFC) May 6, 2020
Our Virtual Head Coach was full of praise for his side after their 3-2 win over Luton in the EFL @FootballManager Cup last night. pic.twitter.com/sQSxQJRLbb
Elsewhere, Charlie Cooper’s brand of medieval football prevailed over Wycombe. It might not be the most entertaining style of football for the neutral but he provided plenty of entertainment in his press conference after the game.
The Next Round
With no League One or League Two teams left in the competition, all four quarter final ties will be all-Championship encounters. The eight remaining teams will discover who they’ll be facing in the last eight in the draw which will be hosted on the Football Manager Twitter page tomorrow afternoon. We’ll have a preview of those ties here on the Football Manager website too.
The EFL Football Manager Cup is being run in partnership with Mind, the mental health charity. You can show your support for the work they do protecting, supporting and saving lives by donating what you can afford at the tournament’s JustGiving page.
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