After five years of total domination, Manchester City’s grip on the Carabao Cup is over. Their reign ended after a night of absorbing entertainment at the London Stadium and Pep Guardiola’s side couldn’t complain after being crushed by West Ham, who defended with amazing organization before keeping their blood- cold during a tense penalty shootout.
West Ham was truly exceptional reaching the last eight. David Moyes’ side fought to contain the holders, who were in trouble when Phil Foden missed his penalty, and they would not be turned down. Mark Noble, Jarrod Bowen, Craig Dawson and Aaron Cresswell confidently scored from 12 yards and the roar was deafening as Said Benrahma coldly sealed a 5-3 victory.
It hardly seemed fair to West Ham that their reward for winning at Manchester United in the previous round was set against the incumbents. City have never treated this competition as an inconvenience and although they made nine changes to the 11 that beat Brighton last weekend, it was impossible to call them a weakened squad when Guardiola’s attack put in featured Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez on the wings, Kevin de Bruyne wandering around and Ilkay Gündogan threatening from afar with his late runs into the box.
City took control from the get-go, the inventive and intricate passing, the brisk movement, and for a moment it seemed like a matter of time before they scored. Gündogan slipped into space but was belied by a nice interception from Issa Diop as West Ham retreated to a low defensive block, preparing for an evening spent chasing the ball.
There is a resilience of this West Ham side, who have been extremely well coached by Moyes despite eight changes following his win over Tottenham. There was no way they would turn around. They were compact and organized in the midfield and there was a lot to admire about their stubborn defense during a tight first half, especially when Ben Johnson stopped a dangerous run to Sterling’s left, who would later find himself ousted by burgundy and blue shirts when he dribbled from the left and tried to make room for a shot.
West Ham even had the first notable attempt of the game, with Noble pricking Zack Steffen’s palms from 20 yards in the middle of the opening period, although this display of impertinence drew a sharp reaction from City. At the other end, Cole Palmer, a 19-year-old winger of rare promise, made a nice save from Alphonse Areola with a low shot.
From the middle, Palmer was constantly involved, tying the game, testing defenders with his sharp footwork, showing the confidence to shoot from long distances. City remained the better side and they ended the half with a decent chance, with Nathan Aké glancing up next to a free kick.
West Ham’s dilemma was a lack of presence in attack, where Andriy Yarmolenko did not seem cut out for the task of leading the line in Michail Antonio’s absence. Yarmolenko struggled against Aké and John Stones, who were able to move up to midfield on numerous occasions, and the hosts also needed more incision on the right flank of Nikola Vlasic, who didn’t have much. chances to run against Oleksandr Zinchenko.
There was more enthusiasm for West Ham at the start of the second half, with Arthur Masuaku’s raids on the left giving them hope. Masuaku continued to enter the box and the opening goal seemed inevitable as Steffen fought off an upward effort from the winger. The ball fell on Yarmolenko, who was repelled by a last resort block from Zinchenko.
West Ham’s threat grew, with Vlasic triggering Tomas Soucek for a wide shot, but City also caused problems. Palmer, his imagination on fire, starred in Gündogan, who shot wide. De Bruyne came close to a deflected effort. Then Stones reacted in disbelief when he saw Areola put his mighty head to safety.
It was a gripping cup tie now and Moyes, sensing a chance to cause an upset, responded by turning to his bench and bringing in Bowen, Benrahma and Pablo Fornals for Yarmolenko, Vlasic and Masuaku just past the hour.
Would Guardiola act? City, who replaced Kyle Walker with João Cancelo at the break, still had Foden, Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus in reserve and they were running out of ideas. West Ham center-backs Diop and Craig Dawson were battling to contain Palmer and the night had become difficult for Sterling, who struggled to beat the increasingly impressive Johnson.
Eventually, Foden, Jesus and Grealish came on, replacing Palmer, Mahrez and De Bruyne. Foden was quickly involved, his deflected shot sneaking up to Gündogan, who couldn’t beat Areola. Zinchenko also tested the West Ham keeper from long distance. At the other end, Soucek fired. It had to be penalties.