x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Ronaldo back on the goal trail

Cristiano Ronaldo scores on his first start of the season in Manchester United's 3-1 League Cup victory over Middlesbrough, but West Ham and Fulham suffer embarrassing exits.

Cristiano Ronaldo, second from left, is congratulated by his Manchester United teammates on making a goalscoring return in his first start for the side after three months out with an ankle injury.
Cristiano Ronaldo, second from left, is congratulated by his Manchester United teammates on making a goalscoring return in his first start for the side after three months out with an ankle injury.

LONDON // Cristiano Ronaldo scored on his first start of the season in Manchester United's 3-1 League Cup victory over Middlesbrough and Mexican star Carlos Vela hit three as Arsenal's youngsters overwhelmed Sheffield United 6-0 last night. Liverpool edged League One side Crewe 2-1 but West Ham and Fulham were the victims of third-round upsets. The Hammers, fresh from hearing that an independent arbitration panel had ruled in favour of Sheffield United in the "Carlos Tevez affair", which could cost West Ham upwards of £30 million (Dh204m), lost 1-0 at Watford and Fulham went down 1-0 at Burnley.

With the Premier League and Champions Leagues to think about, the top clubs fielded many of their young stars in what is regarded by most of the top tier as third in the list of priorities for the season (behind the league and FA Cup). But Ronaldo, last season's European Golden Boot winner, has been sidelined for three months because of an ankle injury and, after two appearances as a substitute, marked his first start by heading home a Ryan Giggs corner in the 25th minute against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford.

After Adam Johnson's 56th-minute deflected shot levelled for Boro, teammate and defender Emmanuel Pogatetz was sent off for a horror tackle that led to lengthy treatment for United forward Rodrigo Possebon who was making his first start for the Red Devils. The foul was crude to say the least and sparked unjustifiable reactions from the Boro bench, who remonstrated with the match official for issuing the Austrian defender a straight red card. But no doubt about it the official's decision was the correct one.

Ryan Giggs then punished a blunder by Chris Riggott to put United back in front with 20 minutes left, before Nani added a third in injury time. Vela scored three and Nicklas Bendtner two as Arsenal crushed Sheffield United 6-0 despite resting most of their firs-team, fielding mostly teenagers at the Emirates Stadium with the average age of the Gunners' outfield players was just 18. The Gunners' fringe players highlighted the north London club's strength in depth by mesmerising the Championship team with their passing skills, and the Blades were lucky to keep them down to six.

Jack Wilshere, aged 16, netted the other Arsenal goal. After Daniel Agger put Liverpool ahead in the 15th minute with a free-kick, Michael O'Connor threatened an upset with an equaliser for Crewe 10 minutes later at Anfield. But the Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva headed in the winner just short of the hour-mark. Watford, from England's second tier of football, upset West Ham's new manager Gianfranco Zola's with a 1-0 defeat after the Hammers midfielder Hayden Mullins deflected the ball into his own net in the 70th minute.

Fulham were also embarrassed 1-0 by another Championship club, Burnley, whose match winner was substitute Jay Rodriguez, who scored two minutes before the end, only two minutes after entering the game and on only his second appearance for the club. Premier League outfits Sunderland and Stoke advanced to the last 16 but only thanks to the aid of penalty shoot-outs after 2-2 draws with teams from the lower divisions.

Sunderland hit back from two goals down against League One club Northampton. Anthony Stokes scored his second goal in injury time, and then beat the Cobblers 4-3 in a shoot-out after extra time. Stoke twice threw away the lead against Reading for a draw after extra time and then won their shoot-out 4-3. Six more games take place tonight including the defending champions Tottenham, rock bottom in the Premier League, against next-to-last Newcastle.

Arsenal 6 Sheffield United 0 Burnley 1 Fulham 0 Leeds United 3 Hartlepool United 2 Rotherham United 3 Southampton 1 Swansea City 1 Cardiff City 0 Watford 1 West Ham United 0 Liverpool 2 Crewe Alexandra 1 Manchester United 3 Middlesbrough 1 Stoke City 2 Reading 2 (Stoke win 4-3 on penalties) Sunderland 2 Northampton Town 2 (Sunderland win 4-3 on penalties)

Round Two Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester City Round Three Aston Villa v Queens Park Rangers Ipswich Town v Wigan Athletic Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur Portsmouth v Chelsea Blackburn Rovers v Everton

*AP