Rashford’s stunning free-kick puts Man United into last eight

Meanwhile, El Mohamady scores the winning goal to put Aston Villa into the last eight

 Marcus Rashford fires home a free-kick to score his second goal in  Manchester United’s Carabao Cup tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Photograph:   Michael Regan/Getty Images

Marcus Rashford fires home a free-kick to score his second goal in Manchester United’s Carabao Cup tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

 

Chelsea 1 Manchester United 2

Manchester United’s identity is built around fantasy of this nature. They need players with the courage to produce special moments on the biggest stages and Marcus Rashford certainly delivered on that front during this absorbing battle, settling a tight game when he blasted home an astonishing free-kick with 17 minutes.

Rashford had already scored from the spot and the striker had more belief than any of his team-mates when Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s players were on the ropes. The momentum had been with Chelsea but Frank Lampard’s side would be stunned in the end. Their seven-game winning run was over and United, unbeaten in four games, were through to the last eight of the Carabao Cup.

There was a callow feel to a young Chelsea side, a lack of oomph waiting to be exploited, and United were quick to assert themselves in the physical battles. Scott McTominay set the tone when he steamed into Mateo Kovacic early on, a tackle for which he was rightly booked, and Lampard must have been alarmed when he saw Harry Maguire win the ball off Marcos Alonso with a strong tackle, shrug Christian Pulisic aside and stride unimpeded out of defence.

Admittedly the England defender followed that manoeuvre by booting the ball out for a throw but United had disrupted Chelsea’s rhythm and were carrying the greater threat in attack. There were hints of menace when Jesse Lingard charged into the area, forcing Marc Guehi to make a last-ditch challenge, and McTominay had gone close in the 13th minute, sweeping a shot just wide after meeting a low corner from Daniel James.

The visitors were the more fluent side and it summed up Chelsea’s unease when Alonso, who was frequently outnumbered on the left, gave away the penalty that allowed United to edge ahead midway through the first half.

A fine run from the impressive James, who was always available to receive the ball on the right, created the danger. The winger’s pace carried him deep into Chelsea’s territory and he was entitled to go down after being bumped from behind by Alonso, who was foolish to stick a knee into the Welshman’s back. Chelsea’s left back could have no complaints when Paul Tierney pointed to the spot, though at least United’s recent struggles from the spot gave him hope of a reprieve.

Yet Rashford, who had seen a penalty saved against Norwich last Sunday, was merciless this time. The striker had also missed one against Crystal Palace in August but there was no doubt in his mind here, only the composure to send Willy Caballero the wrong way and slot a low shot into the opposite corner.

United had the lead they deserved. Brandon Williams, their teenage wing back, was standing up well whenever Callum Hudson-Odoi ran at him on the right. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was keeping Pulisic quiet on the opposite flank and Chelsea needed better hold-up play from Michy Batshuayi, who fed off scraps for much of the opening period.

Kept at arm’s length by United’s 3-4-2-1 system, Chelsea had not even mustered a shot on target during the first half. Yet there were brighter signs at the start of the second and the equaliser should have arrived in the 50th minute. Caught out by Alonso’s cross from the left, United were relieved when Hudson-Odoi, who had required treatment after toppling over the advertising hoardings moments earlier, scuffed wide from close range.

Chelsea had raised the tempo and it took an excellent saving challenge from Williams to stop a perceptive pass from Billy Gilmour, a beautiful little mover in midfield, reaching Hudson-Odoi. The ball squirted back to Gilmour and the 18-year-old’s shot was blocked by Marcos Rojo, with Tierney waving away the crowd’s appeals for handball.

The chances kept on coming. Reece James drove forward from right back and whipped in dangerous crosses. Hudson-Odoi had also woken up, running in behind whenever he saw space in front of him, and the 18-year-old winger should have done better after latching on to a ball over the top from Pulisic, only to send a bouncing effort inches over Sergio Romero’s bar.

A goal was on the way, though, and it arrived when Caballero punted a clearance towards Batshuayi in the 61st minute. The Belgian striker had spent most of the evening being bullied by Maguire but this time he made the United centre back look clumsy and slow, nodding the ball away from him, turning sharply and charging towards the area. Maguire’s lack of pace had been exposed and Batshuayi, who scored Chelsea’s winner against Ajax last week, underlined his growing confidence by smashing a low shot beyond Romero from 25 yards.

On came Anthony Martial and Andreas Pereira, enabling Solskjær to switch to a back four, and there was elation when Rashford delivered the game’s decisive moment. The striker’s free-kick wobbled in the air and took the breath away as it flew past Caballero. Chelsea were stunned. – Guardian

Aston Villa 2 Wolves 1

Ahmed Elmohamady downed Wolves to send Aston Villa into the quarter-finals. The defender grabbed a second-half winner to clinch a 2-1 victory as the hosts reached the last eight for the first time since 2012.

Patrick Cutrone did cancel out Anwar El Ghazi’s opener before missing a glorious chance to level for a second time.

Villa never looked in serious trouble, though, and they remain in the hunt for a trophy they last won in 1996.

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