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Chelsea and Fulham win penalty shootouts to reach English League Cup semi-finals

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Chelsea’s faltering first season under Mauricio Pochettino could yet be saved by the English League Cup.

Chelsea's Mykhailo Mudryk, left, celebrates with teammate(AP)
Chelsea’s Mykhailo Mudryk, left, celebrates with teammate(AP)

The London club reached the semi-finals by beating Newcastle 4-2 in a penalty shootout on Tuesday, with the game only getting that far thanks to a goal by Chelsea winger Mykhailo Mudryk in the second minute of stoppage time that made it 1-1 at Stamford Bridge.

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Newcastle right back Kieran Trippier was at fault for that goal and he was one of two visiting players to fail to score his penalty. Matt Ritchie was the other, as stand-in goalkeeper Đorđe Petrović made the save to end the shootout.

Chelsea is languishing in 10th place in the Premier League despite having spent more than $1 billion on players in the last three transfer windows and having no European competitions to disrupt its schedule.

Pochettino is starting to come under some pressure for failing to get a group of talented players to gel so this cup run could be huge in gaining some momentum. The explosion of joy inside the stadium after the final penalty made it the best moment so far in his reign of less than six months.

Newcastle had been looking to get to the semifinals of the League Cup for the second straight season. Fulham has reached that stage for the first time in its 144-year history.

Fulham, another team from west London, also needed a penalty shootout to advance and this one lasted longer, with defender Tosin Adarabioyo eventually netting the clinching kick for a 7-6 win. Amadou Onana had a chance to win the shootout for Everton but had his attempt saved at 4-3.

The game finished 1-1 in regulation at Goodison Park, with Everton substitute Beto scoring in the 82nd to cancel out an own-goal by Michael Keane.

CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM ADVANCES

Middlesbrough will be the big underdog in the semifinals as the only non-Premier League team remaining.

The second-tier club beat Port Vale, which plays in the third division, 3-0 thanks to goals by Jonny Howson, Morgan Rogers and Matt Crooks.

Middlesbrough, the 2004 champion now managed by former Manchester United and England midfielder Michael Carrick, hasn’t had to play a Premier League team in the competition yet.

NKUNKU DEBUT

There was more good news for Chelsea, with Christopher Nkunku coming off the bench in the second half to finally make his competitive debut six months after signing from Leipzig.

The France striker sustained a serious knee injury in the offseason and only recently returned to training, with Pochettino careful not to push him into first-team action too quickly.

Nkunku converted one of Chelsea’s penalties in the shootout confidently in the top corner and looked lively in regulation time, too.

However, there was some concern with Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez walking off the field unaided midway through the first half. Pochettino said after the game that Fernandez asked to come off because he felt unwell.

SEMI-FINAL DRAW

Liverpool hosts West Ham on Wednesday in the last quarterfinal match, after which the draw for the semifinals is made.

The final is at Wembley Stadium on Feb. 25.

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