Big guns survive in Carling Cup

It may be a much maligned competition, but all the big clubs in the Premier League saw it important enough to field strong sides and progress through to the last 16 – the question is, who will go all the way?

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson may have made 11 changes from the side that beat Chelsea last Sunday for the game at Leeds, but he could still field the likes of Ryan Giggs, Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia and Dimitar Berbatov. Former England striker Owen was the hero with a quick fire double to put the Red Devils in control before Giggs sealed the game before half-time.

Arsenal survived an early scare to eventually nudge past League Two Shrewsbury. Boss Arsene Wenger was desperate for a performance after a difficult start to the season but saw his side fall behind early on before goals from Gibbs, Chamberlain and Benayoun eventually saw them home.

The presence of the Live Football TV cameras at Brighton’s new AMEX Stadium suggested that an upset might be on the cards as they welcomed Liverpool. However, Kenny Dalglish’s men would prove too cute for the Championship club, though Albion can hold their heads high for a commendable performance in the 2-1 defeat.

Chelsea played out a tedious 0-0 draw with West London rivals Fulham, despite seeing defender Alex sent off midway through the second half. In the end the game needed penalties to decide a winner, with the Blues eventually prevailing 4-3.

Manchester City had no such problems against holders Birmingham, who meekly surrendered their grip on the competition at the Etihad Stadium. City have the squad to compete for all trophies laid out in front of them this season and demonstrated that with a dominant performance. The headline maker was Owen Hargreaves, who marked his debut – and return from three years of injury hell – with his first goal since 2008. Few would begrudge him this second chance at top flight football. Mario Balotelli sealed the win just before the break.

Elsewhere there were defeats for Premier League sides West Brom, Aston Villa and Tottenham, with Everton, Bolton and Stoke progressing at their expense. Newcastle, Blackburn and Wolves complete the 11 remaining Premier League sides left in the draw.

No League One sides are left, with Aldershot the only League Two club left in the draw. If you want to bet on the Championship providing a club capable of going all the way then Leicester and Southampton would be a good tip as they can rightly head into the next round with confidence. Don’t discount Crystal Palace and Burnley either, as they will also provide potential for giant killing should they get paired with a Premier League club.