Early Doors

Bad loser

Early Doors

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Was it anger, frustration or merely embarrassment that led to Arsene Wenger storming off down the tunnel at Eastlands without shaking Mark Hughes's hand?

Wenger's misplaced belief in his latest crop of youngsters was shown up as Arsenal lost 3-0 to Manchester City in their Carling Cup quarter-final, their third defeat in their last four matches.

The Gunners have now shipped 10 goals in their last three trips to the City of Manchester Stadium, and Wenger left the dugout right on the final whistle, neglecting to congratulate his opposite number.

The beef had been bubbling under nicely throughout the match, and Wenger looked perturbed when Hughes encroached into his side of the technical area to kick a stray ball to one of his players.

Whatever message he was trying to send out, all he achieved was to add a little extra bonus to Sparky's evening. If Hughes is to become a top manager with City, regularly getting under the skin of one of his main rival bosses is a good way to start going about things.

Hughes described Wenger's reaction as "ungracious", barely suppressing a smile as he did so, but Wenger was indignant, sarcastically claiming he had no professional courtesy and reminding everyone just who the Champions League manager was out of the two.

He said, while wrapping Sanchez Watt and Craig Eastmond up in cotton wool for another season: "It is a competition for our younger players. If I don't play them here where would I play them?

"We played in the quarter-final of the Champions League last season against top teams. Playing in those matches is 10 times harder than playing in the Carling Cup."

City now face local rivals United in the last four, which is great news for them now that Alex Ferguson has promised to continue fielding some of his own fringe players.

They are now close to emulating those other nouveau riche gatecrashers, Chelsea, by making the Carling Cup the first reward for their obscene spending.

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For a player of just 18 years of age and two full appearances behind him, Gael Kakuta has already managed to gain extraordinary notoriety.

After the row over whether he was induced into signing for Chelsea led to the club's suspended transfer ban, Kakuta finally made an impressive debut against Wolves, but last night missed the decisive spot-kick as the Blues were knocked out of the Carling Cup at Blackburn.

The good thing about penalty shoot-outs is that you can play it how you want - either the keeper is a hero or the man who misses the deciding kick is the villain. Pillorying a teenager for failing to convert a penalty is a little harsh, but the extra spotlight on him gave his miss plenty of resonance.

All credit to Paul Robinson for his performance, including saving another kick from Michael Ballack (that's right, a German), but Kakuta's shot straight at the keeper led to Chelsea's sixth defeat in their last seven shootouts. In this day and age, however, he is unlikely to find solace in a pizza commercial.

Just as Alberto Aquilani's half-hour of playing time for Liverpool has seen the Reds crash out of the Carling Cup, Champions League and scrape a disappointing draw with Birmingham in the league, Chelsea fans may just be wondering if it's really worth all the bother.

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Everton cruised into the last 128 of the Europa League with a 1-0 win at AEK Athens, but the win came at a cost. The Toffees can now add Jo, Sylvain Distin and Dan Gosling to their ridiculously long injury list.

David Moyes did his best to see the bright side of the dodgy Olimpiako Stadio pitch, saying: "It was like back to the old days. I would have enjoyed it in my playing days but I don't know how some of the players felt about the conditions out there." 

Never mind playing all these extra matches in Europe, at the rate Everton continue to accrue injuries they should think of pulling out of all football for a while, otherwise they'll end up having to field two goalkeepers,  just as Gillingham did on Tuesday night.

As for Celtic, they crashed out of Europe despite a 2-0 win over Hapoel Tel Aviv. Still, as they lie third in Group C they are the best-placed candidates to drop down into the next level of competition, the All-Lanarkshire U12s trophy.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I have nothing to say. I am free to shake hands with whom I want" - Wenger's moody response when asked why he failed to extend Mark Hughes any professional courtesy.

FOREIGN VIEW: "One sees that they do not support that we become leaders and when Barça beat Madrid. Notice that they must take secret, treacherous photos and later publish with the intention of disparaging me. We were within the framework of a private celebration. We celebrated with friends the team's victory over Real Madrid. This is the character of the Spanish media. This harms the right to the privacy, it has no integrity and a lack of professional ethics" - Marca reports Barcelona chief Joan Laporta slamming the press for publishing pictures of his wild post-Clasico celebrations, handily illustrated with a couple of said pictures.  

COMING UP: There is one more bit of Brit-based Europa League action this evening, with Fulham still very much in the Group E mix. Follow LIVE text commentary of the Cottagers' clash with CSKA Sofia from 20:00.

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