Liverpool, Chelsea squeeze their way into League Cup quarterfinals
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Mario Balotelli sparked a dramatic fightback by Liverpool and Chelsea needed a late own goal to edge past plucky fourth-tier opposition as the two Premier League giants squeezed into the League Cup quarterfinals.
Late goals settled four of the five last-16 matches on Tuesday — and two were scored at Anfield as Liverpool came from behind to beat Swansea 2-1.
Balotelli, criticized in recent weeks for a string of below-par displays, inspired the comeback by coming off the bench to score an 86th-minute equalizer before Dejan Lovren headed in the winner in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
"Finally!" Balotelli said on Twitter after scoring his first goal in six weeks and only his second for Liverpool since joining from AC Milan in August.
A patched-up Chelsea lineup looked like being taken to extra time by Shrewsbury, a team 71 places below it in English football's pyramid, only for Jermaine Grandison to head into his own net after 81 minutes to seal a 2-1 win for the Premier League leaders.
Didier Drogba had given Chelsea the lead in the 48th, with the 36-year-old striker scoring for the third straight game and just two days after netting at Manchester United in the Premier League.
"It was a difficult pitch and difficult weather," said Drogba, one of four Chelsea starters who also began the 1-1 draw against United. "They were a fantastic team and opponent — they showed why they deserve to be here tonight."
West Bromwich Albion's decision to field a virtual reserve team against second-tier Bournemouth backfired in a 2-1 loss for the upset of the round.
Derby and Sheffield United, who play in the second and third tiers respectively, also advanced on Tuesday.
Manchester City and Tottenham are among those looking to reach the last eight on Wednesday.
Balotelli started on the bench against Swansea but was thrown on by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers in the 79th minute after Marvin Emnes volleyed the visitors into the lead. Within seven minutes, Balotelli guided home a cross from Fabio Borini to equalize.
Swansea defender Federico Fernandez was shown a red card in the second minute of injury time for a foul on Philippe Coutinho, who provided the cross from a free kick that Lovren headed in at the back post for a last-gasp winner.
Chelsea remained unbeaten in all competitions this season — and reached the last eight of the League Cup for the fourth straight season — but only after surviving a scare against the lowest-ranked team left in the competition.
Drogba has starred in the absence of injured fellow strikers Loic Remy and Diego Costa, scoring against Maribor in the Champions League last week, at Old Trafford on Sunday and again against Shrewsbury when he swept home a left-footed finish from Mohamed Salah's pass.
Shrewsbury equalized in the 77th minute through Andy Mangan but was on level terms for just four minutes, as substitute Willian's teasing cross was diverted in by Grandison.
"I was ready for extra time," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said.
There was late drama, too, at Bournemouth, which reached the quarterfinals for the first time thanks to Callum Wilson's 86th-minute strike. West Brom had equalized just a minute earlier from an own goal.
By scoring five times in 20 minutes, Derby came from 2-0 down to beat Fulham 5-2 away in a match between two League Championship teams. Sheffield United beat fellow third-tier side MK Dons 2-1.