United cruise into EFL Cup quarter-finals
- Andy Madley
Newcastle United V Preston North End
Braces from Aleksandar Mitrović and Mo Diamé helped Newcastle United book their place in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup with an emphatic 6-0 victory over 10-man Preston North End at St. James' Park.
Mitrović nodded home on 19 minutes to give a dominant United the advantage, just five minutes before Preston's Alan Browne saw red for an aerial challenge on Jack Colback, which left the Magpies man unable to continue.
Senegalese international Diamé then powered home his first goal for the club seven minutes before the break, blasting in from distance when the ball fell kindly for him.
It was no less than Rafa Benítez's side deserved having had much the better of the first 45, with Isaac Hayden hitting the post with a thumping effort not long before Mitrović's first goal.
Their dominance continued after the break, with a Matt Ritchie penalty making it three before Mitrović and Diamé both grabbed their second goals.
And Ayoze Perez added further gloss to the scoreline with his team's sixth in the dying seconds, completing the rout as Newcastle went into the draw for the last eight in style.
Both managers opted to shuffle their packs for the tie, with Benítez making seven changes to the team that beat Ipswich Town 3-0 on Saturday and his opposite number, Simon Grayson, changing nine of his team after their 1-0 win at Norwich City at the weekend.
Newcastle were quickest out of the traps, with recalled frontman Mitrović looking lively. The Serbian's forceful run towards the North End box resulted in a shooting opportunity for Christian Atsu, but Bailey Wright stood firm to block it.
Mitrović was keeping Preston's backline occupied, and he almost latched on to Diamé's flick soon after, but the ball ran just out of reach. With quarter of an hour gone, though, United went closer to an opener, as Hayden - another player to have been brought back into the line-up - rattled the post with a fine angled strike, which which former Manchester United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard beaten.
With Newcastle now firmly on the front foot, it seemed like only a matter of time before the deadlock was broken - and a first goal duly arrived, courtesy of Mitrović. Ritchie swung in a fine free kick from deep and the former Anderlecht man met it at the far post, planting a towering header past Lindegaard to reward the Magpies for their early dominance.
Having conceded, Preston's woes were compounded by the dismissal of midfielder Browne midway through the half. His elbow on Colback as the pair went up for an aerial duel was blatant, and referee Andrew Madley showed little hesitation before producing the red card.
Atsu then pulled one wide after some excellent work from Paul Dummett down the left before Jonjo Shelvey replaced Colback, who was unable to continue after Browne's elbow, but there was no respite for Grayson's men, who fell further behind when Diamé latched on to a loose ball and fired unerringly into the bottom corner from 25 yards out.
And he could have had his second when Mitrović squared it for him having gone clean through, but Diamé blazed high and wide of the target with only Lindegaard to beat before seeing his clever chip float just over the bar in the half's dying moments.
A Hayden half volley at the start of the second period, which was easily gathered by Lindegaard, indicated that United were in no mood to take their foot off the gas, at a low Ritchie crossed looked to have created a goal for Atsu, but for a timely block.
And when Ritchie was felled in the box on 52 minutes, the Scotland international kept hold of the ball after a discussion with Mitrović, stepping up to blast home an unstoppable spot-kick and all but make sure of Newcastle's place in the last eight.
Two minutes later, the crowd of almost 50,000 inside St. James' were treated to a moment of sublime quality. Mitrović, at his commanding best up front, controlled a lofted cross from the right on his chest, before brilliantly sidestepping a pair of challenges from Preston defenders and then goalkeeper Lindegaard, too, before blasting home in front of the Gallowgate End to delight the Magpies faithful.
The onslaught continued, as Atsu's cross-shot struck the inside of the post before the Ghanaian squared for Mitrović, who was denied a hat-trick by an excellent block. Shelvey took aim from well outside the box, but Lindegaard held on.
Mitrović then nodded just wide from an inviting Shelvey delivery and DeAndre Yedlin's deflected cross dropped onto Atsu's head, but the on-loan Chelsea man couldn't quite keep his header down and it rattled the crossbar. Substitute Vurnon Anita saw a close-range hooked effort turned wide by Preston's overworked custodian, who then held another Atsu effort down low to his right.
It wasn't until the final ten minutes that the visitors mustered an attempt on goal, and Matz Sels did brilliantly to repel former Magpie Paul Huntington's goalbound header, but just seconds later it was five.
Diamé strode forward and unleashed another fine effort from long range, which curled beyond Lindegaard and nestled in the corner of the net.
And with seconds left, substitute Perez lashed home from inside the box to round off a wonderful night for Benitez's men, who extended their unbeaten run to eight games in all competitions.