Carling Cup round-up: Blackburn continue evolution with notice of Cup intent

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The Independent Football

Blackburn's evolution under Mark Hughes from a side seemingly happy to put the boot in into a sleek, polished outfit grows ever more convincing. A 2-1 victory over Portsmouth at Fratton Park– the hosts' first home defeat of the campaign – takes Rovers into Saturday's draw for the Carling Cup quarter-finals and none of the other seven would relish a meeting with a club who have now won their last seven games.

Their last defeat was to Portsmouth in September, but Benni McCarthy's early effort and a second-half strike from Morten Gamst Pedersen were enough to settle a closely fought encounter in which David Nugent missed a glaring second-half chance to bring his side level. The former Preston striker had scored in the last two rounds and should have had a third of the season. Instead he headed John Utaka's cross wide from point-blank range.

Pedersen struck soon after to clinch the game for Rovers following a mistake from Pedro Mendes. McCarthy had opened the scoring in the 11th-minute, the South African left unmarked to convert a cross from compatriot Aaron Mokoena, who was later carried off with a suspected broken leg. Kanu's header came too late to upset the visitors.

"There were some huge performances on our side and we really deserved the victory against a very good, strong side," said Hughes.

League One side Luton, finalists in this competition in 1988 – the last time Everton made it into the last eight, took their visitors into extra-time at Kenilworth Road before losing out to Tim Cahill's first goal of the season in the 101st minute. Substitute Cahill seized on Thomas Gravesen's deflected corner to score from close range. "He's got a fantastic knack of being in the right place at the right time," said Allan Irvine, Everton's assistant manager.

Carling Cup quarter-finalists

Arsenal; Manchester City; Chelsea; Liverpool; Tottenham Hotspur; Everton; Blackburn Rovers; West Ham United.

Draw to be made on Saturday

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