Gunners, Chelsea in quarter-finals

LONDON: Arsenal and Chelsea overcame English Premier League opponents to reach the League Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday, with the Gunners beating Liverpool 2-1 and the Blues routing Bolton 4-0.

Fran Merida and Nicklas Bendtner scored for a mostly second-string Arsenal against similarly weakened opponents. But Premier League leader Chelsea fielded a strong side to easily beat visiting Bolton, while Manchester City also drew upon their experienced players to outclass Scunthorpe 5-1. Six of the Premier League’s top seven teams have reached the quarter-finals.

Merida, a 19-year-old Spanish who has never started a Premier League match, capitalised on a mistake by Andriy Voronin to put Arsenal ahead in the 19th. But Liverpool levelled seven minutes later when Ryan Babel controlled a long pass and laid it for Emiliano Insua, who surprised Lukasz Fabianski by hitting the ball immediately to send it arcing over the goalkeeper’s head. Still, Arsenal continued to create a string of chances and a five-man move five minutes into the second half ended with Bendtner cutting inside defender Martin Skrtel in the area to hit a rising shot past Cavalieri into the top of the net.

Premier League leader Chelsea was on course for victory over Bolton when they went ahead in the 15th. Salomon Kalou headed in from Paulo Ferreira’s right-wing cross. It was 2-0 11 minutes later when Malouda side-footed the ball into the net and Deco made it 3-0 by finishing from near the penalty

spot after a pass by Joe Cole. Cole set up the final goal a minute before the end with a cross for substitute Drogba to head in from close range.

Stephen Ireland put Manchester City ahead in the third minute but Scunthorpe equalised midway through the first half through Jonathan Forte. Still, Roque Santa Cruz restored the home side’s lead before halftime and Joleon Lescott, Carlos Tevez and Michael Johnson added second-half goals.

Arsenal, Chelsea and City join defending champion Manchester United, 2008 winner Tottenham, Aston Villa, Portsmouth and Blackburn in the lineup for the quarter-finals.

Copa del Rey

MADRID: Rayo Vallecano beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 as lower-level clubs gained inspiration from Alcorcon’s stunning upset of Real Madrid to win several fourth round Copa del Rey matches on Wednesday.

Second-division Rayo was not alone in beating a topflight club as Hercules beat Almeria 2-1 and Celta Vigo held on for a 2-1 victory over Tenerife. Joaquin Sanchez’s ninth-minute goal ensured Valencia’s 1-0 win over third-division Alcoyano, while Deportivo La Coruna saw off third-division Murcia 1-0.

In matchups between topflight clubs, Osasuna won 2-1 at Xerez, Antonio “Apono” Galdeano’s 76th-minute penalty rallied Malaga to a 1-1 draw against Zaragoza, while Juan Angel Albin’s and Jaime Gavilan’s second-half scores paced Getafe over Espanyol 2-0. Madrid were humiliated 4-0 by third-division Alcorcon — whose payroll is 400 times smaller than the Spanish powerhouse — on Tuesday.