West Ham thrash Man United in League Cup

Jonathan Spector and Carlton Cole both scored twice as West Ham thrashed reigning champion Manchester United 4-0 to reach the semifinals of the League Cup.

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LONDON // Jonathan Spector and Carlton Cole both scored twice as West Ham thrashed reigning champion Manchester United 4-0 to reach the semifinals of the League Cup, while Arsenal also made the last four by beating Wigan 2-0 yesterday.

United, which is top of the Premier League, was looking to win England's second-tier competition for a third year running but a side made of largely of reserves came unstuck in bitterly cold conditions at Upton Park.

United States defender Jonathan Spector, who used to play for United, scored a first-half brace before Cole added two more after the break for West Ham, which is bottom of England's top division.

Arsenal is now the favorite for the competition, with an Antolin Alcaraz own goal and Nicklas Bendtner's close-range finish seeing off Wigan.

The other two quarterfinals will be played tomorrow, with Birmingham hosting fierce local rival Aston Villa and Ipswich - the only non-Premier League team left in the competition - at home to West Bromwich Albion.

United, which went top of the Premier League at the weekend thanks to a 7-1 thrashing of Blackburn, made 10 changes to its starting team and one of those players recalled, Gabriel Obertan, saw a seventh-minute shot tipped onto the post by Hammers goalkeeper Robert Green.

West Ham was denied the lead in the 16th when Victor Obinna's shot, which deflected in off Spector, was ruled out for offside aggainst the American player.

But the hosts didn't have to wait long before going ahead, Spector getting in front of Darren Fletcher to head home Obinna's cross for his first goal in six years of English football.

Spector had scored for the Hammers in 2007 in a league match at Derby but his strike was eventually given as an own goal to Eddie Lewis - a teammate in the US side.

Spector - playing in the unfamiliar position of central midfield - needed only 15 minutes to find the net a second time. After going on a surging run, his pass into the box was blocked but the loose ball ran free and Spector pounced to send a rasping shot into the United net.

Things got worse for United after the break as Obinna continued to run riot down the left.

The Nigeria international, on loan at West Ham from Inter Milan, sent over a whipped cross in the 56th that Cole headed home and the England striker followed up with a clever swivel and shot in the 67th after Obinna had again provided the pass.

With Arsenal's last trophy coming in 2005, manager Arsene Wenger has decided to take the League Cup seriously this season, having previously used the competition to blood youngsters in his squad.

Wenger's team against Wigan was far from first choice but it included established internationals like Netherlands striker Robin van Persie, who was starting his first game since Aug. 28, England winger Theo Walcott and Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner.

The latter two were key figures in the opening goal scored by Alcaraz, who inadvertently glanced the ball into his own net in the 42nd minute after Bendtner had just failed to meet Walcott's inswinging cross.

Before that, Bendtner somehow failed to meet Van Persie's free kick in the second minute and Mexico forward Carlos Vela chipped a delicate finish wide in the 27th having being sent clear by the Dutch player.

Bendtner, who has recently complained about not getting enough first-team action, made it 2-0 in the 65th by sliding home a sublime cross from Vela.

Walcott and substitute Samir Nasri went close in the final 20 minutes as the Gunners ran out comfortable winners.

To make matters worse for Wigan, which is third from bottom in the Premier League, forward Victor Moses was carried off on a stretcher in the 35th after falling on his left shoulder.