FA Cup: Leeds Stunned By Crawley As Spurs, City, Chelsea Reach Next Round

Tottenham Hotspur’s English midfielder Dele Alli (L) vies with Marine’s English defender Anthony Miley (R) during the English FA Cup third round football match between Marine and Tottenham Hotspur at Rossett Park ground in Crosby, north west England, on January 10, 2021.
Martin Rickett / POOL / AFP

 

Leeds suffered a humiliating FA Cup exit against Crawley as the League Two side swept to a stunning 3-0 win, while eighth tier Marine’s hopes of causing the competition’s greatest shock were crushed in a 5-0 defeat against Tottenham.

After the spiking coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc with matches across the third round on Friday and Saturday, the FA Cup was back on more familiar ground on Sunday as Leeds became the competition’s latest big name to be knocked out by a feisty underdog.

While Marine’s romantic adventure was cut short by Carlos Vinicius’s hat-trick and Chelsea and Manchester City progressed to the fourth round with ease, Crawley’s unexpected success encapsulated the FA Cup’s unique charm at a time when football is badly in need of some positive news.

READ ALSO: Atletico Madrid Game Postponed Due To Snowstorm

Numerous clubs have been hit by Covid-19 problems as the new variant sweeps across Britain, forcing Aston Villa and Derby to field teams of youth players for third round defeats against Liverpool and non-league Chorley respectively.

Despite calls for the English season to be halted, the FA Cup goes on for now and Crawley relished their chance to steal the spotlight.

Leeds sit 12th in the Premier League after a fine first season back in the top-flight, but boss Marcelo Bielsa paid the price for making seven changes at The People’s Pension Stadium in leafy Sussex.

On a fairytale day for Crawley, it was fitting that Nick Tsaroulla should open the scoring with his first career goal in the 51st minute.

Ashley Nadesan’s low shot crept under Kiko Casilla to double Crawley’s lead two minutes later and Jordan Tunnicliffe wrapped up the victory after 70 minutes.

“These players have got a lot to prove to the clubs who have released them and we’ve showed what we can do against a really good side,” Crawley boss John Yems said.

Rubbing salt into Leeds’ wounds, Crawley handed a debut to former reality television star Mark Wright as a late substitute.

How much Bielsa knew about Wright is in doubt, but he insisted he wasn’t surprised by Crawley’s display.

“It’s not a question of surprise. We knew the characteristics of their players. We had the ball for a long period of time but we couldn’t do much with it,” Bielsa said.

– Vibrant Vinicius –
Marine, of the Northern Premier League Division One North West, were trying to bridge the biggest gap — 161 places — between opponents in FA Cup history.

Marine’s squad is comprised of teachers, NHS staff, bin men and factory workers, with their tiny stadium in the Merseyside town of Crosby providing a surreal setting for the visit of Jose Mourinho’s stars.

Appropriately for a match against a team named after a local pub, virus restrictions meant Tottenham had to change in a stadium function room with a bar.

Marine’s ground is lined on one side by houses, so a few lucky locals were able to watch for free as Neil Kengni almost gave Marine the lead when his 30-yard drive cannoned off the bar.

Tottenham, without Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, took control in the 24th minute when Vinicius finished off Dele Alli’s pass.

Vinicius, on loan from Benfica, was on target again after 30 minutes.

Lucas Moura struck with a fine free-kick in the 32nd minute and Vinicius completed his treble five minutes later

Alfie Devine enjoyed a debut to remember when the substitute fired home in the 60th minute, making him Tottenham’s youngest ever scorer at 16 years and 163 days.

“The boys were professionals and didn’t stop until the game was over. The attitude means a lot for me and also for the competition and to Marine’s guys, because they felt we played seriously,” Mourinho said.

Chelsea, FA Cup runners-up last season, thrashed League Two team Morecambe 4-0.

Mason Mount marked his 22nd birthday with a 25-yard strike and, after 12 games without a goal, Timo Werner finally got on the scoresheet in the 44th minute.

Callum Hudson-Odoi and Kai Havertz netted in the second half.

Manchester City cruised to a 3-0 win against second tier Birmingham at the Etihad Stadium, with two goals from Bernardo Silva and one from Phil Foden.

AFP

FA Cup: Smith Rowe Fires Arsenal Into Fourth Round

Arsenal's English midfielder Emile Smith Rowe (R) celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the English FA Cup third round football match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 9, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP
Arsenal’s English midfielder Emile Smith Rowe (R) celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the English FA Cup third round football match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 9, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Emile Smith Rowe made the most of his red card reprieve as the Arsenal youngster sent the FA Cup holders into the fourth round with the decisive extra-time strike in Saturday’s 2-0 victory against Newcastle.

Smith Rowe avoided being sent off when his foul on Sean Longstaff — initially ruled a dismissal — was changed to a booking after referee Chris Kavanagh consulted the pitchside monitor.

It would have been harsh on the promising 20-year-old midfielder if he had been given his marching orders.

Smith Rowe celebrated the escape with a fine finish to open the scoring in a hard-fought third-round tie at the Emirates Stadium.

Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bagged Arsenal’s second goal — just his sixth of a difficult season — in the final moments.

“It was bit of a relief for me with the (red card) incident. It definitely wasn’t intentional,” Smith Rowe said.

“I’m happy to get the goal. From a young kid I have always wanted to play for this club.

Arsenal's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (L) chases the ball during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 2, 2021. Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP
Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (L) chases the ball during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 2, 2021. Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP

 

“We knew how tough it was going to be. It was about breaking them down. It shows how together we are.

“We have been working off the pitch to get closer as a group.”

The Gunners gave boss Mikel Arteta the first silverware of his reign when they beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final in August and the optimism provided by that success is slowly returning to north London after a difficult period.

Arteta was fighting to save his job just two weeks ago, but three successive wins over Christmas lifted Arsenal away from the Premier League relegation zone and eased the pressure on the Spaniard.

Arsenal have won the FA Cup a record 14 times, lifting the trophy four times in the last seven seasons, and another long run in the competition would be a welcome boost for Arteta.

Smith Rowe shines

Bernd Leno, Kieran Tierney, Pablo Mari and Aubameyang were the only Arsenal players to retain their places from the 4-0 win at West Brom.

Arsenal were forced into a late change after Gabriel Martinelli suffered an ankle injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Reiss Nelson.

Newcastle made eight changes of their own but chances were at a premium for Arsenal until David Luiz’s quick free-kick found Aubameyang, whose stinging strike was pushed away by Martin Dubravka.

Andy Carroll scored his first Newcastle goal in 10 years recently and he forced Leno into action with an agile strike from the edge of the area early in the second half.

Newcastle were showing more attacking intent, only for Carroll to waste a golden opportunity to put them ahead when he stabbed wide from close range.

Joe Willock forced Dubravka to make a superb save at full stretch when the midfielder met Nicolas Pepe’s cross with a glancing header.

Arsenal captain Aubameyang couldn’t hit the target with a close-range header before Leno made a brilliant stop to deny Carroll in the final moments of normal time.

Arsenal broke through in the 109th minute when Bukayo Saka chipped a pass to Alexandre Lacazette and his header reached Smith Rowe, who controlled on his chest before drilling a fine finish into the far corner for his second goal of the season.

Aubameyang put the result beyond doubt in the 117th minute when he tapped in Tierney’s cross.

AFP

FA Cup: Aston Villa, Liverpool Tie To Hold Despite COVID-19 Outbreak

File photo: Aston Villa’s English midfielder Jack Grealish (C) scores their seventh goal past Liverpool’s Spanish goalkeeper Adrian during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on October 4, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP) .

 

Aston Villa have confirmed that Friday’s FA Cup third-round clash with Liverpool will go ahead even though many of their players and staff have tested positive for coronavirus.

Villa were forced to close their training ground on Thursday and there were concerns they would have to forfeit their match against Jurgen Klopp’s team.

“Aston Villa can confirm that the Emirates FA Cup third-round tie with Liverpool will be played at Villa Park this evening,” read a brief statement on the club’s website.

READ ALSO: Aston Villa Suffer COVID-19 Outbreak As Concerns Grow For Premier League Season

It is understood that no first-team players will take part in the match, with reports saying 10 players in the first-team bubble had tested positive.

Instead, under-23s coach Mark Delaney is expected to oversee a side made up of under-18 and under-23 players.

The outbreak at Villa also raises questions about how and whether their upcoming Premier League matches can go ahead.

They are due to face Tottenham on Wednesday and are then up against Everton on January 16.

There are growing concerns over whether the Premier League season can be completed on schedule as infection numbers spike in Britain.

A record high 40 positive tests were detected among Premier League players and staff in the week between December 28 and January 3.

Newcastle’s match against Aston Villa last month was the first top-flight fixture this season postponed by a coronavirus outbreak at a club.

Steve Bruce’s side lost captain Jamaal Lascelles and winger Allan Saint-Maximin for a long spell as they suffered the after-effects of the virus.

Lascelles is fit for Saturday’s FA Cup clash with holders Arsenal but Saint-Maximin is still waiting for the all-clear to return to training.

Magpies manager Steve Bruce questioned the morality of playing on as the pandemic worsens.

“The speed which it hit our club within a week, and ripped through, is something which all clubs will be looking at now,” he said.

“It’s difficult to contain and it leaves people sick. Financially it’s right to play on but morally, for me, it’s probably wrong.”

Southampton’s FA Cup match against Shrewsbury is off after a Covid-19 outbreak at the League One club.

Wayne Rooney’s Championship side Derby will fulfil their fixture at non-league Chorley with a youth team after nine positive tests among first-team players and staff.

AFP

Arsenal Face Acid Test Of Arteta Revolution At Anfield

Manchester City’s assistant coach Mikel Arteta takes warm up ahead of the English League Cup quarter-final football match between Oxford United and Manchester City at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford, west of London, on December 18, 2019. OLLY GREENWOOD / AFP

 

Mikel Arteta has “changed the mood” around Arsenal, according to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp with the Gunners rejuvenated by winning the FA Cup, Community Shield and their opening two games of the Premier League season.

However, the toughest test of what Arsenal can aim for this season comes on Monday with a trip to Anfield, where Klopp’s men have not lost in 60 league games.

Arteta described Liverpool’s home as the “toughest place in the world” to go, but Arsenal can take confidence from two victories over the Premier League champions in the past three months.

AFP Sports looks at three key battles where the game will be won and lost.

Trent Alexander-Arnold v Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Aubameyang has been the key figure in Arsenal’s revival, scoring twice in the FA Cup semi-finals and final to defeat Manchester City and Chelsea and his side’s goal plus the winning penalty in the shootout against Liverpool in the Community Shield.

Arteta has followed Klopp’s example by using his biggest goal threat cutting in from a wide area and Aubameyang will look to exploit the space left by Alexander-Arnold as he marauds forward

“With the speed they have for the counter-attack, that can cause you some trouble,” warned Klopp.

However, Liverpool could just as easily benefit from one of the league’s most creative players in Alexander-Arnold not being tracked by Aubameyang.

A minor injury meant he missed the Community Shield and Aubameyang made the most of his absence against the inexperienced Neco Williams. With the England international back, Liverpool are a different side.

Thiago v Granit Xhaka

Liverpool signalled their intent to defend their crown as champions by adding a world class talent in Thiago Alcantara to a team of winners.

The Spanish international gave a glimpse of what he will offer by completing more passes than any Chelsea player despite playing just the second-half of last weekend’s 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

An injury to Jordan Henderson means Thiago is likely to make his first start on Monday and Xhaka has the unenviable task of stopping him dictating the game.

The turnaround in the Swiss international’s Arsenal career is symptomatic of the changes since Arteta’s arrival.

Seemingly on his way out of the club after tearing off the armband and swearing at his own supporters when substituted against Crystal Palace just less than a year ago, Xhaka has rehabilitated his reputation among the Arsenal support by becoming the cornerstone of Arteta’s midfield.

Mohamed Salah v Kieran Tierney

Salah’s hat-trick on the opening day of the season against Leeds took his tally in Premier League games for Liverpool at Anfield to 51 in 57 home games.

That includes scoring against Arsenal in each of their previous three league trips, but Tierney is facing Liverpool away for the first time and has added more steel to the left side of the Gunners’ defence.

The Scotland international is perfectly suited to his role as the left centre-back of Arteta’s three-man defence, where he can also push into a more advanced role when in possession, like he did for Celtic prior to his £25 million ($32 million) move to the Premier League.

Salah scored six times in his first six appearances against Arsenal for Chelsea and Liverpool, but failed to find the net the last two times the sides have met up against Tierney.

AFP

FA Cup Replays Scrapped For Next Season

The FA Cup trophy. Photo: [email protected] Emirates FA Cup

 

FA Cup replays will be scrapped for the 2020-21 season in a bid to ease the strain on clubs during the coronavirus pandemic, the Football Association announced on Thursday.

With a shortened season starting a month later than usual in September there is more pressure on an already hectic calendar.

The FA has taken the decision that all ties in the FA Cup will be decided on the day rather than allowing for the usual replay.

“In order to assist in easing pressure on the football schedule, there will be no replays for the 2020-21 season,” the FA said in a statement.

“After two seasons of record levels of prize funds, the Emirates FA Cup prize fund has returned back in line with 2017-18 levels due to the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Significant changes have also been made by the English Football League to the League Cup in a bid to help teams cope with the schedule.

The first four rounds will be compressed into consecutive weeks in September, with the fifth round held the week before Christmas to avoid clashes with the Champions League.

The two-legged semi-finals, often criticised by managers, will now be played on January 5 or 6, with the club drawn first benefiting from home advantage.

Premier League clubs will enter the competition in either round two, or round three for sides with European commitments.

AFP

‘I’ll Decide When I Go:’ Ozil Tells Premier League Side Arsenal

File photo: Arsenal’s German midfielder Mesut Ozil (L) celebrates scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Watford at the Emirates Stadium in London on September 29, 2018. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

 

Mesut Ozil insists he is the only person who will decide when he leaves Arsenal after the German star was frozen out by Gunners boss Mikel Arteta.

Ozil has not played for Arsenal since the coronavirus hiatus amid reports the club are keen to get his huge salary off the wage bill.

The 31-year-old earns a reported £350,000-per-week ($458,000), but has rarely provided good value since his 2013 move from Real Madrid.

Ozil was absent as Arsenal beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final on August 1, but he will not allow the club to force him out before his contract expires in June 2021.

Holding out hope of winning back his place next season, Ozil told the Athletic: “Things have been difficult but I love Arsenal. I’ll decide when I go, not other people.

“I’ll give everything I have for this club. Situations like these will never break me, they only make me stronger.

“I showed in the past that I can come back into the team and I will show it again.”

Ozil fell out of favour with Arteta’s predecessor Unai Emery but started all 10 of Arsenal’s Premier League games after the former Gunners midfielder took charge in December.

 

File photo: Arsenal’s German midfielder Mesut Ozil (L) shakes hands with Arsenal’s former Spanish head coach Unai Emery (R) after being substituted during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium in London on October 22, 2018. Glyn KIRK / IKIMAGES / AFP

 

However, he has not featured in their past 13 matches in all competitions, with Arteta saying his exile was down to “football reasons”.

Ozil believes he deserves another chance and he said: “You don’t play 10 games in a row if you’re unfit, not good enough or don’t behave well.”

Arteta and many Arsenal players accepted a 12.5 percent pay cut in April as a result of the financial fall-out from the coronavirus.

But Ozil did not vote for the cut and he is concerned that “possibly the decision affected my chances on the pitch.

“As players, we all wanted to contribute. But we needed more information and many questions were unanswered.”

Ozil fears there is now an agenda against him that will make the rest of his time at Arsenal uncomfortable.

“I guess that’s because it is me and people have been trying for two years to destroy me, to make me unhappy, to push an agenda they hope will turn the supporters against me and paint a picture that is not true,” he said.

AFP

Three Things We Learned From The FA Cup Final

Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is mobbed by teammates after scoring his team’s second goal during the English FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on August 1, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s brace in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Let’s look at three things we learned from the Wembley clash:

Irreplacable Aubameyang

In what could be his last game for Arsenal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showed why the Gunners must do everything in their power to keep the Gabon forward.

The 31-year-old is out of contract at the end of next season and has been linked with a move amid reports he wants to play for a club in the Champions League.

Coach Mikel Arteta insists Aubameyang wants to stay, but he also conceded winning the FA Cup would be a useful way to show him the club are heading in the right direction.

Arsenal did their part and it was Aubameyang who provided the crucial cutting edge.

The first African player to start an FA Cup final as captain, Aubameyang became the second-oldest player to score for Arsenal in the showpiece.

With Arsenal trailing to Christian Pulisic’s early goal, Aubameyang’s blistering break left Cesar Azpilicueta trailing in his wake.

Azpilicueta responded by tugging at Aubameyang’s shoulder and the forward made the most of the contact as he tumbled in the area to win a penalty that he dispatched with ruthless efficiency.

Aubameyang won the German Cup with Borussia Dortmund in 2017, scoring the winning goal from the penalty spot.

Once again, he would be the star, but this time it was his skill and improvisation that proved decisive as he jinked past Kurt Zouma and clipped a fine finish over Willy Caballero in the 67th minute.

Chelsea hamstrung by Pulisic injury

Christian Pulisic had emerged as a key figure for Chelsea since the coronavirus hiatus, but a day that started on a high for the United States winger ended in agony.

It has been that kind of turbulent season for Pulisic, whose first year with Chelsea started slowly amid injuries and poor form before bursting into life.

He was on the scoresheet after just five minutes, with his 11th goal of the season.

Drifting into central midfield to take possession, Pulisic slipped a precise pass to Mason Mount and carried on his run into the Arsenal penalty area, where he took Olivier Giroud’s flick and slotted past Emiliano Martinez.

Pulisic was the first American to score in the FA Cup final but disaster struck in the 49th minute when he raced away for a shot that was interrupted when he felt his hamstring twang.

Immediately grabbing the injured area, Pulisic was helped off the pitch.

Without the pace of Pulisic to keep Arsenal’s defense on the back foot, Frank Lampard’s side was bereft of a cutting edge in the final third as the trophy slipped from their grasp.

Arteta bolsters growing reputation

Mikel Arteta enhanced his reputation as one of the Premier League’s brightest young managers with another tactical masterclass.

Having out-witted his mentor Pep Guardiola in Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final success against Manchester City, Arteta showed his acumen again to leave Chelsea boss Frank Lampard out of answers.

Arteta’s use of long passes into the channels behind Chelsea’s two attacking full-backs exposed the flaw in Lampard’s defensive system and led directly to Aubameyang’s equaliser.

Leading Arsenal to their 14th FA Cup success — which brings them a place in next season’s Europa League — showed the 38-year-old Spaniard is the man to restore the club’s tattered reputation.

Arsenal may have endured their lowest league finish for a quarter of a century this season as Arteta battled to steady the ship following Unai Emery’s sacking in December.

But he has won over his players with a direct approach to discipline — banishing malcontents Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi — and his astute game-plans.

Winning the FA Cup will buy Arteta time to continue his rebuild and it was fitting his first trophy as Arsenal manager came in the tournament that brought the last major silverware of Gunners legend Arsene Wenger’s reign.

 

 

-AFP

Chelsea Bash Man United To Book FA Cup Final Date With Arsenal

Chelsea players celebrating after Giroud scored the opener in the FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester United on Sunday, July 19th, 2020. Photo: [email protected]

 

 

French striker, Olivier Giroud was on song as Chelsea bashed Manchester United 1-3 on Sunday to book a date with rivals Arsenal in the final of the FA Cup.

Chelsea were gifted a place in the FA Cup final as Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea made a series of costly blunders in the Blues’ 3-1 win on Sunday.

Frank Lampard’s side will face London rivals Arsenal in the final on August 1 thanks to another nightmare display in a horrendous season for De Gea.

The Spaniard was at fault when he let Olivier Giroud’s shot trickle over the line late in the first half at Wembley.

And De Gea made an even worse mistake moments after the interval when he allowed Mason Mount’s shot to evade his weak attempted save.

While the spotlight was on De Gea and his future at the club after his latest howlers, Chelsea were by far the better team as they reached the FA Cup final for the first time since they last lifted the trophy in 2018.

Harry Maguire’s own goal was a fitting end to a woeful performance from United, who lost for the first time in 20 games in all competitions despite Bruno Fernandes’ late penalty.

United had beaten Chelsea three times this season, with two wins in the Premier League and one in the League Cup.

But Lampard, who won the FA Cup four times as a player, had the last laugh with a result that moves him closer to silverware in his first season as Chelsea boss.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had complained about Chelsea having two days more rest than his team before the semi-final, but his gamble of starting Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood on the bench backfired badly.

United looked out of sync after switching to a back three formation and it was Chelsea who set the tempo despite the absence of injured winger Christian Pulisic.

Foreshadowing the errors to come, Reece James’ long-range blast forced De Gea into an awkward early save.

Dominating possession and pressing with intensity, Chelsea should have been ahead when Marcos Alonso headed over after Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross found him in a good position at the far post.

Fernandes was subjected to some crunching tackles as Chelsea tried to knock United’s influential playmaker out of his rhythm.

– Comedy of errors –

 

degea
Manchester United’s Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea makes a save during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 19, 2020. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP

 

When Eric Bailly was badly injured after a clash of heads with Maguire late in the first half, Solskjaer ditched his malfunctioning formation and sent on Martial in a return to their usual game-plan.

Martial nearly had an immediate impact after the lengthy injury delay as Kurt Zouma’s challenge on him sparked a penalty appeal that was rejected by VAR.

But it was Chelsea who took the lead deep into first half stoppage-time with Giroud’s fourth goal in his last five games.

Anticipating Azpilicueta’s low cross perfectly, Giroud made an astute run in front of Victor Lindelof and flicked his close-range shot past the slow to react De Gea with the outside of his foot.

If that was bad from De Gea, there was even worse to come one minute after half-time.

It was a comedy of errors from United as Brandon Williams gifted possession to Mount in midfield.

Advancing unchecked by United’s back-pedalling defence, Mount hit a long-range drive that lacked power and should have saved by De Gea, but instead it squirmed through his grasp into the net.

Pogba and Greenwood were introduced by Solskjaer, but Chelsea remained on top and De Gea finally made a decent save as he kept out Giroud’s flick from Alonso’s cross.

Chelsea put the result beyond doubt in the 74th minute when Mount found Alonso and Maguire turned the Spaniard’s cross into his own net under pressure from Antonio Rudiger.

Once again De Gea didn’t react quickly enough and it would be no surprise if Dean Henderson, currently on loan at Sheffield United, is competing for the Spaniard’s place next term.

It was no consolation for United when Fernandes scored from the spot in the 85th minute after Callum Hudson-Odoi tripped Martial.

AFP

Getting To FA Cup Final ‘Would Make My Dreams Perfect,’ Says Ighalo

Ighalo joined Manchester United in a surprise move at the close of the January 2020 transfer window,
File: Ighalo joined Manchester United in a surprise move at the close of the January 2020 transfer window,

 

 

Nigerian striker, Odion Ighalo is determined to help Manchester United reach the final of the English FA Cup, saying it “would make my dreams perfect.”

Ighalo, 31, is on loan at the Old Trafford side until January 2021 and has been impressive since joining them early 2020.

While speaking ahead of United’s FA Cup semi-final clash with Chelsea on Sunday, the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) top scorer, said he would “fight hard” to ensure the Reds win the game.

 

Nigeria Grab Early Lead In Tunisia AFCON Third Place Clash
File photo: Nigeria’s forward Odion Ighalo (2nd-R) dribbles past Tunisia’s defender Nassim Hnid during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) third place play-off football match between Tunisia and Nigeria at the Al Salam stadium in Cairo on July 17, 2019. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

According to him, even though playing against Frank Lampard’s men would be a tough one, his teammates are ready to “give everything” to beat them and reach the final of the competition.

He recalled how he missed getting to the final of the FA Cup in 2016 when he was with Watford and said the match against the Blues is another chance for him to do that with the club he has been supporting “all my life.”

“To get to the final would be great for me in my life and my career,” he told the club’s website.

“I missed out in 2016 and I have the opportunity to now get to the final with the club I’ve supported all my life. It would make my dreams perfect. It will be tough but we have what it takes.”

Potential London Final

On Saturday, Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s double clinched a shock 2-0 win for Arsenal over holders Manchester City at Wembley.

 

Arsenal's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (L) leaps for the ball as Manchester City's French defender Benjamin Mendy (R) defends during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 18, 2020. (Photo by MATTHEW CHILDS / POOL / AFP) / NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE
File photo: Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (L) leaps for the ball as Manchester City’s French defender Benjamin Mendy (R) defends during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 18, 2020. (Photo by MATTHEW CHILDS / POOL / AFP)

 

The win means the North London side will take on the victors from the Chelsea vs Manchester United match in the final at Wembley on August 1.

Arteta captained Arsenal to FA Cup triumph six years ago and, in his first season in charge of the north London club, the Spaniard has led them back to the final of a competition they last won in 2017.

Just days after beating Premier League champions Liverpool, Arsenal offered further evidence that Arteta could be the man to restore them to the glory days of the Arsene Wenger era.

Ighalo Double Powers United Past Rooney’s Derby Into FA Cup Quarters

Manchester United’s Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo (25) scores his team’s third goal during the English FA Cup fifth round football match between Derby County and Manchester United on March 5, 2020. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Odion Ighalo ruined Wayne Rooney’s hopes of leading Derby to an FA Cup upset against Manchester United as the Nigeria striker’s double sealed a 3-0 win in the fifth round on Thursday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were always in control at Pride Park and Luke Shaw opened the scoring before Ighalo took over to dash Rooney’s bid to knock out his former club.

United will travel to Premier League strugglers Norwich in their sixth successive quarter-final appearance in a competition they have won 12 times.

Ighalo has only been at United for a few weeks after arriving from China, but his second and third goals for the club stole the spotlight from Old Trafford icon Rooney.

Rooney left United in 2017 after 13 glittering years including five Premier League titles, Champions League glory and a club record 253 goals.

The 34-year-old had spells at Everton and DC United before joining second-tier Derby in a player-coach role alongside boss Phillip Cocu in January.

It was the first time Rooney had faced United since playing for Everton in January 2018 and he remains without a goal in seven appearances against them.

Eighteen years after he burst onto the scene as a teenager with a brilliant goal for Everton against Arsenal, Rooney remains one of English football’s most fascinating figures and he was the centre of attention as fans from both teams chanted his name before kick-off.

But, no longer the effervescent menace who terrorised defenders with his power and poise, Rooney is playing in a deep-lying role these days and he couldn’t quite roll back the years in the face of a composed United display.

It was a Derby player 16 years younger than Rooney who almost gave the hosts a shock lead when Louis Sibley fired just wide from long-range.

Rooney went even closer with a curling free-kick that forced Sergio Romeo to make a sprawling save at his near post.

There are six changes for United as Romero started in goal for David De Gea after his howler in the draw at Everton last weekend, while Harry Maguire was ruled out with an ankle injury.

Bruno Fernandes, the new idol for United fans, was in the team and the Portugal midfielder was starting to pull the strings.

United looked more dangerous once Fernandes heated up and Derby keeper Kelle Roos made a superb save to repel Ighalo’s shot from just six yards.

United’s pressure paid off with a fortunate opener in the 33rd minute.

Fernandes’ shot was deflected high into the air and Shaw met it with a half-volley from the edge of the area, the ball taking a wicked bounce off Jesse Lingard and looping over Roos into the net.

Shaw turned provider as United doubled their lead eight minutes later.

Advancing with intent towards the Derby area, the left-back squeezed a pass into Ighalo, who turned away from two defenders before poking his shot past Roos from six yards.

Rooney was unable to stem the tide and his response was a frustrated foul on Scott McTominay that earned him a booking.

Choosing a more palatable approach to leading the Derby fightback early in the second half, Rooney unfurled a sumptuous pass to Jayden Bogle, whose cross was headed just wide by Martyn Waghorn.

Ighalo ended any hopes of a Rooney-inspired revival in the 70th minute.

Juan Mata picked out Ighalo in the area and when the 30-year-old’s initial shot was blocked, he kept his composure to guide the rebound into the net.

In what would have been an emotional finale for Rooney, his free-kick almost crept in until Romero made a brilliant tip-over.

AFP

Liverpool Suffer Second Defeat As Chelsea Advance To FA Cup Quarter-Finals

Referee Chris Kavanagh (C) shows a yellow card to Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Fabinho (2R) during the English FA Cup fifth round football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in London on March 3, 2020. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

 

Chelsea inflicted a third defeat in four games on Liverpool to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals as goals from Willian and Ross Barkley gave Frank Lampard’s men a much-needed lift at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Liverpool remain well on course for a first league title in 30 years with a 22-point lead at the top of the Premier League, but run the risk of their competitive campaign coming to an early end once the title is sewn up unless they can overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League next week.

Jurgen Klopp made seven changes to the Liverpool side beaten for the first time in 45 Premier League games at Watford on Saturday, but still named a far stronger side than the youthful teams that had seen off Everton and Shrewsbury to reach the fifth round.

The European champions seemed keen to make amends and keep their chances of a treble alive early on, but were denied by the returning Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Chelsea goal as the first of a string of saves from the Spaniard denied Sadio Mane.

The return of the world’s most expensive goalkeeper was one of six Lampard made from a 2-2 weekend draw at Bournemouth with Willian also coming back into the team.

A run of five wins in 16 league games and a 3-0 thrashing at home by Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie last week meant the pressure was on Chelsea to keep their hopes of silverware this season alive.

And they got the lift they needed from the opening goal as Liverpool’s understudy goalkeeper Adrian undid the good work of a brilliant save from Willian within a minute.

The Brazilian was gifted possession again just outside the Liverpool box and this time Adrian could only turn his powerful drive into the bottom corner.

The hosts needed Kepa to show why they spent £72 million ($92 million) on him just over 18 months ago as he made three reaction saves in a matter of seconds to deny Mane, Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino what seemed a certain equaliser.

Chelsea then lost Mateo Kovacic and Willian to injury either side of half-time to further deplete Lampard’s midfield options.

But that may provide the opportunity Barkley needs to kickstart his flagging career at the Bridge.

The England international doubled Chelsea’s lead in spectacular style midway through the second half as he galloped forward from inside his own half, leaving Fabinho in his wake, before smashing past Adrian from outside the area.

Moments later Chelsea should have been out of sight as a mix-up in the Liverpool defence allowed Pedro Rodriguez to run clean through on goal. The 32-year-old does not have the pace of his prime at Barcelona, though, and with Gomez closing in, he fired too close to Adrian.

Klopp threw on Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, and James Milner in the final 20 minutes, but the German is yet to win a domestic cup competition in his five seasons at Anfield and that wait will go on.

Despite the changes, it was Chelsea who continued to look the more likely team to score again as Adrian produced a brilliant save to turn Olivier Giroud’s strike onto the bar.

AFP

Klopp Defends Stance On FA Cup Replays

Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp gestures from the sidelines during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Shrewsbury Town and Liverpool at the Montgomery Waters Meadow Stadium in Shrewsbury, north-west of Birmingham in England on January 26, 2020.  AFP

 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is adamant he has to take a stand over the clash between the midwinter break and FA Cup replays or nothing will ever change.

The German boss has drawn criticism for announcing that neither he nor his first-team players will be present for the fourth-round replay at home to Shrewsbury next week as it falls within their scheduled Premier League break.

Instead, the club will send out a youth team led by Under-23s coach Neil Critchley.

“If we react how we always react and find a way to do it, then nothing will change,” Klopp said. “I have to make decisions that aren’t popular, based on the situation we are in.

“Because we plan long-term I cannot plan when there is a real decisive period coming up. I decided three weeks ago we would have a mid-season break based on a letter we got in April 2019.

“The FA tried to move games to midweek to decrease the intense period. Whoever was involved in that — may be from us — they forgot to say no.”

Liverpool, who play West Ham in the Premier League on Wednesday, are closing in on their first English top-flight title for 30 years and are also through to the last 16 of the Champions League.

A Liverpool side led by Critchley lost 5-0 to Aston Villa in the League Cup quarter-final in December while the first team competed in the Club World Cup in Qatar, a competition they went on to win.

 Fixture frustration 

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he could understand Klopp’s frustration and still regrets United’s decision to pull out of the competition 20 years ago.

Solskjaer, whose side beat Tranmere 6-0 on Sunday to progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup, was part of the United squad that pulled out of the tournament in 2000 to play in the FIFA Club World Championship.

“I think we all regret maybe not going for it in 2000 when we went to the World Club tournament in Brazil and it’s never nice not to be participating,” said the United boss.

“It’s supposed to be a break and if we’re going to help the English clubs, they need a break.

“But that’s up to Jurgen and Liverpool to make decisions. Jose (Mourinho) and Tottenham, they’ve got a replay. We’re just happy we didn’t get a replay ourselves because it was playing on our mind.”

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola supported Klopp’s stance, saying: “We accept the schedules and the competitions, games every two or three days, but don’t tell the managers which players to pick.”

Klopp said forward Sadio Mane would likely only miss another two matches after tearing a muscle in last week’s match against Wolves.

“Sadio will not be involved for West Ham and probably not Southampton,” said the Liverpool boss.

“After that, he will be back on track. He has a small muscle tear which is serious enough. We were lucky with it, though, it wasn’t too serious.”

AFP