With there being no Premier League action this week, this year’s third round of the FA Cup took centre stage. What’s known as the oldest cup competition in club football sees lower league clubs, hoping to give a good account of themselves against illustrious Premier League or Championship opposition.
For teams such as Manchester City, Liverpool or Manchester United, the FA Cup starts this weekend, but for non-league Hartlepool for example and the other lower league teams, it would have started in August.
This year’s third round, provided mouth-watering ties such as Manchester United travelling to Molineux to face Wolves, in a repeat of last year’s quarter-final. Two teams, who aren’t separated by much in the league standings, in theory, seemed destined to produce a hard-fought, tense and exciting game- but sadly for the neutral and supporters alike, this isn’t how this match unfolded.
We here at the sports desk, felt this would be a good game, but in turn, this match was a bit cagey and ended up into an inconvenient 0-0 for both teams.
Inconvenient in the sense of these two teams will have to do it all again at Old Trafford on 13/14th January, which will add another game to an already packed calendar for both sides who will resume their European seasons towards the start of Spring.
Cross-City rivals Manchester City had no such issues in their tie as they swept aside a spirited Port Vale side 4-1. The Valliant’s, who are 10th in League Two, naturally came into this game as the underdogs against City, who won the FA Cup, League Cup and Premier League treble last term.
This is the FA Cup where teams don’t see the opposition, but a game of 11 vs 11, where on the day anything can happen. Despite going in 1-1 at half-time, goals from Sergio Aguero, Taylor Harwood- Bellis and man of the match Phil Foden, helped Man City win this one comfortably 4-1 in the end.
It was a battling performance from John Askey’s men, but City’s class showed. One thing Port Vale can take from this game is an invaluable £300,000, the prize money awarded at this stage. There were other games in the FA Cup third round which didn’t go to script if you like.
Premier League Aston Villa, who are 17th, were beaten by Championship side Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage. The Cottagers who are fourth in the Championship, came out on top in this one, thanks to Bournemouth loanee Harry Arter’s late goal.
This win for Scott Parker’s side sees them into round four for the third time in four seasons, as for Villa, this is the second season running that they have lost to lower league opposition.
Craven Cottage was a ground where one Championship side took a Premier League scalp, but when we looked at the FA Cup fixtures, Deepdale was another ground where we thought a Premier League scalp would take place.
Championship Preston, who were at one stage top of the Championship, faced Norwich, who despite beating champions Manchester City – as well drawing as with Tottenham and Arsenal, were 19th in the Premier League table.
The Lancashire side, sadly for their supporters fell short in this one as the Premier League side won this one convincingly 4-2, with academy graduate Adam Idah in just his second start, grabbing a hat-trick.
In the last of the games from the third round, this week saw Arsenal, who comprehensively beat Manchester United last time out, come up against Championship topping Leeds United.
Despite completely dominating the first, Leeds were undone by a Reis Nelson goal in the second half, to give the Gunners a place in round four. This result, although maybe a bit harsh on the Yorkshire side, was arguably a reward for improved performance in the second half by the 13-time FA Cup winners.
Before this game between Arsenal and Leeds the FA Cup fourth round draw was made. Games of note include Bristol City or Shrewsbury will be looking to earn the right to host UEFA Champions League winners and Club World Cup winners Liverpool.
Arsenal, who with 13 FA Cup titles are the most successful team in FA Cup history face Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth in an all-Premier League tie.
Manchester United who are the next most successful side after Arsenal in FA Cup history, depending on them winning their tricky replay against Wolves, will face the winners of the game between Tranmere and Watford in round four. Here is the full draw for the FA Cup fourth round:
Watford/Tranmere Rovers vs Wolves/Manchester United
Southampton vs Middlesbrough/Tottenham
Hull City vs Chelsea
QPR vs Sheffield Wednesday
Bournemouth vs Arsenal
Northampton Town vs Derby County
Brentford vs Leicester
Reading/Blackpool vs Cardiff/Carlisle
Millwall vs Sheffield United
West Ham vs West Brom
Burnley vs Norwich
Manchester City vs Fulham
Portsmouth vs Barnsley
Bristol City/Shrewsbury vs Liverpool
Bristol Rovers/Coventry vs Birmingham
Rochdale/Newcastle vs Oxford
After losing the first test in tame fashion, England’s cricketers appear to have seized the initiative in the second test against South Africa. At the time of writing, South Africa are in their second innings and are chasing a mammoth 437 to take a 2-0 series lead.
Should The Proteas chase this target down then this would be a world record, with opener Pieter Malan at the crease, the home side will be hopeful of their chances. Malan, who has come into the side in place of the injured Aiden Markram, showed great patience and determination to thwart the tourist’s victory charge.
After starting day four in a very dominant position, England opener Dominic Sibley was able to convert his overnight score of 85 into a very determined and battling 133 not out.
Other players around Sibley, such as Ben Stokes who hit a brutal 72, Jos Buttler (23) and Sam Curran (13) – helped the former Surrey batsmen accumulate his runs in a calm manner, as they attacked the tiring home attack.
The usually miserly Keshav Maharaj finished with second-innings figures of 2-160. In the first test, after being a strong position and then self-destructing under pressure, in this game Joe Root’s men, so far have applied themselves in the right manner.
With the fifth and final day starting tomorrow, the second test between England and South Africa seems evenly poised between the two sides. Although England seem dead on favourites for victory, all three possibilities (win, lose or draw) for The Proteas South Africa are still on the table.
England need eight wickets, and South Africa 312 runs. This match is finely poised, although England will think they have the edge, especially due to them having 312 runs to defend.
The edge they might have, but sport is a funny old game and we have seen already this summer, big targets in test cricket are gettable, England know only too well about this.
Elsewhere in cricket, India and Sri Lanka who started their T20 series on Sunday were left frustrated as the rain saw the game washed out, without a ball being bowled.
The week ahead
In the cricket, India who saw their game washed out due to the bad weather will have a second attempt to get their series against Sri Lanka, up and underway. After winning their last series against T20 world champions West Indies, Virat Kohli’s India will be in confident mood.
Former T20 world champions, who are now coached by Mickey Arthur, have shown against the South African’s former side Pakistan, that they’re capable so the Indian’s will be foolish to underestimate them.
The second match in the T20 series between Indian and Sri Lanka will be on Tuesday 7th Jan at Holkar Cricket Stadium, Indore.
In the football this week, sees the return of the Premier League, after last week it made way for the FA Cup.
Run-away leaders Liverpool are in action against Tottenham at 17:30 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, knowing that even if they do lose, they will still have a massive 14 point lead at the top of the table.
The way they have been this year, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool won’t go into this game with a naive mindset, but we still feel Spurs just might become just the second team since Man United to take points off The Reds all season. This is partly due to the Mourinho effect. Our prediction Tottenham 1-1 Liverpool.
Nearest challengers Leicester who lead third-place defending champions Manchester City by a point, host in-form Southampton, who won’t be a pushover.
This game, although The Saints will be buoyed by recent form, we see a win for The Foxes here, simply because this year they’ve been superb. Our prediction Leicester 2-1 Southampton.
Before this round of Premier League fixtures commences, tomorrow sees the small matter of a Manchester Derby as Manchester City travel to rivals Manchester United for their first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final.
City who are the holders of this cup after last season’s domestic treble would start as favourites, but hosts for the evening Man United have proved they can beat Man City after winning 2-1 at the Etihad in the Premier League this term.
This semi-final promises to be a classic, especially with the talent on show, but with City’s side being more acclimatised to the latter stages of tournaments, we feel this is what will give them the edge of The Red Devils over the two legs. Our prediction for the semi-final: Manchester City win 4-3 on aggregate.
In the other semi-final, this season’s surprise package second-place Leicester, come up against Premier League strugglers Aston Villa, who have struggled badly in the league this term.
Dean Smith, who spent over £100 million on playing talent this summer, has sadly seen his Villa side struggle and in turn finding themselves at the wrong end of the table. In patches, to be fair Aston Villa have not been too bad.
A 2-2 draw away at Manchester United, only emphasizes that fact, so maybe in a one-off game, Villa can produce a good performance and result. From a football purist point of view, one would want Aston Villa to do well against Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester and get a good result in the first leg when they go to The King Power.
We just can’t see it we’re afraid and although they might perform valiantly over the two legs, we see Leicester’s class shining through over the two legs. Our prediction: Leicester win 3-1 on aggregate. That’s the sports round up for this week, see you next week!