5 things we learned from this weekend’s FA Cup action
A coronavirus-affected FA Cup third round saw Aston Villa’s youngsters shine in defeat against Liverpool and non-League Chorley upset Derby.
Holders Arsenal progressed after extra time and Sheffield United finally got their first win of the season, while fellow Premier League strugglers West Brom were on the receiving end of an upset at Blackpool and Leeds were humbled at Crawley.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at five things we learned from this weekend’s third-round ties.
Kids are alright at Villa
The third round action began on Friday night at Villa Park, where Premier League champions Liverpool survived a major scare against Aston Villa’s plucky kids.
A Covid-19 outbreak at the club meant that Villa’s team was made up of under-18s and under-23s, with the average age of the starting line up just 18 years and 294 days. Several members of the squad had yet to pass their driving test and were dropped off at Villa Park by their parents.
Liverpool eventually clinched a 4-1 win after Louie Barry’s equaliser for coronavirus-hit Villa threatened to embarrass the visitors, with the score 1-1 at half time.
Sadio Mane struck an early opener, but Liverpool needed three quickfire second-half goals from Georginio Wijnaldum, Mane and Mohamed Salah to end the hosts’ hopes of a stunning upset.
Derby were another team decimated by Covid-19 but, unlike Liverpool, they paid the price at Victory Park.
Interim manager Wayne Rooney and their entire first-team squad were isolating so the Rams were forced to field a team made up from their youth sides in order to fulfil the fixture.
With an average age of just 19 and not a single game of first-team experience amongst them, it was an uphill struggle for the Championship club and a great leveller for Chorley.
Goals from Connor Hall and Mike Calveley gave the National League North team what was, theoretically, an upset on a freezing afternoon in Lancashire on Saturday.
Shock exits for Big Sam and Bielsa
Sam Allardyce’s wait for a first win in charge of West Brom continued after the Baggies were dumped out by League One Blackpool, losing a penalty shoot-out 3-2.
Seasiders captain Chris Maxwell saved spot-kicks from Kyle Edwards, Darnell Furlong and Matheus Pereira to give Blackpool victory after the tie finished 2-2 after 90 minutes and extra time.
League Two Crawley produced a stunning FA Cup shock by embarrassing lacklustre Leeds with an emphatic 3-0 triumph. Second-half from strikes Nick Tsaroulla, Ashley Nadesan and Jordan Tunnicliffe secured a remarkable third-round upset at Broadfield Stadium.
Blades win at last
If any team needed a win this weekend, it was Sheffield United. Rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table after losing 15 of their 17 matches, the cup provided some salvation for Chris Wilder’s side and they responded with a 3-2 victory against Bristol Rovers.
Oliver Burke – with his first Blades goal since a September switch from West Brom – and Jayden Bogle added to an early Joe Day own goal as the Premier League’s basement club led three times.
It was a first win since defeating Chelsea 3-0 in the league on July 11 – 22 games ago.
A day to remember for Marine
Eighth-tier Marine proved the magic of the competition is still alive even in defeat.
Tottenham ensured they were not the victims of the biggest ever FA Cup shock with a 5-0 win at the Northern Premier Division North West League club.
Never in the competition’s 149-year history has there been such a mismatch as the Premier League side travelled to a club 160 places below them in the football pyramid.
Jose Mourinho’s side won it through Carlos Vinicius’ first-half hat-trick, a Lucas Moura free-kick and a goal which saw Alfie Devine become the club’s youngest ever player and goalscorer at 16 years and 163 days.
But this was all about Marine, who enjoyed a dream day and made enough money to safeguard their future for some time having sold over 20,000 virtual match tickets on top of their TV fee and prize money.