Leeds United suffered a humiliating FA Cup exit against Crawley Town 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.
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.
La Liga: Dembele’s Late Winner Pushes Barca Closer To Atletico
Ousmane Dembele volleyed in a 90th-minute winner against Real Valladolid on Monday to fire Barcelona to within a point of Atletico Madrid ahead of next weekend’s Clasico in La Liga.
Barca looked set for a damaging stalemate at Camp Nou after Atletico’s defeat by Sevilla on Saturday but Valladolid had Oscar Plano harshly sent off with 12 minutes left and Dembele snatched a 1-0 victory.
His strike could prove a crucial moment in the Spanish title race, with Barca now breathing down Atletico’s necks ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Real Madrid, who are three points off the top.
If Ronald Koeman’s men win at Valdebebas, they will claim first place for 24 hours at least, before a depleted and deflated Atletico play away at Real Betis on Sunday.
They will have to play better after being frustrated by a determined Valladolid side, with Lionel Messi delivering some firm words to his team-mates in the tunnel at half-time.
“We have to step it up a gear, we have to play with more rhythm,” Messi said. “If not it’s going to get complicated for us.”
It might have been more complicated had Plano not been shown a red card in the 78th minute, his hack on Dembele from behind giving Barca a crucial advantage for the final stages.
Victory makes it six in a row for them in La Liga, another win – particularly after an unconvincing performance – enhancing the sense that momentum now lies with Atletico’s rivals.
Defeat also compounded what Valladolid coach Sergio admitted on Sunday had already been a “sh**ty week” after five of his players tested positive for Covid-19, leaving him without 12 players, with six others injured and one more suspended.
To mark Messi breaking Xavi Hernandez’s appearance record for the club, he was presented with a framed shirt before kick-off, which he accepted with his family on the pitch. Messi passed Xavi’s previous record of 767 appearances last month, with this his 769th.
Valladolid were not just able to compete in the first half, they were probably the better side and could have led when Kenan Kodro’s early header struck the bar.
Dembele broke through and dragged back for Messi, whose shot was blocked, while Pedri’s long-range effort fizzed through and came back off the post.
But Barcelona were flat, their passing predictable and there was concern in Messi’s voice when he told his teammates to find a different gear in the second half.
Valladolid were almost undone by a Messi through ball for Dembele, who held his run but could not finish before the leaping Antoine Griezmann headed the rebound wide.
Barcelona looked more dangerous on the break than in possession and they were lucky to escape a penalty when Oscar Plano poked the ball onto the outstretched hand of Jordi Alba.
Koeman made three changes shortly after, Martin Braithwaite, Francisco Trincao and Ronald Araujo replacing Griezmann, Sergio Busquets and Oscar Mingueza.
But Barca’s biggest boost came 12 minutes from the end, when Plano was sent off for chasing Dembele back and tripping the Frenchman from behind. A yellow card seemed the more obvious decision.
Trincao went close and the winner came in the last minute as Frenkie de Jong’s cross was flicked to the back post by Ronald Aruajo. Dembele was free and lashed into the corner.
Osimhen Returns To Naples After Nasty Head Knock
Victor Osimhen is expected back in Naples on Monday evening despite the Napoli forward having to be hospitalised after banging his head on the ground during his side’s Serie A defeat at Atalanta.
Nigeria striker Osimhen was stretchered off the pitch unconscious towards the end of Sunday’s 4-2 loss in Bergamo after hitting his head following a clash with Cristian Romero.
The 22-year-old came round as he was transported to a hospital in the northern Italian city where tests revealed head trauma, and Napoli said in a statement that he would be returning south.
“Victor Osimhen is due to return to Naples on Monday evening after staying in Bergamo overnight as a precaution… The player will undergo further assessment on Tuesday.”
Osimhen joined Napoli for a club-record fee from Lille last summer, and returned to action last month after being sidelined for over two months with a shoulder injury and coronavirus.
Despite a promising start to the season he has scored just two goals for the club.
Napoli fell to their third defeat in five league games as Atalanta warmed-up for their Champions League clash with Real Madrid to move fourth in Serie A.
Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli are seventh, three points off the Champions League places, with pressure on the coach after his team lost the first leg of their Europa League tie with Granada 2-0 last week.
Arsenal Boss Arteta Hails Man City As ‘Best In Europe’
Mikel Arteta believes his Arsenal team will be facing the best side in Europe when they take on Premier League leaders Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
City have won a club-record 17 successive games across all competitions and are 10 points ahead of local rivals Manchester United at the summit of the English top-flight heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.
Arteta knows City well after working under manager Pep Guardiola in Manchester for three years before returning to manage Arsenal, having previously played for the Gunners.
“I think they are the best team in Europe at the moment,” Arteta said of City. “The way they are performing, the football they are playing and the consistency of the results, take all that it and it makes them the best team.
“So we have a big but, as well, a very exciting challenge ahead of us on Sunday.”
City made an uncertain start to the season but are now hot favourites to win a third Premier League title in four years
Arteta said he was impressed by how they had regained their form.
“What they have done is react to a difficult moment,” the Spanish boss explained. “They reacted in a really convincing way, all united and doing what they do best — being very consistent and winning games very comfortably.”
The former Everton and Arsenal midfielder added: “They have weaknesses like every team but at the moment teams have struggled a lot to find any of that because I think first of all defensively they have been really, really strong.”
Arsenal head into the match after a 1-1 draw against Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash in Rome on Thursday.
Next week’s second leg, being played in Athens because of coronavirus restrictions, is followed by a daunting run of fixtures that includes matches against Leicester, Tottenham, West Ham and Liverpool, all above Arsenal in the Premier League.
“We know the margin for error is minimal with the season that we have had in previous months, so we need to kick on,” he said.