6 January 2013

Nigeria: FA Cup - Big Boys Avoid Exits

The FA Cup third round threw up a few surprises on Saturday as Newcastle, Wolves, Cardiff and Nottingham Forest were all dumped out by lower league opposition. However, the Premier League's big boys Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham all advanced to round four, although in Chelsea's case the afternoon was not without a scare.

Chelsea 5 - 1 Southampton

Rafael Benitez saw new signing Demba Ba score twice as Chelsea reacted to their shock midweek loss to QPR with a 5-1 win at Southampton. Benitez, who won the FA Cup in 2006 with Liverpool, fielded a strong side featuring Eden Hazard and Juan Mata, and he was rewarded as the Blues came from behind thanks to goals from Ba (2), Victor Moses, Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard.

Chelsea made a sloppy start at St Mary's, giving away possession regularly, and Jay Rodriguez struck in the 22nd minute after Jason Puncheon's pass. However, the European champions were level in the 35th minute as Ba opened his account by poking home Mata's goalbound effort, before Moses drilled home for a half-time lead. Mata created Chelsea's third for Ivanovic, and there was still time for Ba to add to his highly promising debut before Lampard netted from the spot.

Man City 3 - 0 Watford

Five-time winners Manchester City left Mario Balotelli on the bench following his public bust-up with Roberto Mancini, but a strong starting XI breezed past Watford 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium. Joe Hart was the only major name given a rest by Mancini, who saw his threadbare squad triumph thanks to goals from Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry and Marcos Lopes.

Balotelli sat on the bench next to Scott Sinclair - the man he fouled in training to spark the fracas, and he saw Tevez open the scoring in the 25th minute with a drilled free-kick. Barry then headed home James Milner's cross on the stroke of the interval before Lopes added a third.

West Ham 2 - 2 Man United

Van Persie once again proved that without him Man U would be grabbing at straws this season, by scoring the equaliser at the death to force West Ham to a replay and avoid the ignominy of an early exit.

Tottenham 3 - 0 Coventry

Tottenham left the in-form Aaron Lennon among the substitutes as they thrashed Coventry 3-0 in a rematch of the famous 1987 final meeting between the two sides. Andre Villas-Boas is looking for his first trophy in English football and will lead his team into the fourth round thanks to goals from Clint Dempsey(2) and Gareth Bale.

The Spurs opener was fairly simple for Dempsey who converted from close range after Bale sent his initial header goalwards. Bale then notched the second as the home side overran their visitors, before the goalscorers combined for the third as Dempsey netted his second from Bale's corner.

Brighton 2 - 0 Newcastle

Newcastle's nightmare season continued on Saturday as Brighton delivered the first giant-killing act of the FA Cup third round, beating the Magpies 2-0 on home soil.

Alan Pardew's side currently sit two points outside the relegation zone in the Premier League and have now lost their last five matches in all competitions. They did not even keep 11 men on the pitch at Brighton, with Shola Ameobi somewhat harshly sent off for two bookable offences.

Andrea Orlandi was the Brighton hero, spinning and flicking the ball past Rob Elliot in the 33rd minute after Wayne Bridge had exposed Gabriel Obertan. Ameobi then saw red early in the second half after histrionics from David Lopez, and Brighton killed the game off when Will Hoskins lost his marker to slot under Elliot.

Luton 1- 0 Wolves

One of the results of the day was produced by Paul Buckle's Conference outfit Luton, who beat Wolves 1-0 at Kenilworth Road. Championship side Wolves fell behind a minute into the second half through Alex Lawless' strike, and that proved enough for Luton to book their place in round four.

Fellow Conference side Macclesfield rivalled Luton's efforts after they launched a comeback to beat Championship Cardiff 2-1. Macclesfield trailed with five minutes remaining, but Matthew Barnes-Homer equalised before scoring the winner from the spot.

Wigan avoided embarrassment as they came from behind to draw 1-1 with League One Bournemouth, who once famously upset Manchester United at this stage of the competition. Roberto Martinez's team almost suffered a repeat at the DW Stadium, but a dubious penalty decision allowed Jordi Gomez to cancel out Eunan O'Kane's long-range strike.

An upset was also avoided by Fulham, who turned in a dire display but still drew 1-1 with Blackpool at Craven Cottage courtesy of Giorgos Karagounis' equaliser. Championship side Bolton were also frustrated by Sunderland, as goals from Connor Wickham and Craig Gardner saw the Black Cats come from two down to draw 2-2 at the Reebok Stadium.

Nottingham Forest saw a one-goal lead snatched away as League One Oldham shocked the two-time winners 3-2. Robbie Simpson was twice on the scoresheet for Oldham before Jose Baxter netted a third as Forest had Danny Collins sent off.

Aston Villa, who are already in the Capital One Cup semi-finals, began their bid for a dual cup assault with a 2-1 win at home to Championship strugglers Ipswich. Paul Lambert's side were stunned by Michael Chopra's first-half opener, but Darren Bent responded 45 seconds into the second period before Andreas Weimann won it seven minutes from time.

Harry Redknapp, who won the FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008, will take QPR into the draw for round four after they drew 1-1 against West Brom at Loftus Road. Looking to build on their incredible win at Chelsea, the league's bottom side fell behind to Shane Long's late strike but levelled in the last minute through Keiron Dyer.

Crystal Palace starlet Wilfried Zaha failed to inspire a victory as Stoke earned a 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park. Zaha is reportedly being courted by Manchester United and Arsenal, but neither he nor Michael Owen could find the net as the sides settled for a replay.

League One Crawley Town, who are currently challenging for a play-off spot in league competition, scored one of the fastest goals in FA Cup history but eventually lost 3-1 to Premier League strugglers Reading at Broadhall Stadium. The Royals were stunned by Nicky Adams' strike after 14 seconds, but hit back through Adam Le Fondre(2) and Noel Hunt.

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