Tuesday, January 31, 2023

FA Cup Fourth Round

Non-league Wrexham extended its FA Cup run to a forced second leg with Sheffield United after a 3-3 draw, providing more content for its television documentary. The television darlings were poised to travel on the to the next round till a late goal by the Blades extended the fourth round matchup.

The Welsh side, disappointed at the postponed opportunity, suffered a better fate than Arsenal and Liverpool, among other Premier League sides, after the Gunners and Reds went down to fourth round defeat. The much anticipated matchup of Arsenal and Manchester City was a drab affair with the Citizens taking a 1-0 decision on a goal by defender Nathan Ake. Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta made six changes to the lineup which had defeated Manchester United in league play the previous weekend and the Gunners displayed none of the form which has put it them at the top of the Premier League table. Manchester City weren’t much better as they advanced on the merit of a single well-placed shot by Ake who found himself unmolested in the Arsenal box in the 64th minute.

Liverpool was also swept from the tournament in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Brighton. It was the Seagulls’ second win over Liverpool in the past two weeks and piled further misery on Liverpool’s disappointing season. Kaoru Mitoma delivered the winner in stoppage time to complete Brighton’s comeback form an early one goal deficit. The loss means Liverpool is eliminated from both domestic cup competitions in a year of league struggles as well as the Reds currently sit ninth in the Premier League table. Qualification for European competition next year could be in doubt as Liverpool supporters are nonplussed by the rapid decline. Liverpool faces Real Madrid in the next phase of this year’s Champions League which could well add to this year’s failures. Brighton, currently sixth in the table, is delivering results even as it hemorrhages managers and players this year. Manager Roberto De Zerbi took over from Chelsea bound Graham Potter and has continued the Seagulls’ ascent despite the poaching of key players by larger clubs. The circumstances under which Leandro Trossard recently left for Arsenal irritated the Italian manager who benched midfielder Moises Caicedo for Sunday’s match while rumored interest from Arsenal and Chelsea is sorted out. De Zerbi just makes do with whoever’s left. Mitoma is now becoming one of the new rising stars on the south coast.

Fulham will be pushed to a fourth-round replay after the Cottagers were held to a 1-1 draw by Sunderland. It was Fulham that needed a second half goal from Tom Cairney to force the additional fixture. Leicester, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham and Manchester United all took care of business and will proceed to the fifth round. Casemiro had a rare brace in Manchester United’s 3-1 win over Reading. The victory could prove costly to the Red Devils, however, as midfielder Christian Eriksen was injured and could be lost until May. Eriksen’s injury could result in a frantic last minute transfer window foray by the Red Devils to address its sudden midfield need. Manchester United will face West Ham in the next round of the FA Cup after the Hammers eliminated Derby 2-0 on Monday. Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio provided the goals.
The need to replay six different fourth round matchups clouds several of the remaining fifth round draws. Leeds will await the winner of the Fulham and Sunderland replay for what could be the only other all Premier League matchup next round. Leeds has acquired yet another American talent as Weston McKennie joins on loan from Juventus. The midfielder joins USMNT teammates Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams in playing for Leeds’s American manager Jesse Marsch. 


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