While Liverpool spent the weekend at a warm weather training camp in Spain following their red-hot Champions League display in Porto, several other Premier League sides were involved in FA Cup duty. The big guns all avoided each other and it’s no great surprise that all of them made it into the quarter-final, which was curiously made on Saturday night when two ties still had to be played.
One of those has yet to be settled after Rochdale pulled off the standout result of round five thus far, scoring in injury time to follow in the footsteps of Juventus by drawing 2-2 with Tottenham. Spurs unsurprisingly were much-changed from the midweek game in Turin, but still fielded a strong team that included new signing Lucas Moura and were timid in the first half. Rochdale certainly weren’t overawed by their opponents and they even went into half-time in front, Ian Henderson finishing from close range. Tottenham levelled on the hour mark through the impressive Moura and then seemed to have won it late on after Harry Kane slotted an 88th-minute penalty. Just as Rochdale hearts seemed broken, though, up popped Steve Davies in added time to give the League One strugglers a well-deserved replay and Spurs the headache of another game between now and the second leg of their Champions League tie.
After losing at the John Smith’s Stadium in the league earlier this season, Manchester United ensured that they would not be stunned by Huddersfield again on Saturday evening. They only needed three minutes to hit the front, Romelu Lukaku netting from a neat Juan Mata through ball. The Spaniard thought he had doubled United’s lead just before half-time but VAR declared him offside in what seemed a very contentious decision. It would become 2-0 early in the second half, with Lukaku latching onto a fine pass from Alexis Sanchez before finishing assuredly past Jonas Lossl. Huddersfield actually had the better of proceedings for plenty of the game, but United were clinical and move through to the last eight with minimal fuss.
Chelsea also warmed up for their midweek Champions League assignment by easing into the FA Cup quarter-finals, thrashing Hull 4-0 on Friday night. There were only two minutes on the clock when Willian’s curled shot put the Blues ahead and two goals in a five-minute spell around the half-hour killed the contest altogether. Pedro made it 2-0 to the Premier League champions before Willian doubled his tally for the night. Olivier Giroud then got his first Chelsea goal on 42 minutes to make the second half a formality. Hull spurned a good chance to at least ruin Willy Caballero’s clean sheet, the goalkeeper saving a penalty from David Meyler, but it made little difference in the end as Chelsea breezed through.
They will face Leicester in the quarter-finals after their predecessors as Premier League champions beat Sheffield United on Friday. Riyad Mahrez was handed his first start since his transfer deadline day antics and, to his credit, he played with the endeavour and quality that he showed so often in the title-winning season. Leicester were frustrated by the well-organised Blades for more than hour before finally getting their noses in front midway through the second half, with Mahrez providing the assist for Jamie Vardy to net the game’s only goal. The under-strength Championship side gave a fine account of themselves despite exiting the competition, while any doubts about Mahrez’s commitment to Leicester now seem quashed.
Coventry’s wonderful adventure in this year’s FA Cup came to an end on Saturday after they were comfortably dismissed by Brighton at the Amex Stadium. The Seagulls’ record signing (or record scorer, if you’re to believe Jeff Stelling’s Freudian slip) Jurgen Locadia made his first start for the club and took just 15 minutes to open his account before Connor Goldson, who this time last year was undergoing heart surgery, headed Brighton into a two-goal lead in the 34th minute. Leonardo Ulloa, back on familiar turf after joining on loan from Leicester in January, killed off any faint hopes of a Coventry comeback on the hour mark, although Mark Robins’ side had the late consolation of a Jonson Clarke-Harris goal, the striker deserving of his moment after a fine game. Brighton now face Manchester United in the last eight, a repeat of the 1983 final.
For the second time in a fortnight, Southampton won at The Hawthorns to inflict further misery on West Brom, adrift at the bottom of the Premier League and sifting through the wreckage of the grand theft auto incident in Barcelona last week. Wesley Hoedt, who was run ragged by Liverpool a week ago, had a better time of it here, scoring inside 11 minutes to give the visitors the lead. At a similar juncture in the second half, Dusan Tadic casually lobbed Ben Foster to seemingly put the game out of sight, but West Brom responded just a couple of minutes later through a superb Salomon Rondon volley. The Baggies came very close to finding an equaliser, striking the post and seeing an effort cleared off the line, but they are now left to focus fully on trying to preserve their top flight status between now and the middle of May.
Swansea had been excellent in Carlos Carvalhal’s first few weeks in charge but their visit to the manager’s former club Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday did not portray either team in a good light. There were very few chances in what was surely the poorest tie of the fifth round, one that was dour as the 0-0 scoreline would suggest. Perhaps Carvalhal ought to have resisted the temptation to make changes, as his weakened side failed to trouble their Championship opposition. Both teams are now left with an unwanted replay, Swansea’s third in a row, and Carvalhal remarked afterwards that both managers would have preferred to have gone straight to a penalty shoot-out. Alas, they lock horns again at the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday week.
There’s one more fifth round tie tonight as Manchester City put their hopes of an unprecedented quadruple on the line against Wigan, who memorably beat them in the final five years ago. Should the Premier League leaders prevail at the DW Stadium, they will host Southampton in the quarter-finals. If Tottenham get the better of Rochdale in their Wembley replay, they will travel to either Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea in the last eight. The draw has ensured that the semi-finals could be comprised entirely of teams currently in the top five of the Premier League, should they avoid any upsets between now and then.