FA Cup


Parkinson warns of ´jewel in the crown´ Defoe

Bradford City must shut out Jermain Defoe if they are to progress past Sunderland in the FA Cup on Sunday, according to boss Phil Parkinson.

Phil Parkinson has warned his Bradford City side of the dangers posed by Jermain Defoe – labelling the striker as Sunderland’s “jewel in the crown” ahead of Sunday’s fifth-round clash.

Defoe has scored twice in five appearances for Sunderland since moving from Toronto FC last month and is likely to feature against City at Valley Parade.

If City –  conquerors of Chelsea in the last round – are to knock out Premier League opposition again this weekend, Parkinson feels Defoe needs to be stopped.

“I’ve seen two of their last three games and you’ve got to say Defoe is the jewel in the crown at the moment,” Parkinson explained on Friday.

“His movement in the box is exceptional, that’s why he has such a good goalscoring record. We’re going to have to make sure our concentration levels are right.

“Can we stop the balls coming and, when it’s in the box, we have to concentrate until the end.”

Much of the build-up to this weekend’s tie has centred on comments made by Sunderland boss Gus Poyet – who described the Valley Parade pitch as “one of the worst in the country”.

Parkinson, who was also critical of the surface recently before retracting his comments, added: “We want the pitch to be in the best condition it can be as we’ve got some good footballers but whatever the state of the pitch is we’ve got to try and be the best team on it.

“Anyone who saw the game [against MK Dons] on Monday, saw some great football played – I don’t think it’s as bad as people make out.

“We’re going to look forward to the occasion but when the whistle blows it’s important that we focus on the factors that will give us the best chance.

“We’ve got to take confidence from the Chelsea victory and the lads are in a confident state of mind on the training ground. 

“But we’ve also got to go into the game with an underdog mentality – to put into perspective one of their mid-earners will be earning more than our whole squad put together.

“There’s a huge gulf but my job and the rest of the coaching staff is on Sunday to make sure the gulf isn’t that evident and that’s what we’ll try to do.”

 

Fri 13 February, 2015
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Liverpool 11/10 to win away to Crystal Palace in Saturday’s FA Cup meeting

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Liverpool to win against Crystal Palace
Odds: 11/10 @ William Hill

Liverpool have had bad experienced in their last two meetings against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, but they will be confident of getting a result in the FA Cup this weekend. The Reds have been in fine form, unbeaten in nine league games, winning six, keeping five clean sheets in the process.

Now manager Brendan Rodgers finally has the Merseyside team looking like a side capable of winning the competition, he’ll be taking no chances with team selection. Liverpool will line up with a strong eleven, and stand a good chance of beating a Crystal Palace side who will be very open.

In a cup format, a draw does the Eagles no good, so they’re forced to be bold in their approach. Which could well see Liverpool take advantage. As a result, William Hill are giving odds of 11/10 for the Reds to win away to Palace at Selhurst Park, booking a place in the FA Cup quarter-final, while earning revenge over the Londoners too.

Bet: Liverpool to win away to Crystal Palace in Saturday’s FA Cup meeting @ 11/10 with William Hill >>

Fri 13 February, 2015
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Hazard signs new Chelsea deal

Hazard signs new Chelsea deal

 

Chelsea F.C. winger Eden Hazard has put pen to paper on a new five-and-a-half year deal at Stamford Bridge.

The Belgium international, 24, joined Chelsea from Lille OSC for £32 million in the summer of 2012, and has gone one to tally 43 goals and 46 assists in 147 appearances for the Blues.

Hazard, a two-time PFA Team of the Year selection, has started every English Premier League match for Chelsea this season, and is absolutely delighted to commit his long-term future to the club.

“I am very happy to sign a new contract with Chelsea,” Hazard said. “Since I came here in 2012 I have always felt good and the club has been very supportive to me.

“The manager has helped me improve a lot, the fans have been fantastic and I have an amazing understanding with my team-mates.

“I always try to give pleasure to the supporters with my style of play and it is nice to know they appreciate my work.

“I hope we can repay that support by winning lots of trophies, beginning with the Capital One Cup at Wembley, and after that, we can push hard towards the end of the season.”

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho added: “I am very happy that Eden has signed a new contract. It shows he believes in the club’s coaching staff and players to help him become the best player in the world.

“He is already a top player and his evolution has been fantastic. He is still very young and he can become the best.”

Hazard has tallied nine goals and five assists in 25 league appearances for the West Londoners in 2014/15.

Diarra will join West Ham in the summer

West Ham United will have to wait until the summer to sign former Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra.

Diarra, 29, had been training with the Hammers, but a FIFA regulation will prevent the player from joining the club until the end of the season.

“We had agreed a deal and unfortunately the FIFA regulation – that hasn’t been explained to me yet – there is a FIFA regulation at the moment that cannot be overcome so he will not be joining us until the end of the season,” West Ham manager Sam Allardyce told Sky Sports News.

West Ham (10-8-7), currently in eighth-place in the league table, will travel to The Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday.

West Brom (6/4); West Ham (2/1); Draw (12/5)

 

Fri 13 February, 2015
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Crystal Palace v Liverpool: Rodgers´ men aim to bury the past

Liverpool will hope to lay some ghosts to rest at Selhurst Park when they take on Crystal Palace in the FA Cup fifth round.

Selhurst Park has been the scene of some painful moments for Liverpool in recent times, but Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie will offer them a shot at exorcising those demons.

It was there that Liverpool’s title dreams were all but ended last season, when a 3-0 lead somehow vanished inside nine minutes to take two points and control of the trophy’s destination from the Anfield club’s hands.

Manager Brendan Rodgers insisted before November’s visit to Selhurst that the Premier League crown was not lost in that capitulation, but the game that followed inflicted even further psychological damage.

Despite Rickie Lambert’s goal after just two minutes, Palace hit back to go 3-1 ahead – and there was no dramatic turnaround on that occasion. 

That represented a fourth consecutive loss for Rodgers’ side, but they head into this weekend’s match in altogether more promising form, having lost only twice in 21 matches – one of those an extra-time League Cup defeat to Chelsea – since that Palace reverse.

With Rodgers in Italy on official club business, assistant Colin Pascoe faced the media on Thursday and he cited the loss to Palace as a turning point.

“When we lost to Palace it was a real low in the camp,” he said. “You look for a reaction and we tweaked the system and the players have responded. From that day it was a great reaction and the lads are playing attractive football.”

Sitting seventh in the table – only four points off fourth – and chasing silverware domestically and in Europe, Liverpool remain on course to provide a fitting send off for MLS-bound captain Steven Gerrard, who has gone nine years since he last lifted the FA Cup trophy.

Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over Tottenham handed Liverpool a timely boost, with Mario Balotelli grabbing a late winner at Anfield, but the triumph came at a cost as Gerrard limped off with a hamstring problem, ruling him out of the Palace game.

Alan Pardew knows about the pain and glory of the FA Cup, having helped Palace to the final as a player only to lose to Manchester United in a replay 25 years ago.

He also guided West Ham to the 2006 showpiece at the Millennium Stadium, where one of the most memorable finals ended 3-3 against Liverpool, before the Merseysiders prevailed 3-1 on penalties.

Matches between Palace and Liverpool usually provide plenty of goals, the last six meetings having yielded 23.

The visitors may pair Balotelli with the man he replaced on Tuesday, Daniel Sturridge, while Pascoe confirmed Emre Can could move into midfield, with Joe Allen also in the frame.

Palace remain without Mile Jedinak (ankle), while it remains to be seen whether Scott Dann will be passed fit following a head injury.

Thu 12 February, 2015
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Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge 11/10 to score anytime in tonight’s FA Cup clash against Bolton

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Sturridge to score anytime
Odds: 11/10 @ 888 Sport

Liverpool travel to the Macron stadium to face Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup fourth round tonight, and returning striker Daniel Sturridge could well make his first start since coming back from injury. The England international scored following his introduction from bench in the Reds’ 2-0 win against West Ham, and he’ll be hoping to play a scoring role against Bolton too.

Sturridge has two goals from three league starts this season, but could be utilised in the FA Cup to regain his fitness. Bolton will be a stiff test for Liverpool, but their form of late should see them through to the fifth round of the competition.

888 Sport are backing Sturridge to score anytime against the Trotters to continue his scoring run since coming back to full fitness, and the 25-year-old will certainly be making up for lost time, given he’s been out of action for months. He took little time to show his worth in the West Ham victory, so he certainly hasn’t lost his scoring touch. Bolton will be another test for him.

Bet: Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge to score anytime in tonight’s FA Cup clash against Bolton @ 11/10 with 888 Sport >>

Wed 4 February, 2015
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Sunderland 6/4 to win away to Fulham in tonight’s FA Cup fourth round replay

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Sunderland to win against Fulham
Odds: 6/4 @ Coral

Sunderland travel to Craven Cottage to face Fulham tonight in the FA Cup fourth round replay, with neither side able to a winner at the Stadium of Light last month. Fulham have endured a tough season in the Championship, following the change in managers in the last year, but they are looking for a deep run in the cup.

Home advantage could make a difference, as Fulham have won three of their last four league games at Craven Cottage, but have suffered four defeats from six in the division. They have conceded 10 goals in that time too, so Sunderland will fancy their chances.

The Black Cats have been more impressive on the road of late, with Gus Poyet’s men surprisingly having lost only two of their previous seven away games, earning four clean sheets in the process. Tonight’s game will be a tight affair, but the North-East club are being given odds of 6/4 by Coral to win it.

Sunderland’s quality should shine through to book their place in the fifth round on the FA Cup this evening.

Bet: Sunderland to win away to Fulham in tonight’s FA Cup fourth round replay @ 6/4 with Coral >>

Tue 3 February, 2015
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Cambridge have already won the lottery with Manchester United replay – Money

Richard Money says Cambridge United have “bought a Euro Millions ticket” by securing an FA Cup replay at Manchester United.

Cambridge United manager Richard Money says the club have already won the lottery by securing an FA Cup fourth-round replay with Manchester United.

The League Two outfit visit their Premier League opponents on Tuesday after holding the 20-time English champions to a goalless draw at The Abbey Stadium last month.

Money has likened Cambridge’s run to Old Trafford to a lucky gambling streak, and still retains hope that his players can strike it rich on Tuesday.

“If you go to Las Vegas and you play those fruit machines and you win the jackpot – that’s probably what the draw was, in terms of Cambridge versus Manchester United,” he said.

“To get the replay probably means we bought a Lottery ticket and won. 

“Now we’ve bought a Euro Millions ticket.

“The percentage of chance diminishes because of it, but, because you’ve got a ticket, you do have a chance. That’s how I feel.”

Tue 3 February, 2015
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Manchester United v Cambridge United: Van Gaal wants more of the same from Januzaj

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has urged Adnan Januzaj to show more consistency ahead of the FA Cup clash with Cambridge United.

Louis van Gaal has told Adnan Januzaj to prove he deserves a place in Manchester United’s starting line-up ahead of Tuesday’s FA Cup fourth round replay against Cambridge United.

Teenage winger Januzaj made only his fifth Premier League start of the season in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over relegation-threatened Leicester City.

The Belgium international caught the eye against Nigel Pearson’s side, but Van Gaal warned the 19-year-old that he has to produce the goods on a regular basis in order to play a bigger part at Old Trafford. 

He said: “Every time you have to compare and that’s also the same with [Darren] Fletcher, who is a very good player, but I have to compare him with Michael Carrick and Daley Blind who are playing in that position.

“The competition is high and also that’s difficult to manage for players. Also for the player himself it’s difficult to manage.

“That’s why I want to help Fletcher [to secure a move away from Old Trafford].

“It is also like Januzaj – I have to compare him with [Juan] Mata, but in the next press conference you shall ask, ‘Why? Why? Why is Mata not playing?’

“I have to choose and now I choose Januzaj, but I’m very happy you ask about Januzaj and not for Mata.

“I’m looking every week and every day the players have to show it. I’ve said that to players, I’ve said to [Radamel] Falcao, I’ve said to Mata and I’ve said to Januzaj. But I’m very pleased that you [the media] are pleased with his performance.”

Van Gaal’s side moved up to third in the table at the weekend and they will be expected to progress past League Two Cambridge.

Richard Money’s men deservedly secured a money-spinning replay by holding the illustrious Premier League side to a goalless draw at the Abbey Stadium.

Cambridge had their chances to claim a shock victory in that stalemate, but it would take a Herculean effort to see off Van Gaal’s men at Old Trafford.

The visitors make the journey north on the back of a 3-2 defeat at Luton Town on Saturday which left them 14th in the table.

Johnny Hunt and Robbie Simpson scored after coming off the bench at Kenilworth Road to give Money something to think about when he comes to naming his side on Tuesday. 

The fourth-tier outfit will be backed by over 6,600 supporters at Old Trafford and that huge contigent will make the trip with hope rather than expectation of pulling off one of the biggest FA Cup shocks in the history of the famous competition.

The likes of Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Mata will be hoping for a recall for the hosts after being named among the substitutes against Leicester.

The winners of Tuesday’s tie will face a trip to either Preston North End or Sheffield United in the fifth round.

Mon 2 February, 2015
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Manchester United v Cambridge United: Van Gaal wants more of the same from Januzaj

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has urged Adnan Januzaj to show more consistency ahead of the FA Cup clash with Cambridge United.

Louis van Gaal has told Adnan Januzaj to prove he de
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serves a place in Manchester United’s starting line-up ahead of Tuesday’s FA Cup fourth round replay against Cambridge United.

Teenage winger Januzaj made only his fifth Premier League start of the season in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over relegation-threatened Leicester City.

The Belgium international caught the eye against Nigel Pearson’s side, but Van Gaal warned the 19-year-old that he has to produce the goods on a regular basis in order to play a bigger part at Old Trafford. 

He said: “Every time you have to compare and that’s also the same with [Darren] Fletcher, who is a very good player, but I have to compare him with Michael Carrick and Daley Blind who are playing in that position.

“The competition is high and also that’s difficult to manage for players. Also for the player himself it’s difficult to manage.

“That’s why I want to help Fletcher [to secure a move away from Old Trafford].

“It is also like Januzaj – I have to compare him with [Juan] Mata, but in the next press conference you shall ask, ‘Why? Why? Why is Mata not playing?’

“I have to choose and now I choose Januzaj, but I’m very happy you ask about Januzaj and not for Mata.

“I’m looking every week and every day the players have to show it. I’ve said that to players, I’ve said to [Radamel] Falcao, I’ve said to Mata and I’ve said to Januzaj. But I’m very pleased that you [the media] are pleased with his performance.”

Van Gaal’s side moved up to third in the table at the weekend and they will be expected to progress past League Two Cambridge.

Richard Money’s men deservedly secured a money-spinning replay by holding the illustrious Premier League side to a goalless draw at the Abbey Stadium.

Cambridge had their chances to claim a shock victory in that stalemate, but it would take a Herculean effort to see off Van Gaal’s men at Old Trafford.

The visitors make the journey north on the back of a 3-2 defeat at Luton Town on Saturday which left them 14th in the table.

Johnny Hunt and Robbie Simpson scored after coming off the bench at Kenilworth Road to give Money something to think about when he comes to naming his side on Tuesday. 

The fourth-tier outfit will be backed by over 6,600 supporters at Old Trafford and that huge contigent will make the trip with hope rather than expectation of pulling off one of the biggest FA Cup shocks in the history of the famous competition.

The likes of Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Mata will be hoping for a recall for the hosts after being named among the substitutes against Leicester.

The winners of Tuesday’s tie will face a trip to either Preston North End or Sheffield United in the fifth round.

Mon 2 February, 2015
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Fulham v Sunderland: McCormack confident of progression

Premier League strugglers Sunderland travel to Fulham on Tuesday looking to book an FA Cup fifth round tie with Bradford City.

Ross McCormack hopes Fulham can continue their resurgence under Kit Symons when they welcome Sunderland to Craven Cottage in the FA Cup on Tuesday.

After a goalless draw at the Stadium of Light in the fourth round, the two sides go head-to-head again to earn the right to take on Chelsea’s conquerors Bradford City.

When Symons replaced Felix Magath in mid-September Fulham only had one point from seven matches, but the former Wales international has secured a further 33 points to move the club away from danger.

One of their many impressive performances under Symons came in the first meeting with Sunderland when they almost caused an upset.

McCormack was guilty of spurning a couple of presentable chances to win that game, while Colombian team-mate Hugo Rodallega struck the post in stoppage time

And the former Leeds United striker believes the newfound confidence within the club can help them pick up a Premier League scalp.

“It’s a good chance at Craven Cottage, where we’ve proven we can beat anyone – we can blow teams away and we’ll definitely be looking to do that,” he told the club’s official website.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say that we should have beaten Sunderland at their place, but if you look at the game they had quite a few chances.

“Betts [goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli] probably kept us in the game so I think a draw was a fair result in the end. If we were given that before the game, a clean sheet against a Premier League team and taking them back to the Cottage, I think we might have taken that.”

The result was less impressive for Sunderland and they will be desperate to make the fifth round for the third time in four seasons.

Gus Poyet’s side failed to win for the 12th time at home in all competitions this season, but they quickly recovered with a vital 2-0 Premier League triumph over Burnley on Saturday.

Victory included Jermain Defoe’s first Sunderland goal following his move from Toronto FC earlier this month, and he is eager to add to his tally in the Cup.

“It’s a massive game, especially when you look at who we could get after if we progress,” he told Sunderland’s official website. “You never know what can happen, especially in the FA Cup, I’m looking forward to that one.

“On the back of a win everyone will be confident going into the game. Hopefully we can go there, relax and play. I’m sure we’ll create chances and I believe that we’re good enough to win the game.”

Poyet will be able to recall Jack Rodwell for the trip to London after he served his one-match suspension last weekend, having been sent off in the first game.

However, Lee Cattermole and Wes Brown remain doubtful as they recover from knee injuries.

Mon 2 February, 2015
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Stoke City 4/6 to see past Rochdale in Monday night’s FA Cup clash

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Stoke to win against Rochdale
Odds: 4/6 @ Ladbrokes

Stoke City face Rochdale in the FA Cup fourth round this evening, with manager Mark Hughes desperate to avoid an upset. The past weekend saw the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Southampton all knocked out of the competition, which batters Stoke’s chances of making a deep run this season.

City have been in decent form ahead of their meeting against Rochdale too, losing just once in their last five Premier League games. Their League One opponents are coming off the back of consecutive league victories, so they too are in good spirits.

One Achilles heel for Dale could surprisingly be their home form, however. The playoff chasers have won just once in home soil in their last five games, so Stoke will be looking to make difficult from the start.

And as a result, Ladbrokes are giving odds of 4/6 for the Potters to win tonight against Rochdale, which would see them into the draw for the FA Cup fifth round – to be made today also.

Bet: Stoke City to see past Rochdale in Monday night’s FA Cup clash @ 4/6 with
Ladbrokes >>

Mon 26 January, 2015
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Foster: Anichebe unplayable

West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster lauded the qualities of team-mate Victor Anichebe following his weekend FA Cup heroics.

Ben Foster believes West Brom striker Victor Anichebe can be “unplayable”, as evidenced in the FA Cup victory over Birmingham City at the weekend.

Anichebe netted both West Brom goals in a 2-1 win at St Andrew’s, twice using his strength in holding off Paul Robinson to fire home.

And Foster, who was called upon in the second half after starting goalkeeper Boaz Myhill was forced off with a hand injury, believes Anichebe can act as a focal point for West Brom’s attacking play.

“He was unplayable at times on Saturday,” Foster told the club’s official website.

“If you get the ball into his feet with one defender marking him, then that is trouble.

“I don’t care who you are, you will not be able to stop him bulldozing his way through.

“Vic has shown that if you can get the ball into his feet he will turn defenders, he is fantastic at doing that.

“It is what he does regularly in training and the gaffer has noticed that, it is an incredible strength to have.

“We need to play to our strengths, it is as simple as that.”

Mon 26 January, 2015
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Gil has hit the ground running – Lambert

Carles Gil scored on his full debut in a 2-1 FA Cup win over Bournemouth, and Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert hailed his impact.

Paul Lambert singled out the performance of new signing Carles Gil after the Spaniard found the net in Aston Villa’s 2-1 FA Cup victory over Bournemouth.

Gil, making his first start since arriving from Valencia earlier this month, opened the scoring with a stunning 51st-minute strike on Sunday, before Andreas Weimann added a second 20 minutes later.

Substitute Callum Wilson netted a late consolation for the Championship leaders, but Lambert was relieved to see his side into the fifth round. 

“We needed to try to get through,” he was quoted as saying by BBC Sport. “All credit to the team. I thought we deserved the win.

“Gil is lighting the place up and it was a world-class goal. Being a foreign player you can take time to adapt or hit the ground running and he has done the latter.

“He does the same in training. In training you can’t get the ball from him as he has a low centre of gravity.

“I’m delighted to get through. It’s a big win.”

Villa had scored just one goal in their previous six matches in all competitions prior to Sunday’s win, and Lambert says he can see the light at the end of the tunnel after that slump.

“The supporters went through a hard time just like the players,” he added. “The win today will certainly help us.

“We took a lot of knocks but all credit to the lads, they never let their heads down, even in training.”

Sun 25 January, 2015
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Brighton and Hove Albion 2 Arsenal 3: Walcott and Ozil among the goals for holders

Arsenal took another step towards the successful defence of their FA Cup crown with a fourth-round win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil shrugged off their respective injury frustrations to score a goal apiece in Arsenal’s 3-2 FA Cup fourth-round win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

England winger Walcott set the tone for a dominant first-half display from the holders with the opener in just the second minute, while Ozil – making his first start since October – added the second before half-time.

Having offered precious little in terms of an attacking threat prior to the break, Brighton reduced the arrears early in a much-improved second-half showing when Chris O’Grady capitalised on some poor Arsenal defending to score.

Hopes of a stirring comeback on a weekend of upsets appeared to be dashed when Tomas Rosicky volleyed in Olivier Giroud’s chipped pass from the edge of the box.

There was still time for Sam Baldock to set up a nervy finish with a measured 75th-minute finish, but Arsene Wenger’s men held firm.

Arsenal started with the confidence of a side enjoying a three-match winning run without conceding a goal, their most recent triumph having come against Premier League champions Manchester City.

Walcott and Ozil were unused substitutes in that game but came to the fore at the Amex Stadium, the former opening the scoring inside 90 seconds with his first goal in more than a year.

When the sides last met at the same stage in 2013, Walcott broke Brighton hearts with an 85th-minute winner in a game that also ended 3-2, but he was much quicker off the mark on Sunday, collecting Calum Chambers’ right-wing cross with his first touch and steering home with his second.

Brighton struggled to stem the flow of attacks and fell two behind midway through the half as Ozil turned neatly in the box and swept a precise finish beyond David Stockdale following Rosicky’s neat pass into feet.

A rare foray forward from Chris Hughton’s side saw Baldock fire high and wide from 12 yards just before the half-hour mark, but when Brighton finally did manage a shot on target it changed the complexion of the match.

It came five minutes into the second half when Rosicky’s poor clearance allowed O’Grady to seize possession in the box and he showed excellent composure to fire a low shot past the flat-footed Wojciech Szczesny.

The goal energised the home fans and suddenly Brighton seemed to harbour hopes of matching Bradford City’s stunning FA Cup turnaround against Chelsea on Saturday, with Phil Parkinson’s side having come from 2-0 down to win 4-2.

That notion was soon dispelled, though, as Rosicky scored the pick of the bunch in the 59th minute. The Czech looked one way and played a pass the other before volleying the return ball from Giroud beyond Stockdale.

Baldock’s chipped finish gave Brighton a glimmer of hope, but a record home crowd were denied the equaliser that would have forced an unlikely replay as Arsenal – who saw Alexis Sanchez clip the crossbar with a late free-kick – marched on to round five.

Sun 25 January, 2015
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Aston Villa 2 Bournemouth 1: Gil helps under-fire Lambert breathe easy

Aston Villa reached the FA Cup fifth round thanks to goals from Carles Gil and Andreas Weimann in a 2-1 home win against Bournemouth.

Carles Gil marked his first Aston Villa start with a wonderful goal in a 2-1 victory over Bournemouth in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.

Paul Lambert’s men have found goals hard to come by of late – scoring just once in their previous six outings in all competitions prior to the tie – but Gil’s stunning 51st-minute strike, along with an Andreas Weimann effort 20 minutes later, will give the club’s fans cause for optimism.

Championship leaders Bournemouth looked bright during the first half and went close twice through midfielder Shaun MacDonald, who saw one effort cleared off the line by Kieran Richardson.

Eunan O’Kane also looked dangerous for the visitors at Villa Park, but the home side came out for the second period with renewed energy.

After going close moments earlier, Gil – who arrived from Valencia for an undisclosed fee earlier this month – curled in a sublime left-footed strike to give Villa the lead.

Weimann found the net in the 71st minute, but substitute Callum Wilson set up a tense finish with a goal three minutes into stoppage time for Bournemouth, who have scored more goals in one match – an 8-0 win at Birmingham City in October – than Villa have managed at home all season in the Premier League (seven).

However, Villa clung on to take their place in the fifth round with their first goals since beating Blackpool 1-0 in round three.

Villa announced a new long-term deal for Fabian Delph in the build-up to kick-off, but there was no place for the England midfielder in Lambert’s matchday squad, while Bournemouth made eight changes from their last Championship outing.

It was the visitors who forced the first opening, with MacDonald sending a deflected effort over the crossbar after good work by Ryan Fraser.

Shay Given then had to get down to keep out a Harry Arter strike from the edge of the penalty area, before Weimann headed just wide at the other end.

Former Swansea City midfielder MacDonald continued to cause problems for the Villa defence and was denied by a Richardson block on the line after rounding Given in the 18th minute.

Despite making wholesale changes, Bournemouth were holding their own against top-flight opposition and O’Kane saw an effort tipped around the post by Given shortly after the half-hour mark.

Gil found the side-netting after some neat build-up play from Christian Benteke at the beginning of the second half, but the Spaniard was on target with a sensational strike soon after.

After cutting onto his left foot on the right of the penalty area, Gil sent a wonderful curling effort beyond Lee Camp and into the Bournemouth net.

Weimann appeared to have made sure of a place in the next round when he slotted home from 12 yards after a cutback from Alan Hutton, but Bournemouth refused to go down without a fight.

Substitute Simon Francis fired just wide before fellow replacement Wilson squeezed the ball past Given from close range.

Despite the late drama, Villa held on for a result that marks the first time they have won by more than one goal since a 3-1 Premier League victory against Hull City in May.

Sun 25 January, 2015
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Allardyce relieved with scrappy West Ham win

West Ham avoided an FA Cup upset with a scrappy 1-0 win at Bristol City and manager Sam Allardyce was a relieved man.

Sam Allardyce was relieved that West Ham avoided becoming the latest FA Cup casualty this weekend as they scraped past Bristol City 1-0 on Sunday.

League One high-flyers City put in a fine display at Ashton Gate and striker Matt Smith saw two headers cleared off the goalline during a dominant first-half performance from the hosts.

However, substitute Diafra Sakho’s back-post header in the 81st minute was enough for West Ham to move through to the fifth round and avoid the same fate as the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, who fell to Bradford City and Middlesbrough respectively on Saturday.

“I knew it was going to be a tough game and it was exactly that,” Allardyce told BBC Sport.

“Bristol City showed why they are where they are in the league with their form.

“We found it difficult to get our passing routine going but when the one chance popped up it was all we needed to get a very important victory.

“Bearing in mind what has happened this weekend, it is a big result for us.”

Centre-back Winston Reid concedes that West Ham failed to meet expectations in the first half, but felt the Premier League side were rewarded for remaining patient.

“In the first half we were under pressure,” he added. “It is always difficult coming to these places. Bristol City put in a good performance but we put in a clean sheet and Diafro Sakho got the goal, so it was good.

“We wanted to come here and finish off the game and we did, even though we had to wait for that.

“The manager spoke before about the upsets yesterday, and we did not want to be one of them.”

Sun 25 January, 2015
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Fourth round FA Cup weekend produces major shocks

Bradford boss Phil Parkinson masterminded the Bantams 4-2 win over Premier League leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

Bradford boss Phil Parkinson masterminded the Bantams 4-2 FA Cup win over Premier League leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday

The FA Cup has lost some of its glamour and romance as the cold hard cash of the Premier League and Champions League have overshadowed English football’s traditional showpiece.

The demise of the FA Cup may just have been exaggerated.

Shocks

This weekend’s FA Cup fourth round ties produced a big weekend of shocks, as the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Southampton and Tottenham all exited the competition with home defeats.

Liverpool and Manchester United could also only manage draws against lower league opposition.

Extraordinary

The most extraordinary shock came at Stamford Bridge, where Premier League leaders Chelsea were pegged-back from two goals up to lose 4-2 against League One Bradford City.

Chelsea did field a slightly weakened side, but the team looked strong enough to give most Premier League opposition a game, with the likes of Petr Cech, Gary Cahill, Oscar and Cesar Azpilicueta all starting the game.

No matter what team the Blues put out they would have been expected to beat a third tier team, but the Bantams were outstanding and deserved their win. Bradford boss Phil Parkinson deserves a lot of credit for masterminding the victory.

The former-Reading boss has helped the Bantams to cup shocks before, but as he stated this has to be the best of the best, especially after his team went two goals down.

Shocks

One of the other big cup shocks of the day was ironically inspired by a Chelsea-loanee Patrick Bamford, who helped Championship Middlesbrough pull off a 2-0 win at Premier League champions Manchester City.

The young striker scored the opening goal earlier in the second half and then set-up the second goal in injury-time for Spanish forward Kike.

City boss Manuel Pellegrini has expressed his worry about his sides form and the Championship side punished a laboured display expertly. Boro are a good side, who are sitting second in the Championship table and could be winning at the Etihad Stadium yet again next season.

Tottenham’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Premier League strugglers Leicester was another shock result, as the bottom of the table Foxes snatched a last-gasp win at White Hart Lane. Maybe the win can inspire an upturn in fortunes in the top-flight.

Sitting third in the Premier League table Southampton would have fancied their chances at home to fellow Premier League side Crystal Palace, but the Saints suffered a 3-2 defeat at St Marys Stadium. The side from the south coast were uncharacteristically poor in defence.

To be fair to the Eagles they are in form, as boss Alan Pardew has now won all four of his games in charge at Selhurst Park and they are suddenly looking like a major threat going forward.

Draws

Manchester United produced a very poor display at League Two Cambridge on Friday night and could only come away with a goalless draw. For all the criticism they received they will get a second chance at Old Trafford to make it to the fifth round.

Liverpool endured a frustrating evening on Saturday, as Championship Bolton came to Anfield and also earned themselves a goalless draw. The replay at the Macron Stadium is unlikely to be an easy one.

They may have endured disappointing results, but both North West giants at least have a second chance to progress in the cup unlike the likes of Chelsea, City and Southampton.

Open

The exit from the FA Cup of some of the Premier League’s best teams will give other teams hope that they can win the trophy this season. Manchester United are currently favourites for the cup at odds of 11/4, while holders Arsenal are odds of 3/1 and Liverpool are odds of 9/2.

In truth this season’s FA Cup could now be anybody’s. As this weekend has proved anything can happen in the FA Cup and those remaining big guns could exit the competition in the next round, or even in Liverpool’s case their fourth round replay.

Magic

This weekend’s results proved that the magic of the FA Cup is still well and truly alive and well. Very few FA Cup weekends in living memory have produced so many shocks in recent years and it is good for the competition.

There will now be fans of underdogs all over the country dreaming that their team may get to Wembley and that is only a good thing for football in general.

Where does Bradford’s FA Cup win against Chelsea rank amongst the great cup shocks of all-time?

Sun 25 January, 2015
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Aston Villa 7/5 to win against Championship high-flyers Bournemouth

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Aston Villa to win against Bournemouth
Odds: 7/5 @ William Hill

Aston Villa host Bournemouth in the FA Cup fourth round this afternoon, but it’s the Championship club somewhat confident of a shock result. Flying high in the second tier this season, the Cherries are top of the pack after 27 games, boasting the best away form in the division.

The Villans are in poor form ahead of their FA Cup clash, with the Midlands club winless in their last seven games. Goals have been a problem too, as Paul Lambert’s side have scored just one goal in that time too. With that in mind, Bournemouth stand a chance at getting a result at Villa Park, as the Villans have lost to lower-league opposition in recent years.

But William Hill are backing the home side with odds of 7/5 to scrape through in the 90 minutes, with their form on home soil likely to take them through. Bournemouth won’t be fazed by the occasion, however, so they will look to attack the Midlands club as much as possible.

Bet: Aston Villa to win against Championship high-flyers Bournemouth @ 7/5 with William Hill >>

Sun 25 January, 2015
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Arsenal 1/2 to win this afternoon’s FA Cup clash against Brighton

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Arsenal to win against Brighton
Odds: 1/2 @ Ladbrokes

Arsenal are the current FA Cup holders, following last season’s triumph over Hull City in the summer, and are hoping they can see past this afternoon’s opponents Brighton to reach the fifth round. The Gunners are coming off the back of an incredible away win against Manchester City in the Premier League, and face a Brighton side struggling in the Championship.

They are expected to deliver, but will be wary of how many cup upsets have already occurred this weekend, with favourites Chelsea & Manchester City having lost to lesser opposition. Arsenal the FA Cup is regarded as Arsenal best genuine chance of trophy success this season, with the Premier League already out of their grasp, and the Gunners having been knocked out of the Capital One Cup in the third round.

Ladbrokes are giving odds of 1/2 for Arsenal to win this afternoon against the Seagulls to book their place in the fifth round of the competition, to continue their unbeaten run, and go one step closer to retaining the cup.

Bet: Arsenal to win this afternoon’s FA Cup clash against Brighton @ 1/2 with Ladbrokes >>

Sun 25 January, 2015
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Tottenham 1 Leicester City 2: Late turnaround stuns Spurs

Leicester City shocked Tottenham with a dramatic late turnaround to book their spot in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday.

Late drama ensued at White Hart Lane as goals from Leonardo Ulloa and Jeffrey Schlupp enabled Leicester City to come from behind and beat Tottenham 2-1 in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Andros Townsend’s first-half penalty appeared set to send Spurs through to round five on Saturday.

However, Ulloa levelled in the 83rd minute with an emphatic finish, before Schlupp’s volley squirmed under stand-in goalkeeper Michel Vorm in second-half injury time.

England international Townsend was afforded his opportunity from the spot when Liam Moore brought Roberto Soldado tumbling in the penalty area, while the visitors felt they should have had a first-half penalty of their own when Andrej Kramaric went to ground under a challenge from Vorm.

Spurs subsequently spurned chances through Erik Lamela and Paulinho, before being punished as Leicester turned things around in the closing stages.

Tottenham enjoyed the majority of possession in the early stages, but it was Leicester who engineered the first clear-cut opening.

Jeffrey Schlupp’s centre from the left picked out Kramaric – making his first start for the club – and the Croatian was denied by a superb point-blank save from Vorm.

Vorm was called into action again when the lively Schlupp burst through the Spurs defence and hit a right-footed shot from the edge of the box that forced the goalkeeper to parry over the crossbar.

Those missed opportunities proved costly for Leicester in the 19th minute when Moore was penalised for clumsily felling Soldado in the penalty area.

Townsend slotted the resulting penalty to the right of Leicester debutant Mark Schwarzer – who at the age of 42 became the club’s oldest player – and Moore’s afternoon worsened when he limped off with an ankle injury.

Tottenham turned the screw in search of a second, but there was a moment of controversy shortly before the break when Leicester were denied a penalty.

Kramaric broke free and went to ground under a challenge from Vorm, only
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to be booked for simulation by referee Robert Madley.

Tottenham threatened first after the restart as Lamela – back in the side after a calf complaint – fired just over from 20 yards in the 53rd minute.

Paulinho could also have made things more comfortable for the hosts when he shot wide after Lamela’s clever cut-back from the byline.

Lamela was proving a constant threat in the second half and the Argentine forward brought the best out of Schwarzer with a bending left-footed shot.

Spurs’ profligacy was punished in the 83rd minute when they failed to clear their lines at a corner and Ulloa controlled from Schlupp’s ball back into the area before sweeping his shot past a helpless Vorm.

There was still another twist to come, though, as Danny Simpson’s excellent cross was side-footed home by Schlupp in stoppage time – much to the delight of the travelling faithful.

Sat 24 January, 2015
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Birmingham City 1 West Brom 2: Anichebe seals derby triumph

Victor Anichebe’s double was enough to send West Brom through to the FA Cup fifth round as they overcame Birmingham City 2-1 at St Andrew’s.

Tony Pulis continued his unbeaten start to life at The Hawthorns with a hard-fought victory over local rivals Birmingham City in an attritional Midlands derby. 

Victor Anichebe’s first-half double gave the Premier League outfit a two-goal lead in what was a scrappy opening period.

The powerful forward twice linked up superbly with strike partner Saido Berahino as Birmingham’s defence was found wanting.

But Gary Rowett’s side rallied before the interval and pulled one back through Jonathan Grounds on the stroke of half-time – the first goal that West Brom have conceded under Pulis.

Birmingham went into the game on the back of a four-match unbeaten run, but they were unable to grab an equaliser in a stop-start second half as West Brom held on to secure passage through to the last 16.

Pulis made just one alteration to the West Brom side that that earned a point against Everton last time out, while Birmingham top scorer Clayton Donaldson was named on the bench alongside talented youngster Damarai Gray.

And though the hosts made a positive start to proceedings, it was the visitors who almost took the lead 10 minutes in when Berahino’s rasping drive whistled just wide of the upright.

Birmingham grew into the game as the half wore on and Andrew Shinnie was a matter of inches away from nodding them ahead, but he could not quite latch on to David Cotterill’s floated cross.

And they were made to pay in the 25th minute when Berahino threaded a perfectly weighted pass through to Anichebe, who held off Birmingham skipper Paul Robinson before slotting home at the near post with a neat first-time finish.

But Anichebe, who reached the FA Cup final with Everton back in 2009, was not finished there, and doubled his tally 10 minutes later when he received the ball on the edge of the box before again rolling Robinson and sending a scuffed finish into the bottom-right corner.

West Brom seemed to be coasting towards half-time with their two-goal advantage intact, but Pulis will be disappointed with how easily Grounds found the space to be able to side-foot home from debutant loanee Lloyd Dyer’s cross – his maiden Birmingham goal.

Both sides struggled to gain any real momentum after the restart, and it was not until the 58th minute that Birmingham managed to make any headway into the West Brom half when Dyer broke free down the left, but Boaz Myhill rushed out to intercept.

That bravery resulted in a nasty knock to the head for West Brom’s goalkeeper and the visitors took no risks, sending on Ben Foster in place of the stricken Welshman.

Pulis had further cause for concern soon after when former West Brom man Robinson clattered into Stephane Sessengon, who limped off to be replaced by Chris Baird.

Shinnie had another terrific chance fall his way in the 73rd minute as the hosts pressed hard for a leveller, but he could only direct his header over the bar after he had leapt well to meet Ground’s whipped cross.

Rowett then brought on Gray in place of Dyer, and the youngster worked a great chance almost immediately, ducking inside onto his right foot before curling a vicious strike goalwards, but Foster was equal to it and held firm.

West Brom broke forward as the game entered the final 10 minutes, and Chris Brunt almost doubled their advantage with a cute effort from a tight angle, but the ball clipped off of the outside of post.

Foster was forced into tipping over a powerful Nicola Zigic drive late-on and, though Birmingham battled furiously to create an opening during six minutes of added time, they were unable to snatch an evasive equaliser.

Sat 24 January, 2015
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Southampton 2 Crystal Palace 3: Pardew´s men reach fifth round

Crystal Palace came from behind to win for the third game in a row as they defeated Southampton 3-2 in the FA Cup fourth round.

Marouane Chamakh netted a brace as Crystal Palace twice came from a goal down to overcome Southampton 3-2 and reach the fifth round of the FA Cup.

All of the goalmouth action occurred in an incredible first half at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday, as Chamakh struck either side of Yaya Sanogo’s first goal for Palace to ensure progress.

Graziano Pelle gave Southampton an early lead from a corner, but that advantage was short-lived as Chamakh levelled by converting a rebound.

Scott Dann’s own goal restored the home side’s lead, but once again Palace’s response was swift when Sanogo shot home to make it 2-2 after just 21 minutes.

Chamakh then found the winner shortly before half-time with a composed finish, and the visitors were able to hold on to their advantage throughout a less eventful second period.

The result means Palace have now won all four matches under the leadership of Alan Pardew, while defeat for one of his former clubs ended an eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

Wilfried Zaha threatened inside the opening 60 seconds as he fired narrowly over from the edge of the box, but it was Southampton who went in front after nine minutes.

Palace failed to deal with James Ward-Prowse’s corner, and Pelle was on hand to bundle home his first goal in eight games.

The visitors were level within two minutes, however, as Chamakh poked home after Fraser Forster had spilled Sanogo’s shot.

Forster kept out Sanogo soon afterwards, and Southampton were grateful for that save as they restored their advantage in the 16th minute when Ryan Bertrand’s cross was turned into his own net by Dann after a breakdown in communication with goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

Forster then denied Fraizer Campbell as the all-action opening continued, but three minutes later the keeper was unable to prevent Sanogo from equalising for a second time as the striker converted from Zaha’s pass.

Ward-Prowse and Steven Davis both went close from distance for the hosts either side of the half-hour mark, but it was Palace who led for the first time six minutes prior to the interval.

Joel Ward embarked on a strong run down the right and fed Chamakh, who took a touch and rounded Forster before slotting home.

In the second half, Ronald Koeman introduced Shane Long off the bench in a bid to find an equaliser, but the forward’s contribution lasted just 13 minutes as he left the field having hurt his right arm in a collision with Ward.

Southampton pressed hard in the final stages to earn themselves a replay and Hennessey produced a fine save to keep out Eljero Elia’s drive two minutes from time, which allowed Palace to hold firm and book their place in the fifth round for the first time since 2010.

Sat 24 January, 2015
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Sunderland 0 Fulham 0: Defoe fails to fire on home debut

Sunderland’s poor home form continues after being held to a 0-0 draw by Fulham in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday.

Ten-man Sunderland’s miserable home form continued in the FA Cup as the Premier League strugglers were held to a goalless draw by Championship side Fulham on Saturday.

Gus Poyet’s men have only won twice at the Stadium of Light this season in all competitions and that run was extended as the visitors earned a fourth-round replay.

Fulham were much the better side in the first half and would have been ahead had Cauley Woodrow and Moussa Dembele taken good openings.

With home chances at a premium, Sunderland fans had failed to see anything from new signing Jermain Defoe until he was denied on three occasions by Marcus Bettinelli around the hour mark.

Jack Rodwell’s red card after 65 minutes handed Fulham the initiative, but Ross McCormack and Hugo Rodallega were unable to find a way through.

The draw means both sides will go into the hat for the fifth round on Monday, ahead of a replay at Craven Cottage.

Poyet made three changes from the side beaten at Tottenham last weekend as Vito Mannone was given a rare start in goal, with Defoe handed a home debut alongside Steven Fletcher in attack.

The visitors opted to leave midweek hat-trick hero McCormack on the bench and Fulham began to threaten after soaking up early Sunderland pressure.

Woodrow was first to test Mannone with an effort from the edge of the penalty area after 14 minutes, with Seko Fofana heavily involved in their attacking play.

The young Frenchman was at the heart of their next foray forward midway through the half as he managed to find Woodrow again, but Sunderland scrambled his effort to safety.

As the hosts continued to struggle for momentum, Dembele brought another save out of Mannone, his low shot easily held by the Italian goalkeeper.

Sunderland had failed to create any clear chances as half-time approached before Sebastian Larsson finally forced Bettinelli to make a sharp save with his legs from a low drive.

Any momentum they may have created before the break disappeared early into the second half as Fofana got back on the ball, the 19-year-old seeing a low shot deflected narrowly wide. 

Defoe’s first notable involvement came after 55 minutes as he won the ball in midfield before driving towards goal, although his effort was sliced wide and never going to threaten Bettinelli.

The former Tottenham striker thought he had opened his Sunderland account six minutes later as he connected with a half-volley from close range, only for Bettinelli to push it onto the post. 

Rodwell was then given his marching orders as he blocked Bettinelli’s attempt to set Fulham on a counterattack to earn a second yellow card, his first coming after a high tackle in the opening 45 minutes.

McCormack’s introduction gave Kit Symons’ side a new dimension going forward, but it was Rodallega who went closest to winning the match as his late header thudded against the post, leaving Sunderland grateful to earn a replay.

Sat 24 January, 2015
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Van Gaal blames everything but his team for Cambridge draw

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal was unhappy with the pitch and referee as his side drew 0-0 at League Two Cambridge

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal was unhappy with the pitch and referee as his side drew 0-0 at League Two Cambridge

On Friday night Premier League giants Manchester United produced a goalless draw with League Two Cambridge at the Abbey Stadium.

The lower league side deserved their draw and a replay at Old Trafford.

However, Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal was anything but dignified in his respond to the draw blaming everything from the pitch to Cambridge tea lady for the stalemate.

Against

Van Gaal insisted everything was against United telling Sky Sports: “Every aspect of the match is against us,”

“We have to come here and the pitch is not so good. That can influence you’re playing style. The opponents are giving a lot more than normally and defending is always easier than attacking. Then you see the referee, it’s always the same. Everywhere I have coached, it’s always the same with this referee.

“I know it’s very difficult to beat such an opponent in these circumstances. I know that in advance – I said it in my press conference before the Yeovil Town game. We know in advance everything is against us.”

Credit

How dare plucky little Cambridge actually put more effort in because they were up against Manchester United. Imagine that a team trying their hardest to win a football game. How dare they!

It was not like there was a massive gulf in class in players or resources of the two teams. There was just a couple hundred million differences in the value of the two teams and Cambridge played so well it did not show.

I am going to give Cambridge the credit that Mr Van Gaal was so unwilling to afford them. The League Two were outstanding from the first whistle to the last. They gave their all and will be rewarded with a replay at Old Trafford, which should give the U’s a very healthy pay day.

Blame

Former-Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was a master at creating a ‘us against the world’ mentality at United and was not backward at coming forwards when it came to criticising referees, but I doubt even the Scottish managerial legend would have been so ungracious when drawing with a lower league team in such circumstances.

His players would certainly know who was to blame for the performance and what United’s current boss did in his post-match interviews was an attempt to divert the blame from his team’s poor performance against a team far lower than themselves in the football pyramid.

No disrespect to Cambridge, and they no doubt know this themselves they should not even been able to live with a team containing so many expensive players. However, they did and part of that was because the United players underperformed and it was not the first time.

Louis van Gaal needs to start looking at himself and his players, because the referee or the pitch did not influence his player’s poor decision making. Manchester United should be producing better performances and everybody connected with the club can see that on the pitch.

To blame referees and poor pitch for this display would be hiding the fact that quite simply United did not play well enough to win the game.

Doubts

Louis van Gaal was brought in because he was a high-profile boss with a history of winning trophies wherever he has managed.

He seems to have been given the benefit of the doubt up to now, but now people are asking questions about whether he is the right man to move United forward and not just based on a one-off cup tie against a lower league team.

The Dutchman has recently confessed that he gets ‘twitchy’ playing with a 4-4-2 formation, but his stubbornness in his style and approach could very be the problem. It seems like it’s his way or no way.

The veteran Dutchman has always been something of a feisty, rather abrupt character with an ego to match. However, people have forgiven him for that in the past as he has been successful in winning trophies.

When he is not winning games and trophies though his approach and bullishness will be questioned and doubts will linger about his ability as a boss.

Questions

The Manchester United team does seem to have made some progression this season, but much of that progression can be accredited to Van Gaal having spent heavily to strengthen his squad.

Many people have even suggested that former-boss David Moyes may have done just as good a job as Van Gaal, if given the same resources and that would be a fair question at the moment.

Van Gaal may bring success in a few years’ time, but there is still plenty of work to do for United to become the force that they once were and the Dutchman cannot blame referees and poor pitches forever if they do not.

Was Louis van Gaal right not to criticise his players after the draw at Cambridge?

Sat 24 January, 2015
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Bowyer hails ´terrific´ Blackburn

Gary Bowyer hailed Blackburn Rovers’ response after going behind in a 3-1 FA Cup triumph against Swansea City.

Blackburn Rovers manager Gary Bowyer praised his side’s “terrific” performance following a 3-1 FA Cup fourth-round victory over nine-man Swansea City.

Rudy Gestede and Craig Conway scored late on to seal the win for the Championship outfit, after Chris Taylor had cancelled out Gylfi Sigurdsson’s stunning opener.

Swansea had seen Kyle Bartley sent off after a coming together with Josh King early on, before a late challenge on Taylor during second-half stoppage time earned Sigurdsson a red card of his own.

“The lads have stuck together and I thought that really shone through today,” Bowyer told Radio Rovers. “There was the early sending off, but after that we were disappointed with the manner of their goal.

“It was a great strike, but we should have closed the ball down better.

“But our response was terrific, Taylor has done fantastically well, it was a great move and a great goal.

“We had to be patient, but fair play to the lads they learnt that today, they stuck at it and were terrific.

“Our organisation, our shape, and the way we pressed at times was great. Then we made the short corner count thanks to Rudy, and Craig’s third goal just gave us breathing space.

“We are delighted for everybody, hopefully now we can get another Premier League team in the draw and enjoy a cup run.”

Sat 24 January, 2015
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Prediction: Tottenham vs Leicester

Having edged closer to the Capital One Cup final with a narrow win over Sheffield United in the semi-final first leg, Spurs aim to continue their FA Cup run by eliminating Leicester City. After beating Newcastle United to reach the fourth round, the Foxes will be looking to claim another major scalp at White Hart Lane.

Judging by how this season started, Tottenham were not exactly expected to turn it into a success, but, midway through the campaign, they are still quite successful on all four fronts. And while the Premiership top 4 race remains the priority, Spurs are also looking to do well in other competitions entered, with big strength in depth proving a major advantage. Spurs currently sit three points behind Champions League positions in the Premier League standings, but they have reached the Capital One Cup semi-final, Europa League Last 32 stage and FA Cup fourth round. Manager Muricio Pochettino surprised everyone with an under-strength side in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final against Sheffield United, and the decision almost came back to haunt him as Spurs were somewhat fortunate to record a 1-0 win. Tottenham now turn their attention towards their FA Cup campaign, where they play host to Leicester after hammering Burnley in the previous round. Mauricio Pochettino is widely expected to make changes to the side that defeated Sheffield, with the likes of Hugo Lloris, Danny Rose and Roberto Soldado set to be recalled. Ryan Mason and Younes Kaboul should be back in contention, but Erik Lamela, Vlad Chiriches and Federico Fazio are all rated doubtful.

Leicester City played some good football in the opening exchanges, with the 5-3 triumph over Manchester United especially impressive, but the Foxes then suffered a huge dip in form. A run of 13 matches without a league win that saw them pick up mere two points in the process seriously damaged club’s survival chances, although Nigel Pearson’s side have finally returned to the right track. Premier League wins over Hull City and Aston Villa as well as the FA Cup triumph over Newcastle seriously improved the atmosphere in the squad, although the Foxes could have done without a home loss to Stoke City. Leicester did well to win the chase for Croatian starlet Andrej Kramaric, who is tipped to make an instant impact, and they are expected to make few more signings in an attempt to escape the Premiership rock bottom. Even if the survival fight obviously has the priority at the moment, the Foxes will attempt to further improve the atmosphere with a good result at White Hart Lane, although I am not convinced they can stop Spurs in their tracks. The likes of Esteban Cambiasso and Dean Hammond are back in contention, but Matty James is banned and Chris Wood faces a fitness test. Kasper Schmeichel, Zoumana Bakayogo and Matt Upson are out injured.

Conclusion

Buoyed by three successive victories in all competitions, Tottenham Hotspur go into the match high on confidence and with several important players back to the side, they should be able to show an improvement on their last performance. Meanwhile, Leicester have shown some improvement of late, but I don’t think they have what it takes to avoid a defeat at the Lane.

Verdict: Home win Tottenham (1)

Best Odds: 5/8

Bookmaker: bet365

Fri 23 January, 2015
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Manchester City 3/10 to see past Middlesbrough in this weekend’s FA Cup clash

Competition: FA Cup
Market: Man City to win against Middlesbrough
Odds: 3/10 @ Coral

Manchester City host Middlesbrough in their weekend FA Cup fourth round tie, with the Premier League title-chasers being the big favourites to go through. City haven’t been invincible on home soil this season, however, losing twice in the Premier League at the Etihad stadium, while being held to a draw against Burnley recently too, so their Championship opponents will fancy their chances.

The Sky Blues, in fact, have dropped points in three of their last four league games, so they come into their FA Cup clash off the back of poor form. Middlesbrough, on the other hand, are flying. Aitor Karanka’s men have picked up 11 points from a possible 15, conceding just one goal in the process. They have lost just one of their last six away outings too, so Manuel Pellegrini’s side could be in for a real challenge this season.

Nevertheless, Coral are backing the Premier League giants with odds of 3/10 to find a way past the strong Championship side in 90 minutes.

Bet: Manchester City to see past Middlesbrough in this weekend’s FA Cup clash @ 3/10 with Coral >>

Fri 23 January, 2015
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Birmingham City v West Brom: Pulis puts unbeaten record on the line

Tony Pulis’ unbeaten record at the West Brom helm will be put to the test in an FA Cup showdown with Birmingham City.

West Brom’s FA Cup fourth-round meeting with local rivals Birmingham City will provide another threat to Tony Pulis’ unbeaten record at the helm.

Pulis, who worked wonders to keep Crystal Palace in the Premier League last season, has made a promising start to his bid to revive West Brom’s fortunes and masterminded a 7-0 thrashing of Conference side Gateshead in the last round.

The last time West Brom made the short trip to St Andrew’s was under the guidance of Roy Hodgson in 2011, when the visitors prevailed 3-1 in a top-flight match.

That extended West Brom’s unbeaten run against their Midlands counterparts to three matches, with Birmingham having last tasted victory in 2006.

Pulis has been keen to bring in new players during the January transfer window, but has so far been frustrated in his efforts to recruit the likes of winger Callum McManaman from Wigan Athletic and Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher.

They have one new injury concern ahead of the game against Gary Rowett’s Championship side.

Midfielder James Morrison, who has made 21 appearances for the club so far this season, has a knock and is a doubt.

Defender Jonas Olsson is still recovering from Achilles surgery, while midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu is on African Cup of Nations duty with Democratic Republic of Congo.

Birmingham go into Saturday’s contest on a four-match unbeaten run, which features three wins, including the 3-2 victory at Blyth Spartans in round three.

Since Rowett took over as manager for the league game at Wolves on November 1, Birmingham have won eight of 13 matches.

This has seen them climb from 23rd in the table to 11th, just nine points off the play-off places.

“All I will do all the time is keep trying to win games of football and keep trying to work very hard in the week with the players and see if we can keep moving forwards in terms of developing the team, developing the philosophy, making the players better if we can, and constantly trying to improve that squad,” Rowett told Birmingham’s official website.

One player who has excelled under Rowett and has the chance to further enhance his growing reputation this weekend is winger Demarai Gray.

The 18-year-old, who has scored four goals in 22 appearances this season, was this week named the Football League’s Young Player of the Month for December.

Thu 22 January, 2015
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Larsson eyes welcome distraction

Premier League strugglers Sunderland can turn their attentions to the FA Cup and Sebastian Larsson has welcomed the distraction.

Sebastian Larsson hopes the FA Cup will provide Sunderland with a welcome distraction from their Premier League woes.

Saturday’s 2-1 reverse to Tottenham was Sunderland’s fourth defeat in five Premier League games, leaving Gus Poyet’s side just one point above the relegation zone.

Victory over Leeds United in the FA Cup third round was Sunderland’s only win since the Tyne-Wear derby triumph against Newcastle United.

That set up a home tie versus Fulham and Larsson is relishing the occasion. 

“It’s a good opportunity to get back to winning ways and bounce back from the disappointment of losing so late in the game to Spurs, and it also gives us another chance to play in our new system and get more familiar with it,” he told the club’s official website.

“Of course it is also very exciting to have a cup run as we well know, so when the Fulham game comes around we’ll be up for it as we want to progress and do as well as we can in the competition.

“At the moment it’s frustrating that we’re not getting the points on the board [in the league], but it’s also good to turn your attention to a different competition.”

Wed 21 January, 2015
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Dublin: Manchester United may be in for surprise at Cambridge

Dion Dublin believes an FA Cup upset is possible when Manchester United travel to Cambridge United.

Cambridge United legend Dion Dublin is not ruling out the possibility of a major upset when Manchester United head to the Abbey Stadium in the FA Cup.

Louis van Gaal’s side are red-hot favourites to progress to the fifth round, but former England striker Dublin – who left Cambridge to move to Old Trafford in 1992 – believes a surprise could be on the cards.

“I think Manchester United should win the tie with no problem, but if Cambridge give everything they’ve got and have 11 players playing out of their skin then there may be a surprise,” he said ahead of Friday’s match.

Dublin helped Cambridge – now in League Two – to back-to-back FA Cup quarter-finals during a prolific spell at the club in which he also scored the winning goal in the first Wembley play-off final.

His time at the Abbey provided a platform for a playing career that went on to span 20 years and included four international caps, and the 45-year-old remains grateful to the club that gave him his professional breakthrough after being released by Norwich City as a teenager.

“It was possibly the best learning curve I could have had in terms of leaning how you conduct yourself on and off the field, the amount of work that we did, the amount of miles that we ran,” he added, referring to the strict training methods of his then manager John Beck.

“It was very old school. I went from a young boy not knowing my career, to a man able to stand on his own two feet.

“Getting my nose broken at least a couple of times off the ball taught me how to look after myself, too. I arrived as one person and left as another person.”

Cambridge, who won promotion back to the Football League last season after a nine-year absence, held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw when the sides last met in a League Cup tie in October 1991.

Friday’s visitors, who overcame third-tier Yeovil Town in the last round, are seeking to end an 11-year wait to lift the FA Cup.

Wed 21 January, 2015
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