FA Cup


Tottenham 2 Leicester City 2: Kane penalty saves Spurs

Harry Kane scored a penalty in the closing stages to salvage a 2-2 draw for Tottenham against Leicester City in the third round of the FA Cup.

The England international was initially rested, but came off the bench after the break and proved his worth by slotting home in the 89th minute after referee Robert Madley awarded Spurs a spot-kick for Nathan Dyer’s handball.

Christian Eriksen had opened the scoring for Spurs early on when he tapped home a rebound, only for Marcin Wasilewski to restore parity shortly after with a strong header.

The Denmark international threatened two more times before the break, but was denied by Kasper Schmeichel on both occasions, before Shinji Okazaki gave Leicester the lead after the break.

Kane then netted a late equaliser to prevent a repeat of last year’s cup result, when Leicester knocked Tottenham out in the fourth round.

The teams will now meet in a replay to determine who progresses to the fourth round.

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino opted to rest stars such as Hugo Lloris, Dele Alli and the aforementioned Kane, while Leicester were without the injured Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, but that did not prevent both sides from playing out an entertaining encounter.

Tottenham made a fine start to the game and needed only eight minutes to break the deadlock. Schmeichel failed to hold on to Nacer Chadli’s shot from the left-hand side of the area and Eriksen had little trouble finding the net from the rebound with a calm finish.

The attacking midfielder came close to doubling Spurs’ lead in the 16th minute after a superb free-kick, but Schmeichel did well to deny his compatriot.

Leicester pulled level soon after via Wasilewski. The 35-year-old beat his marker Toby Alderweireld to the ball after a sublime corner from debutant Demarai Gray and hit the net with a strong header that left Michel Vorm without a chance.

Eriksen again threatened following some good work from Son Heung-min down the left, yet Schmeichel pulled off another good save to keep it level.

The visitors could have gone a goal up when Andy King tried his luck from long range with Vorm off his goalline after a headed clearance, but the Dutchman rushed back in time to comfortably gather the midfielder’s attempt.

Claudio Ranieri opted to replace N’Golo Kante with Okazaki at half-time and his decision immediately paid off. The Japan international danced past Tom Carroll and Alderweireld before poking a shot straight at Vorm, but he made no mistake from the rebound to make it 2-1 to the away side.

Chadli looked dangerous after a good individual action in the 54th minute, but the Belgium international’s shot lacked the power to worry Schmeichel.

Gray came close to doubling Leicester’s lead halfway through the first half, unleashing a powerful shot toward the far corner after cutting inside from the left, yet his attempt went inches wide.

Pochettino opted to bring on Kane and Alli in an attempt to force an equaliser and his gamble paid dividends in the 89th minute. The referee pointed to the spot after Dyer handled the ball inside his own area and Kane coolly converted from 12 yards.

Sun 10 January, 2016
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Shelvey wants to stay at Swansea – Curtis

Jonjo Shelvey wants to stay at Swansea City despite talk of a move to Premier League rivals Newcastle United, according to manager Alan Curtis.

Shelvey was in the starting XI on Sunday as Swansea crashed out of the FA Cup with a 3-2 loss to League Two Oxford United.

The midfielder has fallen out of favour at the Liberty Stadium and reports have suggested Newcastle are hoping to agree a £10million deal for the England international.

Shelvey was also reported to have become involved in an altercation with supporters following the final whistle, but Curtis told Sky Sports: “There’s always speculation.

“Because he’s not in the Premiership side and he’s an England international, there’s always going to be speculation about Jonjo. He wants to stay.”

Swansea took the lead at the Kassam Stadium thanks to Jefferson Montero’s 23rd-minute strike. However, a Liam Sercombe penalty and a brace for Kemar Roofe – also a reported Newcastle target – put Oxford in command.

Bafetimbi Gomis pulled one back but Swansea could not find the net again to force a replay as Oxford held on. 

Asked if their exit was a blessing in disguise for a team just two points above the Premier League relegation zone, Curtis said: “Well it could be, I’ve got to be honest I’d love to have gone a little bit further. It just breeds confidence.

“Some of them probably lack a bit of match hardness. [It was] disappointing, we have to do better.”

 

Sun 10 January, 2016
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Iheanacho not ready to make demands of Pellegrini

Manchester City youngster Kelechi Iheanacho does not feel it would be right to demand more first-team action from manager Manuel Pellegrini.

The 19-year-old striker scored his fifth goal of a breakthrough campaign in Saturday’s 3-0 FA Cup third-round win at Norwich City, capping an impressive all-round display.

Iheanacho averages a goal every 61 minutes at senior level for City despite only having a solitary Premier League start to his name.

There is a growing clamour among the club’s supporters for the Nigeria international to play a more prominent role as their title bid under Pellegrini struggles for consistency, but Iheanacho is keen to do his talking on the field.

Asked whether he talked to his manager about the prospect of playing more games, Iheanacho told City’s official website: “Not really because as a young player you have to work hard in every training session and if you are given the chance to play you have to show the manager that you deserve to be in.

“I think nothing is enough in football. I will keep working hard, I will keep giving my best every day and in every game.

“Every day I will keep learning from the professionals in my team.”

One man Iheanacho is particularly keen to learn from is Sergio Aguero.

The Argentina star scored his 11th goal of the season with a superb solo effort at Carrow Road before setting up his strike partner for a clinically taken second.

“I’m very pleased to be playing with him,” Iheanacho said. “He is a great professional and I hope I will be playing with him in a couple more games this season.

“It was a great goal, it was a good pass from Sergio and I was about to control the ball but I thought I should hit it first time.

“It was a great goal and a great assist from Sergio.”

Having waited more than three months for a domestic win away from home, victory at Norwich followed up a 2-1 Premier League triumph at Watford last weekend.

Although these wins were punctuated by a 2-1 loss to Everton in the League Cup semi-final first leg at Goodison Park, Iheanacho hopes City’s travel sickness is behind them as they battle for trophies on four fronts.

“We are improving now in our away games, keeping our loses behind us, and I think our away games are now good,” he added.

“We are still in the four competitions, I think we will go far this season. We will keep working hard for each other in every game.”

Sun 10 January, 2016
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Bale rise can inspire Tottenham to glory – Davies

Tottenham defender Ben Davies believes Gareth Bale’s exploits at Real Madrid can help the Londoners enjoy FA Cup success.

Bale left Tottenham in 2013 and has gone on to win the Champions League, Club World Cup, Super Cup and Copa del Rey with Madrid.

The Wales international has also scored 50 goals for the Spanish capital club after netting a hat-trick in Saturday’s 5-0 La Liga demolition of Deportivo La Coruna.

International team-mate Davies has been keeping a close eye on Bale and feels the 26-year-old’s rise to stardom can have an effect on Tottenham.

“Gareth’s success is an inspiration to me. To see someone like Gareth, to see how well he did at Spurs, it helps massively when you’re making a decision to move from Swansea to Spurs,” Davies told The Mirror ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup showdown against Leicester.

“When we play together for Wales, he always speaks well of this club. I always look out for him – although I also look out for any other Welsh player.

“He’s one of the best players in the world, for me. He could play in any team in any country. If he came back to the Premier League, it would be a great thing for this league.

“But, right now, he’s doing well out in Spain and I think somebody would do pretty well to get him away from there.”

Davies, whose Tottenham are bidding to win their first trophy since lifting the League Cup in 2007-08, added: “The league is not necessarily more important than the FA Cup.

“The FA Cup is a great opportunity for us to pick up a trophy. It’s the tournament that everybody wants to be able to say they’ve won in their career. I’m no different.

“It would be unbelievable to get to the final. It would be huge to win it – a great feeling for the club and the players.”

Sun 10 January, 2016
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Van Gaal unhappy with Mata performance

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal substituted Juan Mata because the Spaniard was “never there” when asked to play out wide against Sheffield United on Saturday. 

Mata was deployed on the right by Van Gaal but lasted just an hour after the Dutchman replaced him with Memphis Depay, while Jesse Lingard came on for Ander Herrera. 

Depay went on to win the penalty in stoppage time, which Wayne Rooney dispatched to send United into the fourth round of the FA Cup courtesy of a 1-0 win.

Van Gaal was unimpressed with Mata’s work-rate and inability to hug the touch-line when United needed width. 

“We needed to play with wingers to make the pitch as big as possible. So we improved by restoring the shape,” Van Gaal explained. 

“Memphis and Lingard did that, I also asked that of Mata but he was never there.

“Then [Matteo] Darmian has to be the right winger and he tried to do that but that is not his speciality and that’s why I changed.

“I am very happy that because of one of Memphis’ actions he causes the penalty.”

Sun 10 January, 2016
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Van Gaal tight-lipped on Felipe Anderson rumours

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal played down a January move for Felipe Anderson, with the club unlikely to dip into the transfer market.

Felipe Anderson has emerged as United’s top transfer target this month after he was linked with a move to Old Trafford during the off-season, and the Brazilian midfielder refused to rule out a January switch on Saturday.

The 22-year-old, who scored in Lazio’s 3-1 win over Fiorentina, admitted he was unsure if he will stay in Rome.

Van Gaal was quizzed about Felipe Anderson following United’s unconvincing 1-0 victory against Sheffield United in the FA Cup and said: “I cannot discuss that with you. I don’t think we shall do business in January.

“But you cannot say that because when there is a chance to make the selection better, we shall do it, but I don’t think we shall do that. But that is this moment.”

Felipe Anderson – the subject of a failed United bid in August according to Lazio director Igli Tare – has scored six goals in all competitions for the Italian capital club this season, with five of those coming in Serie A.

Sun 10 January, 2016
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Van Gaal: Blades deserve same criticism as Man Utd for blunt attacking display

Louis van Gaal was frustrated by a lack of criticism for Sheffield United’s attacking exploits as his Manchester United side continue to be accused of negative tactics following a slim 1-0 win in the FA Cup third round.

Van Gaal’s team were shorn of endeavour and creativity as they struggled against their third-tier opponents at Old Trafford, ending the game with just two shots on target – one of which was Wayne Rooney’s converted 93rd-minute penalty.

The Dutchman conceded his players would benefit from playing with a higher tempo, but questioned why Nigel Adkins’ League One side were not facing similar scrutiny for only producing two shots on goal.

“We have to do it better, of course, because we have to play quicker and move the ball quicker, then the gaps are coming and you have to see a player and time the pass,” Van Gaal told BT Sport.

“We can improve but how many chances have Sheffield United created? Nobody is talking about that. Everyone is talking about the fantastic defence of Sheffield United.”

Despite the hosts’ insipid display, Van Gaal was simply happy with his players for securing a place in the next round.

“I think it’s always difficult to play against such an opponent. They are defending with 10 or 11 players behind the ball,” he continued.

“You have to play more quickly than we did in the first half. You have to play with wingers and we didn’t do that in the first half.

“In the second it was a little bit better, we created more. They were very well organised and at the end we got the penalty.

“It was a deserved penalty and we won the match and that’s the most important thing. I said to the boys, the only thing that counts is that we are in the second round [sic, fourth round].”

Bastian Schweinsteiger sustained an injury following a collision with Chris Basham in the 82nd minute, but played on despite receiving treatment.

On Schweinsteiger’s chances of being fit to feature against Newcastle United in the Premier League on Tuesday, Van Gaal said: “It shall be difficult. I don’t know yet. I think he has a knee problem, everybody thinks it’s an ankle problem but I think it’s more of a knee. We have to wait and see.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Rooney glad to have final say in United FA Cup scare

Wayne Rooney was pleased to get the job done for Manchester United after they endured a frustrating FA Cup third-round tie against League One side Sheffield United at Old Trafford.

Louis van Gaal’s team endured now familiar struggles in front of their home fans and had to wait until injury time to seal a 1-0 win, with Rooney converting a penalty after Dean Hammond brought down the lively substitute Memphis Depay.

Rooney said his team-mates found it difficult to craft chances against their third-tier opponents and conceded that United would ideally have created more than the sparse number of goalscoring opportunities on view.

“I think it’s always the case that as football players you want to win games and the way you win games is by creating chances and scoring goals,” he told BT Sport.

“We found it tough to break them down but we did what we needed to do, we won the game and we’re in the next round.”

Rooney was speaking moments after his former team-mate Paul Scholes launched his latest tirade against United’s style of play under Van Gaal.

But the England captain defended the current rate of progress at Old Trafford and was happy to avoid being the victim of an FA Cup shock. 

“You can go on and jump on everyone’s bandwagon but we know we’re improving as a team – we can feel that,” he added.

“You look at Chelsea, who won the Premier League last year and were knocked out of the FA Cup by Bradford City [last season].

“This cup can throw up a lot of surprise so it was just important that we got through and, thankfully, we’ve done that.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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McClaren feels Newcastle criticism is harsh

Steve McClaren feels Newcastle United fans unfairly jeered his players during Saturday’s 1-0 FA Cup defeat at Watford.

The travelling supporters voiced their dismay with their side’s performance at Vicarage Road as Newcastle crashed out of the competition in the third round for the fourth year in a row, but McClaren believes his men deserved to be treated better after giving their all for the full 90 minutes.

“I thought the fans’ chants were very harsh,” McClaren said at a media conference following a fourth successive 1-0 loss.

“I think we’ve had two games – Leicester [City] and Crystal Palace – where, yeah, we were all angry and frustrated and we could accept criticism. 

“The fans care about the attitude of the players, that’s all they ask. Do the players work, do they chase, do they win tackles, do they create chances?

“We’ve had 25 crosses in the game. They’ve gone across the goalkeeper and [Heurelho] Gomes has made saves. Our goalkeeper’s not had a save to make. You can’t ask any more from the players.”

McClaren refuses to throw in the towel, though, and has urged his players to keep showing courage as Newcastle look to haul themselves out of the Premier League relegation zone. 

“It’s just not having luck at one end and not sticking the balls in the net. Unfortunately that’s the nature of football. So we just have to get on with it,” he added.

“Players have to be big enough and bold enough, have courage, and we’ve talked about that. They’re certainly having that.”

Newcastle resume Premier League action on Tuesday when they host Manchester United.

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Scholes launches scathing attack on ´negative´ United

Paul Scholes thinks it would have taken him two or three days to get over Manchester United’s “negative” performance in the 1-0 win over Sheffield United had he still been playing for the club. 

Louis van Gaal’s side laboured during their FA Cup third-round meeting with the League One team at Old Trafford – mustering just two shots on target – and only progressed courtesy of a 93rd-minute penalty from captain Wayne Rooney.

Former United midfielder Scholes slammed the team for another dreadful performance in front of goal, but claimed the Dutch coach – under pressure following a stuttering season – will likely be happy just to have reached round four. 

“I’d be depressed [after playing in a game like that]. It would take me two or three days to get over that performance,” Scholes said on BT Sport. “I’d be bent down with my head between my legs.

“You’ve just seen 90 minutes of boring defensive [football]. I’ve tried to defend this team in recent weeks but it’s getting more difficult because every time you come to Old Trafford you see negative football.

“Will he [Van Gaal] be happy with it? I think he probably will be. That’s the way he likes his team to play football. We’ve seen nothing different now for the last six months. He’ll be happy with the 1-0 win.

“He constantly comes out and says he’s happy with his team and the way they’re playing, but they had to win a game against a League One side with a penalty in the 94th minute. In my eyes it’s not good enough.”

Memphis Depay won the penalty for United, but his wayward 25-yard short shortly after coming on as a substitute on the hour mark was met with ironic cheers from the stand.

Scholes claimed the reaction was down to the boring football on display under Van Gaal.

“They [the fans] were bored. Nothing had happened for 70 minutes,” he continued.

“When you look at the players they were bored too. There’s no one smiling and there’s no entertainment. You look at the manager and he looks bored as well.

“I don’t know how you can possibly be happy with a 1-0 win over a League One team. Van Gaal’s football doesn’t match United’s.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Richards brave to speak to Villa fans – Garde

Aston Villa manager Remi Garde said captain Micah Richards was “brave” for approaching the club’s fans during their 1-1 FA Cup third-round draw against Wycombe Wanderers.

Richards opened the scoring for the Premier League’s bottom side with a fine goal but they were pegged back by Joe Jacobson’s penalty.

As angry Villa fans berated Garde and the team, Richards approached supporters who were sat behind the dugout after he was substituted late in the game.

“It was brave of him to do that,” said Garde.

“As professionals we have to face our responsibilities – not only Micah, me and all the players.”

Villa have not won in the Premier League since the opening weekend of the season and now face a tricky replay against Wycombe at Villa Park.

“To be fair I didn’t see the [Richards] incident, but I’ve been told about it,” Garde said. “I understand that the fans could be angry.

“We have to accept that, as a player, a manager, everybody at the club has to accept that criticism, because we are not winning – that’s football.”

Villa supporters chanted “you don’t know what you’re doing” at Garde following the substitution of winger Carles Gil. 

“The situation with Aston Villa is very difficult and makes some silly things happen sometimes,” Garde added.

“Everybody has to keep calm, face their responsibilities, look in the mirror and ask themselves what they can do to get out of this difficult situation.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Pulis bemoans West Brom´s lack of attacking quality

West Brom head coach Tony Pulis bemoaned their lack of quality in the final third after they needed a last-gasp equaliser to draw 2-2 with Bristol City in the FA Cup third round.

The Premier League side took the lead through Saido Berahino in the 67th minute, only for goals from Jonathan Kodjia and Kieran Agard to turn things around and put City on course for a shock win. 

However, the Championship side were pegged back in the 95th minute as James Morrison levelled for West Brom to force a replay at Ashton Gate.

“I thought we played really well between the boxes, in the final third our final cross, our final pass, opportunities that dropped for us, it was disappointing we’ve got to be on a level better than that,” Pulis told West Brom’s official website.

“But I don’t think you could fault the effort of the players and the commitment.

“I think [the comeback] it showed great character again, we’re disappointed with the two goals they’ve scored. I thought Ben [Foster] was very unfortunate with the second, it’s a wonderful save, fantastic save, for it to drop to the lad was disappointing.

“We’re in the hat, we’ll have to go down to Bristol City and win down there.”

On Foster – who made his first appearance since March following a knee ligament injury – Pulis added: “I thought he did smashing as well, he didn’t have a lot to do but what he did do he did very well.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Pellegrini hails City´s strength in depth after Cup win

Manuel Pellegrini said Manchester City’s 3-0 victory over Norwich City in the FA Cup shows his side have the strength in depth to challenge for four trophies.

City made seven changes for the third round tie at Carrow Road from their League Cup semi-final first leg defeat to Everton, but still included the likes of Raheem Sterling, Fabian Delph and Pablo Zabaleta.

First-half strikes from Sergio Aguero and Kelechi Iheanacho put City in control of the tie, before substitute Kevin De Bruyne sealed their progress with 12 minutes to play.

Pellegrini was delighted to see such a solid display from his much-changed side and believes it bodes well for the final months of the season.

“One of the merits of this squad is to be involved in so many competitions even with the injuries that we have to important players,” he said.

“That’s why when you have the option, as Kelechi had today, I think it’s very important to demonstrate why they are in this squad. All the players are involved mentally and physically and they know that they are important if we want to continue playing in all competitions.

“It’s very important to be focused game by game, we’ve played in the FA Cup and now we must return to the Premier League. We have to play two games at home and it’s very important that we try to reduce the gap that we have with Arsenal.

“We have so many games to play in January that it is important to have the whole squad fit but for the moment, we chose this team, they played very well and now we must choose which is the best team to start against Everton.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Bilic backs Carroll to kick on

Slaven Bilic called for Andy Carroll to maintain his form and fitness after the West Ham striker made a vital contribution in Saturday’s 1-0 FA Cup win over Wolves.

Carroll was introduced as a late substitute in a closely contested third-round tie at Upton Park, and he provided the pass for Nikica Jelavic to break the deadlock with a superb 84th-minute goal.

Carroll scored against his former club Liverpool in West Ham’s previous outing, and he received a glowing report from his manager after helping the Hammers into the fourth round of the cup.

Bilic said: “Andy Carroll was important in being introduced because he is in good form and he must now stay fit, because he looks capable of doing many different things on the pitch.

“He can do hold up play without training, chest it, play with it at his feet.

“He needs fitness and now he looks like he has that.”

The victory over Wolves left Bilic confident of his side’s chances in the FA Cup – a competition he previously said he would rather win than qualify for the Champions League.

Enner Valencia and Cheikhou Kouyate were both rested against Wolves, and Bilic reflected on the strength of his squad after the win.

“The cup is there for us,” he said. “We’re not in Liverpool’s situation with two cups and Europe. We have a big enough squad and it is good that we put out a team with different faces.

“It wasn’t a big risk either because most of the side have played in the last month, and not one of them was out for a long time.

“The FA Cup is often very tough. Even when you play teams in lower leagues they can be strong, so I must say well done to the lads.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Deja vu for Koeman in Saints cup exit

Ronald Koeman was left with a feeling of deja vu after his Southampton side were sent crashing out of the FA Cup by Crystal Palace in a 2-1 defeat on Saturday.

Oriol Romeu struck early in the second half of the third-round tie at St Mary’s Stadium to cancel out Joel Ward’s opener.

However, Wilfried Zaha struck in the 69th minute to send Palace, who beat Saints at the same ground in round four last season, into the hat for the next round.

Saints, who have now won just once in 10 matches, wasted several opportunities throughout the match, including Virgil van Dijk hitting the post late on, and manager Koeman is frustrated by the chances his side are wasting.

“It’s a hard time because maybe it’s the same story every week,” Koeman told Southampton’s official website.

“I can’t say anything about the team work. We tried everything to make the 2-2. Maybe we are a little bit unlucky at the moment, but that’s football.

“We had a lot of things against us and of course if you start well the game, even with a different system, you normally get the first goal.

“We had good moments and controlled the game. One big mistake in our ball possession and we’re 1-0 down. That makes it difficult. But we had a good reaction in the first part of the second half.”

Koeman also expressed disappointment that Southampton failed to kick on after finding the equaliser.

“What I have to criticise the players for is that we dropped back off, we didn’t continue how we started and that gave them the confidence to come back,” he added.

“They had one more shot on target and it’s 2-1. We did everything after that – we created chances, some good goalkeeper work and two or three shots.

“Then you know it’s the moment with a lot of things against us. We have to continue and show the spirit after the 2-1. That’s the way to come back and to be luckier than in the last few weeks.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Hughes relieved as FA Cup fortune favours Stoke

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes says his much-changed side rode their luck at times during Saturday’s 2-1 win over Doncaster Rovers in the FA Cup.

Goals from Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters either side of Nathan Tyson’s first-half leveller were enough to take the Premier League side into the fourth round at the expense of their League One hosts.

Hughes made nine changes for the trip to the Keepmoat Stadium and saw his makeshift XI withstand intense late pressure from Darren Ferguson’s side.

Reflecting on Stoke’s progression, Hughes told reporters: “You always understand that in the last period of the game when you’re the away side in the cup that the home side is going to have a go.

“I thought it was a good cup tie and I thought Doncaster played well. They caused us problems and it took two quality goals to take the tie away from them.

“We are thankful we are in the hat. We rode our luck with a couple of half chances Doncaster had at the end that could have fallen more kindly for them and they could still have been in the hat.”

Hughes left the attacking trio of Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic and Bojan Krkic out of Saturday’s squad after all three started Tuesday’s League Cup semi-final first leg defeat to Liverpool.

With Stoke in the running for FA Cup and League Cup success while sitting in the top half of the Premier League, Hughes was pleased to give some of his regulars a rest.

“We’ve had a big period and this is probably the only opportunity until mid-March where we will be able to rest key players who’ve taken on a lot of the workload,” the Welshman added.

“We had nine full internationals out there, so it shows the strength in depth we have.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Martinez confirms loan offers made for McGeady

Aiden McGeady could leave Everton after Roberto Martinez confirmed the club has received loan offers for the winger following his side’s 2-0 FA Cup win against Dagenham and Redbridge.

McGeady may lose his place in Republic of Ireland’s squad for Euro 2016 unless he gets regular football and the winger has yet to make a Premier League appearance this season.

“We have three teams that have asked about him. It was important not to cup tie him,” said Martinez, following Saturday’s third-round success.

The Everton manager was pleased with his side’s performance in a routine victory against League Two opposition, with captain Phil Jagielka returning after a two-month layoff.

“It was great to see Jags and Steven Pienaar back and Matty Pennington has been terrific in training,” Martinez said after goals from Arouna Kone and Kevin Mirallas booked Everton’s place in the fourth round.

“It was more than just a case of getting the job done. There were individuals who needed game time.”

Martinez confirmed that defender Ramiro Funes Mori did not suffer a concussion after sustaining a head injury in the first half.

“Funes Mori had a nasty cut to his head and needed stitches but was not concussed,” said the Spaniard, who also added that Steven Naismith was not in the squad due to an ankle injury.

He said: “He didn’t train in the last two sessions so it was nothing to do with his future.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Pardew: Palace win at Saints is FA Cup´s best result

Alan Pardew believes Crystal Palace’s 2-1 FA Cup third-round win at Southampton was the “best result” in the competition’s weekend so far.

Former Portsmouth defender Joel Ward opened the scoring for Palace at the St Mary’s Stadium in the first half, before Wilfried Zaha’s controlled volley won it in the 69th minute following Oriol Romeu’s equaliser.

Palace were forced to weather a few storms with Shane Long and Steven Davis missing chances, while Virgil van Dijk rattled the post in the last minute.

And manager Pardew – a former Saints boss – was thrilled with the way his team ground out the win to book a place in round four.

“This is what this team’s about. We’re difficult to score against with a good back four and goalkeeper. We can kill teams on the break,” he told BBC Sport.

“We have a great resilience. You look at our record of teams scoring an equaliser, we go on to win more than we lose.

“Looking at the [other third-round] results I’d say we’ve had the best result of the FA Cup this weekend.”

Pardew also confirmed that he is aiming to bolster his attacking options in the January transfer window, but ruled out making additions in defence or midfield.

“We’ve been linked with a couple of defenders, there’ll be no defenders coming to this football club,” he added.

“We’ve been linked with a couple of midfielders, there’ll be no midfielders coming to this football club.

“We will be looking for an offensive player, a striker-type player. Hopefully we can get someone in before the end of January.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Neil not too downhearted by Norwich´s cup exit

Alex Neil was not too disappointed to see his Norwich City side bow out of the FA Cup on Saturday as they were beaten 3-0 by Manchester City in the third round.

Defeat at Carrow Road means Norwich failed to reach round four for the third season in a row as goals from Sergio Aguero, Kelechi Iheanacho and Kevin De Bruyne sealed the win for the visitors.

After a positive start Norwich were blown away by their opponents, and although they enjoyed spells of possession in the second half they could not find a way through.

Neil was frustrated by his side’s performance but will quickly put it to the back of his mind as Norwich look to retain their Premier League status.

“In the first half we didn’t retain the ball well enough,” he said. “Against good teams, you’ve going to get punished.

“We’ll forget this game now. Our bread and butter is the league and we’ll turn our attentions to Wednesday.”

Norwich return to league action against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium, looking to at least maintain their six-point advantage over the bottom three.

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Garde needs more time at Villa, insists O´Neill

Former Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill insists under-pressure manager Remi Garde still needs more time at Villa Park.

The ex-Lyon head coach has failed to turn around the Premier League bottom club’s fortunes since taking over in November, with Saturday’s FA Cup third-round draw at Wycombe Wanderers extending their run to 16 matches without a win.

Frustrations came to a head during the 1-1 draw against the League Two team, with Micah Richards clashing with supporters, who also chanted against Garde.

But Republic of Ireland manager O’Neill, who spent four years at Villa between 2006 and 2010, called on fans to reserve judgement on the Frenchman for a while longer.

“You are asking about Remi Garde – he will not have had a chance yet to get to know the players that well,” he said to BT Sport.

“He will hardly even know the strength of the reserve side. You need a bit of time to get things going and that is something that is not being given to anyone now.

“Twenty or 30 years ago of course managers were still getting the sack, but even poor managers were getting a length of time to do something. 

“You don’t turn this situation around in two or three weeks but because of the money and because of the situation, everyone gets into a panic. Suddenly you start to feel that pressure when you have just arrived.

“So just get a win, get a win from somewhere but that is easier said than done now because their run has been so long without it.”

O’Neill pointed out that confidence must be so low in the Villa dressing room, with even the global political and economic picture significantly different now than it was when they last won in the Premier League.

“They have not won a league game since the opening day down at Bournemouth,” he said.

“Life has turned upside down in that time – politically, economically and everything, if you think the last time you have won a game is in August, that erodes confidence.

“People talk about lack of team spirit – even the best teams with team spirit, if they go that length of games without winning that starts to erode and you have a problem.

“Aston Villa are a big club, a fantastic club. They have won the European Cup, it is an historic football club and a magnificent club. 

“When everything is in place, they should be challenging. The crowd are there, the set-up is absolutely there and they should not be languishing at the bottom of the league.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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West Brom 2 Bristol City 2: Morrison spares blushes for Premier League side

James Morrison scored a last-gasp equaliser to deny Bristol City a famous FA Cup third-round win as they drew 2-2 with West Brom at The Hawthorns.

Saido Berahino – who was described as being lucky to be on the bench by head coach Tony Pulis after being left out of the starting line-up against Newcastle United last month – opened the scoring with a low strike in the 67th minute.

Berahino went over to shake Pulis’ hand after his goal but West Brom’s celebrations were cut short as Championship strugglers City levelled just seven minutes later through Jonathan Kodjia.

Kodjia headed home from Luke Freeman’s free-kick and West Brom appeared set for a shock exit when City completed the turnaround.

Freeman was involved again as his shot proved too hot for Ben Foster  – making his first appearance since last March following a knee ligament injury – and Kieran Agard was there to convert the rebound.

Yet there was a final twist in the tale in the 95th minute, Morrison turning home from Jonny Evans’ header back across goal with the last meaningful kick of the game.

City were the first to test either goalkeeper as Joe Bryan forced Foster into action with a curling effort in the 10th minute.

It was West Brom who unsurprisingly enjoyed the majority of the possession, but the hosts struggled to create goalscoring opportunities.

Frank Fielding parried a long-range effort from James McClean, which served as West Brom’s best opportunity until Salomon Rondon headed wide in the 38th minute. 

Morrison spurned another opportunity shortly before half-time, with the visitors making an unexpected change following the interval.

The Robins brought on 19-year-old goalkeeper Max O’Leary for his debut in place of Fielding before the start of the second half.

Rondon then wasted a golden opportunity in the 55th minute as he was put through on goal only to fire wide of the left-hand post.

West Brom were fortunate not to fall behind shortly after, Kodjia hitting the side-netting following good work from midfielder Korey Smith.

And they were made to pay as Berahino put West Brom ahead by curling beyond the reach of O’Leary.

However, City responded superbly and restored parity courtesy of Kodjia’s header from Freeman’s deft delivery.

Kodjia was then replaced by Agard and the substitute popped up inside the six-yard box to pounce and seemingly seal a memorable triumph for Steve Cotterill’s side.

But City – third bottom in the Championship – could not hold out, allowing Morrison to convert after Evans had nodded Callum McManaman’s ball in towards the midfielder.

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Everton 2 Dagenham and Redbridge 0: Kone and Mirallas send Martinez´s men through

Arouna Kone’s header and Kevin Mirallas’ late penalty were enough to give Everton a 2-0 win at home to League Two side Dagenham and Redbridge in the FA Cup third round.

Kone gave Everton a first-half lead with a fine header from Bryan Oviedo’s free-kick, while visiting goalkeeper Mark Cousins made a string of saves to keep his team in the match.

Cousins denied Mirallas and Ramiro Funes Mori in the first half and frustrated Kone and Oviedo after the break.

Dagenham struggled to create any meaningful chances on the club’s first appearance in the third round since 2012.

Mirallas converted from the spot after being fouled in the box to ensure Everton’s name will be in the hat for the fourth-round draw on Monday. 

Everton boss Roberto Martinez handed rare starts to Oviedo, Mirallas and Darron Gibson, while captain Phil Jagielka returned after two months out with a knee injury.

Steven Pienaar, making his first appearance for Everton since April, should have given the hosts the lead after just three minutes.

Oviedo got down the right wing and delivered a fine cross, but the South Africa winger’s header flew over the crossbar.

Mirallas then tested Cousins before Aaron Lennon failed to pick out Kone from a good position.

Cousins was in action again after 24 minutes, producing a fine save from Funes Mori’s 25-yard curler.

Everton were dominating the ball without much penetration, but took the lead after 31 minutes. Oviedo floated a free-kick to the back post and Kone headed the ball across Cousins and in.

Funes Mori was substituted shortly before the break after sustaining a nasty forehead cut, with Matthew Pennington coming on to make his second appearance for Everton.

As torrential rain fell at Goodison Park, Kone almost made it 2-0 on the hour mark. The striker hit a low shot towards the near post, but the impressive Cousins was again equal to the effort.

Muhamed Besic then ran the length of the pitch to set up Kone, but the Ivory Coast attacker could not double his tally for the afternoon.

Dagenham manager John Still, appointed on New Year’s Eve to begin a third spell in charge of the club, introduced 40-year-old striker Jamie Cureton from the bench in a bid to force an equaliser.

Oviedo let fly from range on 72 minutes and Cousins spilled the shot, but Brendan Galloway could not turn the rebound into the net, before Kone planted a header just wide from a good position. 

Mirallas then secured the win from 12 yards after being brought down in the box with just six minutes to go.  

Everton closed out the match comfortably – a cat making a late appearance on the pitch to briefly halt play – to record back-to-back cup victories after Martinez’s men beat Manchester City 2-1 in the League Cup semi-final first leg on Wednesday.

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Watford 1 Newcastle 0: Deeney downs McClaren´s men

Troy Deeney scored his seventh goal of the season to help Watford to a 1-0 win over Newcastle United in Saturday’s FA Cup third-round clash at Vicarage Road.

Deeney made the most of a poor pass from Georginio Wijnaldum shortly before the interval and a comeback rarely looked likely, leaving Newcastle to contemplate a fourth successive exit at this stage.

Newcastle fans have often lamented a perceived lack of ambition in cup competitions and their ire was again evident, with Ayoze Perez and Aleksandar Mitrovic proving wasteful when chances did come the visitors’ way.

Premier League survival now becomes Steve McClaren’s sole focus, with his counterpart Quique Sanchez Flores perhaps plotting a morale-boosting Cup run to supplement Watford’s excellent return to the top flight.

Newcastlewere not without early ambition and defender Daryl Janmaat tried his luck early on with a shot from the centre of the box, yet his attempt went straight at Watford goalkeeper Gomes.

The home side quickly threatened at the other end and Adlene Guedioura set up Jose Manuel Jurado, who cut inside before curling in a dangerous shot, only for Rob Elliot to deny the creative midfielder.

Perez should have opened the scoring for Newcastle in the 27th minute after a superb run from Moussa Sissoko, but the Spanish attacker steered wide with the goal at his mercy, before Aleksandar Mitrovic headed his strike partner’s corner off target.

Ben Watson’s free-kick almost evaded everyone on its way in as half-time approached, but Elliot did well to push his attempt wide at the far post.

However, Flores’ men snatched the lead just a minute before the interval. Deeney pounced on a poor pass from Wijnaldum, rounding Elliot before making it 1-0 for the hosts.

Perez continued to cause the Watford defence problems after the break and he went close to levelling the scoring with a fine shot from outside the area that flew just wide.

Mitrovic came incredibly close to netting the equaliser at the hour mark after Sissoko’s sublime pass, but the former Anderlecht man came inches from connect with it.

McClaren’s men kept on pushing for the leveller and Sissoko looked set to restore parity in the 71st minute, only to square the ball wide for the offside Florian Thauvin rather than go for goal himself.

Newcastle kept the pressure on Watford’s resolute back line and Thauvin hit the side netting in stoppage time, but it proved the final chance as the visitors were left to face a frustrated travelling support upon the final whistle.

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Birmingham 1 AFC Bournemouth 2: Murray makes Vaughan pay for penalty miss

Glenn Murray punished James Vaughan for a missed penalty when he struck late to earn AFC Bournemouth a 2-1 win against Birmingham City in the FA Cup third round at St Andrew’s on Saturday.

Murray was sent on by manager Eddie Howe in the 78th minute and poked home seven minutes later after Birmingham goalkeeper Adam Legzdins spilled the ball inside the box, piling the misery on Vaughan after he failed to score from the penalty spot on the hour-mark with the scores level.

Gary Rowett’s side began impressively and, after surviving a scare in the 23rd minute when Yann Kermorgant rattled the crossbar with his header, opened the scoring through Michael Morrison five minutes before the interval.

Lee Tomlin restored parity with a 44th-minute penalty – his first goal for Bournemouth – before Birmingham were awarded a spot-kick of their own on the hour-mark.

But Vaughan – who made his loan move from Huddersfield Town permanent in the week – blazed it over, while Jacques Maghoma hit the post with 15 minutes remaining.

Bournemouth then stunned the hosts late on as substitute Murray dealt the knockout blow, finding the back of the net with an opportunistic strike to book a place into the draw for the fourth round.

Birmingham started positively and had a chance to open the scoring inside the opening minute, but Andrew Shinnie fired over from the centre of the box after Viv Solomon-Otabor’s cutback.

The Championship side maintained their momentum in the early exchanges but Bournemouth gradually edged their way into the game and almost took the lead midway through the half.

Marc Pugh stood a cross up at the back post which Kermorgant headed against the bar before sending his second attempt straight at Legzdins.

The Premier League team began to enjoy a greater share of possession with Birmingham sloppy on the ball, but the visitors lost Tokelo Rantie to injury in the 39th minute – Matt Ritchie replacing him.

Bournemouth’s problems mounted seconds later when Rowett’s team took the lead against the run of play, Morrison connecting with David Cotterill’s free-kick from the right and powering a header into the back of the net.

However, Birmingham’s advantage did not last long as referee Mike Jones pointed to the spot after O’Kane was nudged over by Grounds.

Tomlin ensured Howe’s side went into the break level, sending the penalty straight down the middle with 44 minutes played.

Rowett replaced Neal Eardley and Cotterill with Shane Lowry and Maghoma for the second half but Bournemouth remained in charge.

Birmingham had a great chance to regain the lead on the hour-mark when they were awarded a penalty after O’Kane was judged to have fouled Maikel Kieftenbeld, but Vaughan smashed the spot-kick over the top.

Maghoma came close to sparing Vaughan’s blushes 15 minutes from time but his strike from the centre of the box struck the upright.

Birmingham’s inability to convert ended up costing them their place in the competition as Murray pounced in the 85th minute, scrambling home after Birmingham failed to deal with Steve Cook’s cross.

Sat 9 January, 2016
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West Ham 1 Wolves 0: Late Jelavic strike sends Hammers through

Nikica Jelavic’s late goal earned West Ham a place in the fourth round of the FA Cup as they beat a dogged Wolves side 1-0 at Upton Park.

The Premier League outfit were matched by their Championship opponents until the final 10 minutes of a tightly fought contest, but Jelavic’s sweetly struck volley clinched a victory the Hammers barely deserved.

Having beaten Liverpool and Southampton in their last two home fixtures, West Ham were favourites to advance to the fourth round, but the fluency and dynamism of their recent performances was missing, despite manager Slaven Bilic citing the competition as a priority for his side before the game.

Wolves manager Kenny Jackett will be doubly disappointed after seeing his side’s brave performance amount to nothing, and forward Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson was carried off on a stretcher having only just returned to action after a long lay-off with a back injury.

West Ham can breathe a sigh of relief after avoiding a replay as they attempt to overcome a congested fixture list and achieve a top-six finish in the Premier League.

Wolves were without striker Benik Afobe, who is thought to be the subject of a £10million bid from Bournemouth, so new signing Michal Zyro started in attack for the visitors.

Despite their excellent recent home form in the top flight, West Ham struggled to settle into the game and they failed to trouble Wolves until Mauro Zarate cut inside and fired a shot straight down the throat of Carl Ikeme after 15 minutes.

The chance seemed to revive West Ham, and a deflected shot from Pedro Obiang drew a fine save from Ikeme, before Aaron Cresswell had claims for a penalty waved away when his shot appeared to hit a Wolves arm on its way wide.

Wolves sat back and absorbed the pressure effectively, and other than a Carl Jenkinson shot that Ikeme stretched to tip over the crossbar, there was little to worry Jackett before the break.

Zyro, who was at the centre of much of Wolves’ best play in the first half, created their maiden chance after the interval with a mazy run that earned a corner. Rajiv van La Parra’s short corner allowed Kevin McDonald to shoot through a crowded penalty area but Darren Randolph made a simple save for West Ham.

Sigurdarson’s injury came as a cruel blow –  making his first start in more than two years after recovering from back surgery, he went down unchallenged and had to be stretchered off.

Adam Le Fondre replaced Sigurdarson and Wolves continued to press through Zyro, who teed up David Edwards for a shot that was denied by a last-gasp West Ham clearance.

Le Fondre made a positive contribution, holding the ball up well and feeding Zyro, who tested Randolph with a good shot, but West Ham were given a late boost with the introduction of Dimitri Payet and Andy Carroll.

It was Carroll who provided the pass for Jelavic to break the deadlock, and the Croatian made no mistake in converting his first chance of the game with a fizzing volley that flew into the net.

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Southampton 1 Crystal Palace 2: Ward and Zaha pile FA Cup misery on Saints

Goals from Joel Ward and Wilfried Zaha helped Crystal Palace pile more misery on out-of-form Southampton in a 2-1 FA Cup third-round victory.

Southampton headed into Saturday’s contest at St Mary’s having won just once in their past nine matches, albeit that coming in a 4-0 win over Premier League leaders Arsenal.

And Ronald Koeman’s side were 1-0 down at half-time as Ward, who started his career with Saints’ rivals Portsmouth, finished a fluent Palace counter-attack.

That goal came against the run of play with Shane Long and Steven Davis missing good first-half chances for Southampton and Oriol Romeu levelled from close range early in the second half.

But Palace, who beat Saints at the same ground 3-2 in the fourth round last season, were not to be denied as Zaha’s 69th-minute volley delighted the visiting fans.

Southampton betrayed any nerves from their recent poor run to dominate the opening stages and Long had the first opportunity when he raced clear to round Wayne Hennessey, but the angle was tight and the Palace goalkeeper scrambled back to make the save.

Palace were uncharacteristically sloppy at the back and Davis glanced a free header wide from Cuco Martina’s cross.

But Southampton were caught by a sucker punch in the 29th minute.

Jordie Clasie gave the ball away in his own half and former Saints attacker Jason Puncheon raced clear down the right before cutting the ball back for Ward, who rifled home from eight yards.

Palace had a great chance to go into the break 2-0 up, but Scott Dann glanced Puncheon’s whipped corner wide when unmarked in the area.

And that proved costly six minutes after the restart as Saints levelled when Romeu played in Martina and, although his shot was saved by Hennessey, the former continued his run to prod in the equaliser.

Southampton were in the ascendancy again following the equaliser and Hennessey did brilliantly to parry Long’s edge-of-the-box effort to safety.

But Palace regained the lead with just over 20 minutes remaining.

Maarten Stekelenburg made a terrific stop to prevent Puncheon’s curling effort, but the rebound fell to Zaha and he brilliantly controlled a volley into the unguarded goal.

Southampton pushed for a second equaliser and Hennessey made another fine stop from Juanmi’s snap-shot, before Virgil van Dijk headed James Ward-Prowse’s corner against the post in the last minute as Palace held on to put their name in the hat for round four.

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Doncaster Rovers 1 Stoke City 2: Crouch and Walters take Hughes´ men through

Goals from Peter Crouch and Jon Walters helped Stoke City into the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday as Mark Hughes’ men ran out 2-1 winners against Doncaster Rovers.

Hughes made nine changes from Stoke’s League Cup defeat to Liverpool on Wednesday and Crouch and Walters made the most of their opportunities to score either side of Nathan Tyson’s equaliser for the League One side.

Crouch – making just his fourth start of the season at the Keepmoat Stadium – opened the scoring early on with a smart finish from close range only for journeyman striker Tyson to level before the half-hour.

Darren Ferguson – a former Manchester United team-mate of Hughes – saw his side gain confidence and go close through Conor Grant after the break. 

The hosts were given let-offs too by some wasteful Stoke finishing but Walters’ impressive long-range strike proved the difference in denying Ferguson’s men a replay against the 2011 runners-up.

Debutant goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard was among the Stoke changes and was tested early on when Cedric Evina let fly from distance.

However, the Premier League visitors steadied themselves and led after 15 minutes courtesy of Crouch’s second goal of the season.

Joselu evaded the attentions of Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and crossed for Crouch who cleverly turned the ball past Thorsten Stuckmann amid suspicions of offside.

Crouch unsuccessfully tried his luck from distance soon after, prior to Tyson’s equaliser.

Luke McCullough burst through the middle and squared for Tyson who saw his first effort well saved by Haugaard before following up on the rebound to level.

Tempers flared prior to the half-hour mark as Philipp Wollscheid went into referee Keith Stroud’s book for a shove on Tyson while Mame Biram Diouf wasted a golden chance to restore Stoke’s lead before half-time.

In acres of space, Diouf failed to take on the shot and was eventually crowded out, although team-mate Charlie Adam did not need a second invitation to shoot after the break when his attempt from just inside Doncaster’s half flew off target.

Everton loanee Grant shot just wide with a sidefooted effort from the edge of the area before Rovers had penalty shouts turned down when Craig Alcock went down under pressure from his marker.

Diouf planted a header at Stuckmann when unmarked while Crouch missed the subsequent open goal but Walters’ long-range drive three minutes before the hour restored Stoke’s lead.

Crouch’s strike was blocked and, when Rovers defenders stood off Walters, the Republic of Ireland man produced an impressive effort from distance.

Andy Butler flicked Richard Chaplow’s delivery onto Haugaard’s crossbar and sent another header over from close range while Tyson too turned a glorious chance over the bar as Stoke were given a number of late scares en route to the fourth round.

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Norwich City 0 Manchester City 3: Aguero shines as Pellegrini´s side progress

Manuel Pellegrini’s hopes of winning the quadruple remain intact after Sergio Aguero inspired Manchester City to a 3-0 FA Cup third-round victory over fellow Premier League outfit Norwich City on Saturday.

Pellegrini’s decision to rest the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Joe Hart was justified as the visitors cruised into round four, Aguero getting more valuable game-time after his recent heel injury.

The 27-year-old opened the scoring after 16 minutes at Carrow Road with a stunning strike, before setting up Kelechi Iheanacho for a second before half-time.

Norwich enjoyed more possession after the break but were punished as Kevin De Bruyne added a third with 12 minutes to play.

Victory sees Manchester City into the draw for the next round as they look to lift the trophy for the first time since 2011, while Norwich focus their attentions on Premier League survival.

Cameron Jerome and Jonny Howson both caused the visitors concern early on as the hosts started well, but neither were able to worry Caballero in the Manchester City goal.

Slowly Pellegrini’s side began to assert themselves with Iheanacho and Aleksandar Kolarov threatening Norwich’s goal, the pair both denied by John Ruddy inside the opening 10 minutes.

Eventually the Premier League title contenders found a way through as a cute back heel from Raheem Sterling found Aguero, who beat four men with a surging run before stabbing a finish beyond Ruddy.

Having netted his 11th goal in all competitions this season, Aguero turned creator on the half-hour mark as he found strike partner Iheanacho with a low cross, the youngster coolly slotting home Manchester City’s second.

Norwich enjoyed a good spell of possession as half-time approached, but Alex Neil’s side lacked quality in the final third as the visitors took a two-goal advantage into the break.

Pressure continued to build on the Manchester City defence after the restart with Howson and Vadis Odjidja heavily involved. Both created openings for Jerome but the flag denied him the chance to pull one back.

Aguero’s match-winning display came to an end with 20 minutes to play, the striker withdrawn by Pellegrini to avoid further injury.

Three minutes later Jesus Navas went close to adding gloss to the victory with a strike that beat Ruddy, but the Spaniard was denied successive goals by the woodwork.

They did not have to wait long for the third though, as De Bruyne fired beyond Ruddy with a powerful effort to secure Manchester City’s progression.

Sat 9 January, 2016
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´We stopped playing´ – Garde slams players after Richards fan clash

Remi Garde admits difficulties winning Aston Villa fans over are playing a part in his team’s dismal run of form and slammed their performance against Wycombe Wanderers.

The former Lyon boss hit out at his players on Saturday, insisting they stopped playing against Wycombe and revealing he cannot explain why. The Premier League’s bottom club are now without a win in 16 matches in all competitions after the 1-1 draw against League Two opposition in the FA Cup third round.

On another low day for Villa, goalscorer Micah Richards clashed with angry away supporters who were sitting behind the bench during the match as he attempted to defend the players.

Travelling fans berated manager Garde after he took off Carles Gil and there were also chants against the squad after the full-time whistle.

When asked by BT Sport about the Richards incident and whether fan frustrations were part of Villa’s difficulties, Garde replied: “Yes, of course.

“I am not saying that we are not trying but we are not at our base level individually every week in the same time. 

“Some are down some games and some are up in other games, but we need to be at the top level with 11 players at the same moment. 

“I don’t feel players are letting down but we have to cope with the situation – it is a very difficult one that is going on.”

When asked how a team who were in the lead against lower-league opposition can stop playing, Garde said: “I don’t know. I can’t explain. 

“I know what I ask to my players before the game and what I repeat at half-time but then maybe we couldn’t today. Yes [confidence is lacking] but every week now for eight or 10 since I have been here I am speaking about confidence, but then we are professional and at one moment you have to realise the confidence will only come within you.

“You have this inside and then one day you have to be brave enough one day to stop speaking about confidence and speak about professional players and quality, but I did not see that enough today.

“In the first half I think that we stopped playing after the first goal and until then it was direct football from both teams. But then we didn’t play the game I wanted my players to play. 

“Then we have been punished on let’s say a silly situation, I am not sure it was really a penalty but that is the game.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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Reluctant Van Gaal considers signings

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is open to entering the transfer market in January but prefers to conduct business between seasons.

United ended a run of eight games in all competitions without a win by beating Swansea City 2-1 last weekend, but Van Gaal remains under heavy scrutiny for poor form and what have been perceived to be negative tactics.

Lazio midfielder Felipe Anderson and Southampton forward Sadio Mane have been linked with moves to Old Trafford this month, with the Dutchman reportedly looking to remedy his team’s attacking shortcomings.

The 64-year-old will sign new players if he feels they can improve the squad, but he thinks it could be difficult to integrate any potential reinforcements.

“January brings the opening of the transfer window and, as I have already seen, we have been linked to a host of players,” Van Gaal wrote in United’s matchday programme ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup third-round tie at home to Sheffield United.

“I don’t see January as the ideal time to do business as the players cannot then have the pre-season that I feel they need to be integrated into the squad, both on and off the pitch.

“However, if I and the coaches feel that something can be done to improve the current squad then that is something we will look at if the opportunity does arise.”

Sat 9 January, 2016
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