FA Cup roundup: Plenty of upsets dot third-round slate

Leave a comment

Three Premier League squads have fallen amidst plenty of upsets and upheaval during Saturday’s third round of the FA Cup, and all this before the North London Derby kicked off at 12:15pm ET.

The upsets…

Aston Villa 1-2 Sheffield United
It’s a good thing Paul Lambert’s not a big fan of the FA Cup, because it may help him ignore the jeers of the AV faithful after Sheffield United bounced the Villans out of the tournament. The Blades are through thanks to Scottish scoring from Jamie Murphy in the 20th minute and Ryan Flynn’s game-winning tally in the 81st after Nicklas Helenius briefly put Aston Villa level.

Southend United 4-1 Millwall
What a mess for last year’s semi-finalists, who got absolutely pummeled before and after a red card to Jermaine Easter for apparently stamping on Ben Coker. Martyn Woolford’s 64th minute goal was Millwall’s only moment and came with the team down 3-0. Barry Corr’s header put the Shrimpers ahead in the 22nd minute before Easter’s sending off in the 45th opened the floodgates. Roots Hall went rightly bananas all afternoon.

Rochdale 2-0 Leeds United
The League Two side used a loud home stadium to its advantage, as Scott Hogan and Ian Henderson scored against a pretty strong squad. Rochdale heads into the fourth round for the first time in 11 years.

Doncaster 2-3 Stevenage
Francois Zoko’s 49th minute goal kickstarted a match that featured five second half goals. Stevenage lead 2-0 and 3-1 before Liam Wakefield scored in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Barnsley 1-2 Coventry City
Jim O’Brien gave the hosts an early lead, but Franck Moussa and Leon Clark struck in the 78th and 89th minutes for the Sky Blues to send the League One side onward

Close, but not enough…

Stoke City 2-1 Leicester City
Southampton 4-3 Burnley
Bolton 2-1 Blackpool
Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 Reading

Premier League ousters…

Newcastle United 1-2 Cardiff City
Vincent Tan will certainly be pleased to see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pick up a win in the manager’s first game in charge, as the Bluebirds fought back after Papiss Cisse’s 62nd minute tally to win on the road. Craig Noone tied the game moments after subbing on and Frazier Campbell headed home the winner as Cardiff struck twice in seven minutes before holding on for the win. Looks to be yet another year without a shot at silverware for the Magpies.

West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Crystal Palace
Tony Pulis had to wonder how the road was so easy. Dwight Gayle scored in the first half and Marouane Chamakh added one deep into second half stoppage as the Eagles sent the Baggies to defeat.

Two of three fifth division sides survive for replays…

The Harriers of Kidderminster held Peterborough to a 0-0 draw, while Macclesfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday played to a 1-1 stalemate. Both clubs were at home and face challenging road replays. Grimsby Town nearly made it 3/3, but fell to Huddersfield 3-2 at home on an added time own goal.

No alarms and no surprises…

Everton 4-0 Queens Park Rangers
The Toffees smashed Harry Redknapp’s QPR to bits, a 4-0 decision at Goodison Park behind a brace from Nikita Jelavic.

Middlesborough 0-2 Hull City
The Tigers handled their road business in a tidy fashion to crash another Northeast club out of the tournament. Aaron McLean and Nick Proschwitz scored as Steve Bruce played mainly reserves and still ran roughshod over Boro.

Yeovil Town 4-0 Leyton Orient
The Championship side handled its business against an injury-ravaged Orient side. Two goals for James Hayter grabbed the headlines.

Onto the replays…

Blackburn 1-1 Manchester City (click for recap)
Bristol City 1-1 Watford
Ipswich Town 1-1 Preston North End
Kidderminster 0-0 Peterborough
Macclesfield Town 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday
Norwich 1-1 Fulham
Wigan Athletic 3-3 MK Dons

Kevin de Bruyne questionable for injury-laden Belgium

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Belgium, already without superstar Eden Hazard for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Greece, will now be without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up an injury in training on Friday and will miss both the match against Greece and the subsequent friendly against Russia three days later…maybe.

The Belgian National Team official Twitter account sent out a quote from manager Roberto Martinez that confirmed De Bruyne would miss the pair of matches, but the tweet was quickly deleted.

Instead, this one was pushed out in its place, correcting his availability and also updating the type of injury:

Should De Bruyne miss out, it means Belgium would likely rely heavily on Dries Mertens and Kevin Mirallas for the playmaking duties, with midfielder Radja Nainggolan potentially taking on a more attacking role as well.

Belgium and Martinez also confirmed that right-back Thomas Meunier will miss out after failing to recover from an ankle injury, while Marouane Fellaini‘s status is unknown after he was held out of Thursday’s training session.

The injury also leaves De Bruyne’s status for Manchester City up in the air, with a pair of massive games in London in quick succession after the injury break. City visits Arsenal next Sunday, followed by a hop over to Stanford Bridge on Wednesday.

Landon Donovan retires again, this time for good

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After coming out of retirement last fall to join the LA Galaxy for one more shot at an MLS Cup, Landon Donovan has once again called time on his career, saying he’s certain he will not play again.

With a number of other ventures on his plate, the USMNT all-time leading scorer is looking forward to spending his time elsewhere.

“Yeah, I’m done,” Donovan said. “I’m done. No more playing for me. I have not [gone public with it yet]. But that is definitely the case.”

Donovan scored one goal in nine games for the LA Galaxy in his comeback bid, with the club ravaged by injuries and still gunning for the Cup. However, after the season was over with a loss to Colorado in the Conference Semifinals, the Galaxy confirmed it was nothing more than a short-term stopgap.

“With Landon, when he came back, it was always going to be a short-term thing,”team president Chris Klein said to the L.A. Times in December. “He’s enjoying what he’s doing and we see we’re comfortable in the direction that we’re headed.”

In January, reports claimed Real Salt Lake had offered Donovan a Designated Player contract, but it appears he’s turned it down, and will now have time to concentrate on his other ventures. Off the field, Donovan is an analyst on Fox’s soccer coverage, is on the advisory committee for the Los Angeles 2024 Olympics bid, and has joined the ownership group attempting to bring an expansion MLS team to San Diego.

Former Spurs midfielder Paulinho scores thunderbolt for Brazil

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Brazil topped Uruguay 4-1 to move on the verge of World Cup qualification, but there was much more to the first half of this match than meets the eye.

Uruguay went ahead 1-0 on a 9th-minute penalty won and scored by Edinson Cavani, and for a moment it seemed like the home side might find its way to pull within a point of Brazil at the top of the CONMEBOL standings. That would not last very long.

[ MORE: Full roundup of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying action ]

Just 10 minutes later, a bad giveaway near the midfield stripe saw Neymar casually feed Paulinho a good 50 yards from goal. The former Spurs man took matters into his own hands, charging forward and unleashing a vicious strike that continued to rise until it ripped the chords in the top-right corner.

 

Not only was the goal a sight to behold, it was an important moment in the match. Brazil was back level at 1-1, and Paulinho would be on his way to an eventual hat-trick with a pair in the second half. Neymar scored once as well to complete the 4-1 final scoreline, and the three points for Brazil saw them remain perfect in the World Cup qualifying round as they march seven clear of Uruguay at the top of the standings.

For Paulinho, the hat-trick brings him to four goals in the World Cup qualifying round, adding to his score in the 3-0 win over Argentina. They also mark an important moment for the Chinese Super League, where Paulinho now plays, having moved from Spurs in July of 2015. Some national team coaches have left players on the outside of the squad for moving to leagues such as the Chinese League or Major League Soccer, but Paulinho has clearly been an asset to Brazil despite his club situation. In fact, in China, Paulinho has scored four goals in his four league matches for Guangzhou Evergrande this season plus another in the Asian Champions League, leaving him in top goalscoring form coming into this international break, something which has clearly translated directly to international play.

The 28-year-old had lost his place in the national team squad in 2014, going over two years without a single international appearance, but has been a mainstay in the Brazilian side during this World Cup qualification cycle.

Dele Alli banned three European games for straight red card

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Spurs may be out of the Europa League this season, but should they end up qualifying for the Champions League next season, they will start the campaign short-handed.

Tottenham will be without midfielder Dele Alli for the first half of the group stage after his horrifying tackle on Brecht Dejaegere of KAA Gent in their 2-2 draw which saw Spurs out of the competition on aggregate in the Round of 32.

Alli went to ground on the 39th-minute challenge, and made contact on high up on Dejaegere’s leg with both his studs, finishing with a scissior-whip motion. It was a blatant red card, and now UEFA’s disciplinary committee has handed down the three-match ban. Straight-red cards for violent conduct only carry a minimum penalty of one match in UEFA tournament play, but the disciplinary committee clearly thought a longer punishment was necessary, with the ability to sentence anyone up to five matches.

The straight red was the first of Alli’s professional career. Alli apologized to Dejaejere after the match, according to the Gent midfielder. He’s since scored in four straight matches, and when asked on Sunday if that moment was still in his mind, he said, “I’m never going to say sorry for wanting to win or trying as hard as I can but things happen and you have to learn from them.”

Spurs currently sit in second place in the Premier League table with 59 points and look to be in a strong position for Champions League qualification, with a seven-point cushion on fifth-placed Manchester United.