FA Cup roundup: Manchester United tumble out, Forest smoke West Ham

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The 133rd FA Cup continued today, and there was plenty of action to be had.

Most notably, David Moyes suffered his latest setback in an attempt to replace Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United tumbled out.

Sam Allardyce also hit a low point in charge of West Ham as Championship promotion candidates Nottingham Forest blasted the Hammers 5-0.

Liverpool, Sunderland, and Chelsea all rolled over lower-league opposition.

Here’s a breakdown:

Manchester United 1-2 Swansea
Boy, Old Trafford ain’t what it used to be. Once Sir Alex Ferguson’s fortress in northern England, now it’s giving teams confidence they can take a visit and come back with the spoils.  The latest to take advantage of Moyes’ boys are Swansea, who capitalized on a straight red card to substitute Fabio just four minutes after coming on, and Wilfried Bony headed the Swans through to the fourth round.  They’ll take on one of a trio of lower league teams in Birmingham City, Bristol Rovers, or Crawley Town.

Nottingham Forest 5-0 West Ham
It’s hard for an under-fire manager to lose standing in the FA Cup, but with a 5-0 drubbing Big Sam Allardyce may have done just that.  Jamie Patterson had a hat-trick for Forest as they move on. Consider this: if they’d stayed home, West Ham would have only lost 3-0. American Eric Lichaj went the full 90 for Nottingham in the blowout victory.

Sunderland 3-1 Carlisle United
It was a complete performance from front to back as Sunderland saw themselves through to the fourth round of the FA Cup.  Adam Johnson opened the scoring with a 34th minute free kick and despite an equalizer before halftime from Carlisle, the second half proved Sunderland’s key.  The Black Cats get another lower-league opponent next round, taking on either Kidderminster or Petersborough United

source: Getty Images
John Obi Mikel was the unlikely source to head Chelsea into the fourth round past Derby County.

Chelsea 2-0 Derby County
The Premier League title contenders also had no issues with their lower league opponents, as Derby held Chelsea for 66 minutes until John Obi Mikel (!!) gave Chelsea the lead. It’s just Mikel’s fourth goal for the Blues in his 300th club appearance (although he now has two this season – floodgates!). Oscar doubled their lead five minutes later to seal the victory.

Liverpool 2-0 Oldham Athletic
Brendan Rodgers gazumped his son with a comprehensive win over Oldham to move Liverpool into the fourth round.  Two changes after halftime saw immediate dividends as Iago Aspas deposited the game’s first score in the 54th.  James Tarkowski was unlucky to double Liverpool’s lead with an own-goal, but the result was never really in doubt. They will play either Bournemouth or Burton Albion in the next round.

Port Vale 2-2 Plymouth Argyle
With a 2-0 deficit on the road, Plymouth secured a replay with a dramatic second-half comeback to keep their FA Cup hopes alive.  Reuben Reid and Ben Purrington gave Plymouth their lifeline, as they had fallen behind early against the run of play. The replay winner will face Brighton Hove & Albion in the fourth round.

Xabi Alonso denies Spanish accusations of tax fraud

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The list of players pursued by Spanish authorities crying tax fraud is starting to resemble a pretty good team,

Call it The Longest Yard: La Liga.

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Xabi Alonso is being accused of not paying taxes on his image rights while a player at Real Madrid, joining Radamel Falcao, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luka Modric, and Cristiano Ronaldo as World XI-caliber players who’ve faced legal troubles in Spain.

Jose Mourinho even had to travel to Spain earlier this season to face accusations from a Spanish court. Those found guilty have found punishment other than jail time.

Alonso denies any wrongdoing, according to Sky Sports:

Prosecutors say he defrauded the Spanish state of £1.75m between 2010 and 2012 and called for the same sentence to be applied to Alonso’s financial advisor Ivan Zaldua Azcuenaga and the administrator of consultancy shell company, Ignasi Maestre Casanova.

Iraq hosts friendly tournament after 3-decade FIFA ban

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BAGHDAD (AP) Iraq is hosting a friendly soccer tournament this week, with Syria and Qatar.

It comes just days after FIFA lifted a three-decade-long ban on Iraq hosting international competitions.

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An Iraq-Qatar match is to start Wednesday evening in the southern city of Basra.

FIFA lifted the ban on Monday for Iraqi cities of Basra, Karbala and Irbil, considered to be the safest in Iraq – but not the capital, Baghdad, which still sees frequent militant attacks.

Iraq’s minister of youth and sports, Abdul-Hussein Abtan, congratulated the Iraqi people following FIFA’s move and said it would change how Iraq is viewed in the region and beyond.

While the ban was in place, Iraq was still able to host friendly games and tournaments.

$280m? Who cares? Salah is the rare “unsellable” player


The gossip reports are out there, with lofty claims that Real Madrid and Barcelona are willing to pay as much as $280 million dollars for Mohamed Salah.

Normally that figure triggers something in my brain that screams, “Sell! Sell! Sell before they realize what they’ve offered!”

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That’s not happening with Mohamed Salah.

This isn’t an inflated fee for a young English player like Ross Barkley or John Stones, nor is it a club throwing a lofty and desperate figure at a very good but supremely overvalued player like Philippe Coutinho. Even Raheem Sterling, who I advocated selling, has proven replaceable.

In the case of Salah, his Golden Boot figure is likely to dwarf any in the Premier League era. He’s at 28, three behind Luis Suarez’s 31. Cristiano Ronaldo has bagged 31 once Alan Shearer and Andy Cole hold the modern record with 34.

Salah needs six to tie Shearer. Here’s Liverpool’s run-in: Crystal Palace (A), Everton (A), Bournemouth (H), West Brom (A), Stoke City (H), Chelsea (A), Brighton and Hove Albion (H).

Five of those teams absolutely hemorrhage goals. Would you bet against Salah?

By the way, Salah has 10 assists, too. Sure Jurgen Klopp deserves credit for buying and deploying the Egyptian wizard, but

When Klopp argued that Liverpool was not a selling club, this is the exact example to follow. Selling Coutinho — again, not trying to poke the bear that is ornery overvaluing fan — is fine in a world where your club has Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah

But selling one of Europe’s leading scorers is almost never okay for a club challenging for a Champions League crown and with the clear caliber of a Premier League title hunter.

I’d argue that for this club, one who has sold Coutinho and Suarez, there is not a fee that meets Salah straight-on.  He’s 25 and living in the air just below Lionel Messi and Neymar.

The Messi comparisons I keep reading are fun but still unbelievably premature by every stretch of the imagination. By the time Messi was Salah’s age he had league seasons of 34, 31, 50, and was en route to a 46-goal mark. He posted 68 combined assists over those four seasons.

If this is somehow an aberration, and Salah cannot find this form ever again, well, that’s bad luck and a risk worth its weight in standard setting.

There is not a replacement player.

There is no fee.

Say it again now.

Dangerous playmaker Silva joins Montreal Impact (video)

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Alejandro Silva’s got a creative mind, and that’s something Montreal will welcome with open arms.

The Uruguayan signed with the Impact this week, joining Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taider as playmakers in Quebec.

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Silva, 28, is a right-sided and forward-playing attacker who can also play right back if necessary.

The Impact lost two of three to start the season, winning this weekend’s 401 Derby versus Toronto FC to put a number in the win column.

Lanus has been a fertile ground for Major League Soccer clubs in recent years, with Lucas Melano (Portland Timbers) and Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United) making the move to North America.

The South American club has also sent Gustavo Gomez to AC Milan and Oscar Benitez to Benfica.