Friday’s FA Cup Roundup: Arsenal handle Coventry, Nottingham Forest held by Preston

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This weekend the FA Cup takes center stage in England, as the oldest knockout competition in history is looking to provide some big upsets.

First up on Friday were two matches as potential banana skins were thrown towards Arsenal and Nottingham Forest, with lower-league opposition standing in the way.

Let’s see how both games panned out, as the magic of the cup continues…

Arsenal 4-0 Coventry

The Gunners eased through to the fifth round of the FA Cup, following two first half goals from German international Lukas Podolski and late strikes from Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla. But visitors Coventry — who currently sit 11th in League One and play 35 miles away from their home city and Northampton Town’s ground due to severe financial issues — certainly made the Gunners work for the win as Leon Clarke struck the post in the second half, as the Sky Blues were roared on by a large contingent of traveling fans. However Arsenal had that extra bit of class that showed why there are 55 places above Coventry in the English soccer pyramid as the North London club strolled into the last 16 of the FA Cup with a classy performance.

However the big factor to come out of this routine win for Arsenal, from a U.S. standpoint, was that 16-year-old wonderkid Gedion Zelalem made his Gunners debut as a 71st minute substitute. The youngster who lived in D.C. from the age of 9-16 showed incredible composure to slot right into the team and spray the ball around effortlessly in his 20 minute debut. They say this kid can “dribble like Iniesta and pass like Xavi”… No pressure, Gedion. But if his first outing in an Arsenal shirt is anything to go by, Zelalem will take to the Premier League like a duck to water. And oh yeah, the German born teenager is eligible to play for the U.S. national team. Sign him up!

Nottingham Forest 0-0 Preston

Elsewhere on Friday night there was one other FA Cup fourth round match, as League One side Preston North End held Championship high-fliers Nottingham Forest to a 0-0 draw at the City Ground. Forest, who hammered Premier League side West Ham 5-0 in the third round, weren’t at their best in the driving rain in the East Midlands and the game didn’t really get going until the final 30 minutes. That’s when Preston burst into life as they sensed Forest were there for the taking. In the final minute Josh Brownhill almost caused a big upset but his rasping free kick was saved well by Forest ‘keeper Karl Darlow, as Preston earned a replay and ensured a League One side would be in the hat for the fifth round draw.

Another interesting note for U.S. fans is that right-back Eric Lichaj went the full 90 in defense for Forest, while Canadian international attacker Iain Hume came on as a second half sub for Preston.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia

Jurgen Klopp announced as new Liverpool manager

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool FC
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Enough with the speculation and reports already, because it’s finally officially official: Jurgen Klopp has been appointed the newest manager of Liverpool Football Club, the Merseyside club announced on Thursday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Klopp will be unveiled to the world at an introductory press conference at Anfield on Friday.

According to early reports, Klopp’s three-year contract could pay him as much as $10 million per season.

[ QUOTE KING: Top 10 “Klopp-isms” from his time at Dortmund ]

The 48-year-old German has been out of work since stepping down at Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund following a seventh-place finish to the 2014-15 season. Klopp’s seven seasons in charge of Dortmund weren’t without success and silverware, though, as he led Der BVB to back-to-back league titles in 2011 and 2012, a German Cup triumph in 2012 and a UEFA Champions League final appearance in 2013.

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright will be at Anfield on Friday for Klopp’s unveiling, so be sure to follow JPW on Twitter and check back to PST for wall-to-wall coverage of Klopp’s first press conference as Liverpool manager.