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.