Yesterday’s myriad of upset wins in FA Cup fourth round play (the magic!) were cancelled out – sort of – with today’s play as favorites West Ham, Aston Villa, and Arsenal all progressed past lower division foes.
West Ham got the morning started with a tight 1-0 victory over Bristol City thanks to Andy Carroll clearing the ball off the line in the first half, and the big striker also assisted the game-winner in the 81st minute with a cross that met the head of Diafra Sakho on its way into the back of the net.
The game was quite even most of the way through, and West Ham were troubled by Bristol City striker Matt Smith who had headers cleared off the line not once but twice in the opening 45 minutes. It’s the first time since 2011 that West Ham has made it through to the fifth round of the competition.
Aston Villa marked a pregame announcement of a new Fabian Delph contract by defeating Championship leaders Bournemouth 2-1. Carles Gil stamped his full Villa debut with the opening goal, and Andreas Weimann added a second that proved important, since Bournemouth picked up a consolation in stoppage time. Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe made a whopping eight changes from their last league game, which made things difficult on the visitors to Villa Park.
Finally, Arsenal avoided a near-slip with a 3-2 win over Brighton & Hove Albion, but the Gunners never seem to make things easy, do they? After going up 2-0 on goals from Theo Walcott (his first since January 1, 2014) and Mesut Ozil, the Seagulls roared back in the second half with a pair of goals. Only thanks to Tomas Rosicky’s 59th minute winner did the Gunners go through, a deserved goal for the Czech midfielder who had a wonderful game. The goal was a beauty too.
Arsenal saw out the final 15 minutes with a one-goal lead, although Alexis Sanchez nearly gave them the 2-goal cushion back as he hit the crossbar with five minutes to go. Mathieu Flamini had one to forget, with some awful defending on the Brighton goals, and he looked poor on the ball.
Stoke City still has its road draw with Rochdale tomorrow, as the final first game of the fourth round takes place. A pair of Premier League teams still have replays to contend with, as Manchester United looks to put away fourth-tier Cambridge United, and Sunderland has to travel to Craven Cottage after a goalless first match with Fulham.