Yakubu Aiyegbeni

FA Cup roundup: Stoke upset, West Brom rolls, Liverpool comes back behind Balotelli, Lallana

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Five Premier League clubs took the pitch for fifth-round FA Cup matches on Saturday, and only two remain thanks to two all-top-flight matches and a Blackburn upset.

[ MORE: Sherwood hired by Aston Villa ]

Round ’em up? We will:

Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool

Fraizer Campbell stayed in form by slotting home a punched-out rebound from Simon Mignolet, and Alan Pardew’s Palace looked prepared to knock an English giant out of the FA Cup before the quarterfinals.

And by prepared, we mean allowing Liverpool to possess the heck out of the ball in hopes of holding onto the lead until they could counterattack.

The Reds put on Mario Balotelli at halftime in the hopes he could mirror his midweek heroics against Tottenham. But it was a starter who would equalize, with Daniel Sturridge first-touching Jordan Henderson’s pass through the legs of Palace keeper Julian Speroni in the 49th minute.

But Balotelli worked to win a free kick just outside the box in the 58th minute. He then presided over it with Henderson, hammering it through a hole in the wall caused by his teammates. Speroni couldn’t control the well-hit shot, and Lallana timed his run well to slam home the rebound. It was 2-1 to the visitors.

Blackburn 4-1 Stoke City

source: Getty ImagesGeoff Cameron conceded a penalty for the second time in a week, and the USMNT midfielder/defender was sent off as the Potters were upset by Joshua King and the Rovers.

King scored a hat trick to lead the way for Blackburn.

The Potters came out firing, with Peter Crouch scoring a goal in the 10th minute. Stoke looked in control, but King had already equalized when Cameron was shown a straight red for grabbing a hold of King in the box.

Rudy Gestede converted the penalty kick, as King scored or set up all four Rovers goals.

Derby County 1-2 Reading

The Yak is indeed back for Reading, as Yakubu Aiyegbeni came off the bench to score an 82nd minute winner for the Royals.

Stephen Warnock picked up two yellow cards in a busy first half, giving the Rams a real problem in trying to advance at home.

Scoreless at half, Hal Robson-Kanu netted in the 53rd minute before Darren Bent equalized for Derby less than 10 minutes later.

USMNT midfielder Danny Williams went 90 minutes for Reading in the win.

West Bromwich Albion 4-0 West Ham United

There’s a full match recap here.

The Hammers fielded a strong squad, albeit without Andy Carroll, but didn’t look too interested once Brown Ideye started running all over the visitors.

Ideye netted twice, with James Morrison also scored a strong goal from distance and Saido Berahino added a near-post laser to seal the Baggies trip to the quarterfinals.

Cup of Nations: Nigeria routs Mali to make AFCON final

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The match always had the potential for goals, but few would have predicted such a lopsided result. With four goals in a 35-minute span starting mid-first half, Nigeria qualified for their first Africa Cup on Nations final in 13 years, eliminating Mali 4-1.

In some ways the result was just as impressive as Sunday’s quarterfinal defeat of tournament favorites Cote d’Ivoire. While the Malians are not held in the same regard as Les Elephants, the Super Eagles put on a more impressive show, leaving little doubt the project initiated by Stephen Keshi — one that left many of the team’s highest profile, most-capped players out — has come good.

Braga defender Uwa Echiejile opened the scoring in the 25th minute, heading come a cross from Victor Moses. Five minutes later, Dyanmo Kyiv striker Brown Ideye doubled Nigeria’s lead, with Spartak Moscow attacker Emmanuel Emenike giving the Super Eagles a 3-0 lead minutes before halftime. CSKA attacker Ahmed Musa’s goal on the hour completed the Nigerian onslaught, with Bordeaux forward Cheick Diarra’s late tally sparing Mali a sliver of indignity.

Nigeria will meet the winner of the day’s other semifinal, Burkina Faso-Ghana, Sunday in Johannesburg.

That final appearance will be the latest vindication of Keshi, who selected a young team for South Africa with the hopes of leaving the program’s baggage behind.

“There were a lot of problems in Nigeria because some of the big players, I did not want to take along in the team,” Keshi said of the response to his Cup of Nations selection. Players like Peter Odemwingie and Yakubu Aiyegbeni, veterans who have combined for 112 appearances and 30 international goals, were omitted from the squad, as were experienced players Obafemi Martins and Taye Taiwo.

The result is a team that may lack the attacking power of some of Nigeria’s previous major tournament squads, but it’s also a team that’s avoiding the pitfalls. After a disappointing 2010 World Cup and the failure to qualify for the 2012 Cup of Nations, Nigeria has yet to lose in their five games in South Africa, scoring 10 goals while allowing only four.

Now the Super Eagles have a chance to win their first African title since 1994, when their squad featured a 32-year-old Keshi as well as a young Jay Jay Okocha.