With the winners of these 5th round ties knowing they were only one game away from Wembley, there was a sense of real excitement, drama and tension in the 8 fixtures played over the weekend.
The tie of the round was probably the Preston V Manchester United encounter at Deepdale, the famous old ground where icons of the English game such as Bill Shankly and Tom Finney made their names, and more recently where ex-United boss David Moyes cut his managerial teeth, at one stage taking on loan a young David Beckham.
Despite United’s clear advantage in terms of individual talent, it was Preston who struck the first blow, when full back Scott Laird advanced forward before fizzing in a strike which deflected off Antonio Valencia and thus fooled David De Gea before nestling in the back of the net. 1-0, and the capacity crowd rejoiced. But United are nothing if not resilient these days, and came back at their hosts with 2 quickfire goals. First, Ander Herrera curled home from inside the area (although it could be argued that Wayne Rooney was impeding the keepers line of sight), before Marouane Fellaini smashed in from close range after he won an aerial duel with a PNE defender.
Preston continued to battle gamely, but United as they so often do had the last word, as captain Wayne Rooney went to ground trying to evade a challenge from the Preston keeper, and a penalty was given. Rooney stuck away the spot kick, and United are now into the quarters where they will play old rivals Arsenal.
The latter had a somewhat easier encounter on Sunday, dispatching visitors Middlesbrough 2-0 at the Emirates, thanks to 2 goals from Olivier Giroud in the first half. The Gunners never looked like relinquishing their lead, and could easily have scored 5 or 6. Middlesbrough looked like a team with their eye on other matters, such as promotion, and they would probably accept that the cup was not their first priority this year.
The same could probably be said for Aston Villa and Leicester, who joined battle on Sunday knowing that a win would be vital in building momentum ahead of important games in the fight against relegation from the Premier League. Villa eventually took the lead after a soporific first half, with Leandro Bacuna firing in from the edge of the box. The home side doubled their advantage courtesy of Scott Sinclair’s first goal for over 2 years, before Leicester new boy Andrej Kramaric halved the defecit in injury time – but it was too little too late.
2-1 was also the scoreline when Crystal Palace entertained Liverpool in the Saturday evening encounter. Although Dwight Gayle gave Palace an early lead after goalkeeping indecision, Liverpool rallied and turned the game around with a fine volley from Daniel Sturridge and a poachers finish from Adam Lallana. They will play host to Blackburn in the quarters.
The Lancashire side demolished Stoke at home to progress, winning 4-1 with ex-Man United youngester Josh King taking home the matchball after an excellent hattrick. Peter Crouch gave the visitors the lead, but 3 from King and a penalty from Rudy Gestede gave Rovers a brilliant result against a top-half Premier League side.
West Brom against West Ham turned out to be a walkover for the Baggies, as a double from Brown Ideye, a stunning strike from James Morrison and yet another goal for Saido Berahino condemned Big Sam’s team to an ignominious defeat. The travelling supporters showed their anger towards the manager and the chairman at full time, no doubt very unhappy that they had to meekly gone out of the cup.
Bradford are also through to the quarters, after dumping out yet another Premier League side at Fortress Valley Parade. Sunderland were the unfortunate team this time, with an own goal from John O’Shea giving Bradford the perfect start. Jon Stead doubled the home side’s advantage in the 2nd half, and despite some late Sunderland pressure the home side held out to record another famous win over loftier opposition.
Last but certainly not least, Derby played Reading at the iPro stadium, the home side firm favourites after a blistering recent run of form. However, they suffered an early blow when debutant Stephan Warnock was sent off after 2 poor challenges, and Reading capitalised on their numerical advantage early in the second half, when Hal Robson-Kanu curled home brilliantly.
Derby were still dangerous however, as shown when Darren Bent was given too much space inside the penalty area; 1-1. But it was the Royals, and more specifically new signing Yakubu, who had the last laugh as he came back to haunt his old boss Steve McClaren. Coming off the bench, he finished off a neat move 10 minutes from time to send Reading into the last 8 (where they will play Bradford) and the travelling fans into hysteria.
Image courtesy of thefa.com