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A look back at the FA Cup third round
Jan 6, 2020, 7:42:00 AM

A look back at the FA Cup third round

With 31 of the 32 FA Cup third-round matches taking place, it is fair to say that the magic of the competition has once again been on display, and although there haven’t been any headline shocks, several Premier League clubs have fallen by wayside.

This competition always poses a difficult question for the men who find themselves in charge of a Premier League outfit, and their current league standing dictates just how seriously they take these first cup exploits of 2020.

If you’re in charge of a team that are languishing in and around the bottom of the table, then the FA Cup can be considered something of a nuisance and especially if you have the misfortune of being held to a replay.

This does give you a second chance in which to advance to the fourth round of the competition, but if you are doing your very best to exit quietly through the backdoor, then the last thing you need is to have to do it all over again.

At the same time, a replay can be a lifeline, and a couple of the early competition favourites have had to exercise that clause in order to make sure that they are in the hat for Monday night’s fourth-round draw.

Therefore, with the dust settled on nearly all the extended weekend’s action, let’s now look at who has made the biggest headlines and who will be waiting to see their pairing in the next round of this world-famous competition.

 

Tottenham held on Teesside

When José Mourinho was installed as Tottenham Hotspur manager, fans of the north London outfit felt that he would be the man to finally end their trophy drought, which is over a decade long, and although the silverware would only come in the shape of the FA Cup, it is a trophy that would be welcomed.

However, if Tottenham are to win a first trophy since 2008, they are going to need two attempts at getting the better of Middlesbrough, and based on their performance at the Riverside Stadium, they were perhaps lucky to be given that.

After a lacklustre first 45 minutes, the Premier League outfit soon found themselves behind, and if the interval was meant to be the opportunity for them to offer improvement, it turned out to be anything but the case.

Thankfully for the fans who made the long journey north on Sunday morning, it did seem that Middlesbrough’s goal woke Tottenham from their slumber, and it would not be long until they restored parity through Lucas Moura.

Unfortunately for Mourinho and his players, there was to be no late drama on Teesside, and with the visitors reduced to nothing more than half chances, it meant that the deadlock could not be broken.

This means that a replay is scheduled for just over a week’s time, but before that, Tottenham have the small matter of Liverpool at home in the Premier League, and if they play like they did against Middlesbrough, they could be in for a very long evening.

 

Premier League knockouts

There were always going to be some casualties across the course of the weekend, and although Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa now find themselves with a spare weekend at the end of the month, the less hectic schedule might just work in their favour.

Both Premier League outfits played opposition from the EFL Championship, and thanks to the performances of Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham respectively, it was seemingly a great advert for the English second tier.

Although fans of the Owls and the Cottagers will have been celebrating long into the night, fans of the Seagulls and the Villans may well be glad that their beloved players can now focus on one single objective: Premier League survival.

For Brighton and manager Graham Potter, they have done just about enough in the first half of the season, and if they can replicate their efforts in the second, then safety should be booked with a few games to spare.

For Aston Villa, defeat to Fulham was the cherry on top of a miserable week, and with injuries to both Tom Heaton and Wesley, manager Dean Smith needs to decide whether to go back into the transfer market.

The former Brentford manager has already spent in excess of £100m this season and the Aston Villa board will have to decide whether to roll the dice in order to assist their relegation battle. Regardless of whether they do or not, the visit of Manchester City awaits this Sunday.

 

City cruise through in the end

With Manchester City being paired with EFL League Two outfit Port Vale, it was always going to be a case of not whether the Etihad outfit won, but just how many goals they ended up putting past their lower-level opposition.

Although City’s goal tally was a respectable four at the final whistle, there was no doubt that relative minnows Port Vale gave a good account of themselves, and at one point in the first half, the shock of the round was very much on.

That’s because Tom Pope of somewhat recent social media fame did what he said he would do – that being to score with John Stones in opposition – and with the Port Vale forward levelling the scores at 1-1, Pope and the travelling fans had every right to dream.

However, that goal from Port Vale seemed to be the moment that woke up the FA Cup holders, and if there’s one thing you don’t want to do, it is make Pep Guardiola and his cabal of superstar players angry. 

From there, City went up through the gears, and moments later they would be ahead for the second time through Sergio Agüero, before then scoring two more unanswered goals after the interval, and these would wrap up a rather routine victory.

With the Premier League title looking off limits for City, it is knockout competitions that will serve them best, and they will look to keep hold of both the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup while also earning a first Champions League trophy. As for Port Vale, they travel to struggling Stevenage on Saturday.

Are you ready to do it all over again? Visit Sportsbet, your home of betting for 2020 and beyond.


Words: Man Ngo

Images: PA