» Sports » FA Cup: Holders Arsenal knocked out; City survive

FA Cup: Holders Arsenal knocked out; City survive

Last updated on: January 24, 2021 08:08 IST
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IMAGE: Southampton's Daniel N'Lundulu in action with Arsenal's Gabriel Magalhaes. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

Holders Arsenal bowed out of the FA Cup in the fourth round in disappointing fashion as Gabriel's first-half own goal condemned them to a 1-0 defeat by Southampton on Saturday.


The Gunners' defence of the trophy they won by beating Chelsea last August ended with something of a whimper as Mikel Arteta's side struggled with repeatedly sloppy defending.

Southampton deservedly took the lead in the 24th minute when Kyle Walker-Peters drilled a low cross into the area and Gabriel inadvertently touched it past keeper Bernd Leno.

Arsenal could have fallen further behind with home striker Danny Ings going close for the hosts on several occasions.

The visitors did apply some second-half pressure but Southampton were comfortable as they held on to set up a fifth-round clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

It was Southampton's first FA Cup win over Arsenal, and the first time they had beaten Cup holders since 1902.

"We had in the first half more punch and more power," Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said.

"In the second half it's normal they have a lift. We must make the second goal. We made one or two chances -- Shane Long should have got a penalty.

"It was a good team performance today."

Southampton were joined in the last 16 by top-flight rivals West Ham United who crushed third-tier Doncaster Rovers 4-0, Brighton & Hove Albion who beat Blackpool 2-1 and Sheffield United who edged Plymouth Argyle 2-1.

Championship high-flyers Swansea City thrashed Nottingham Forest 5-1 and could face Manchester City next if Pep Guardiola's side beat fourth-tier Cheltenham Town later. Norwich City lost 1-0 at Barnsley.

With a busy Premier League spell coming up, including another trip to Southampton in midweek, Arteta made some changes with the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Bukayo Saka and Thomas Partey amongst those on the bench.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was also missing from the squad for personal reasons.

But that was no excuse for a lacklustre first half in which Southampton's pressing game proved too much for the visitors.

Southampton's goal was a case in point. Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny was hounded into conceding possession, Southampton then switched play to the right with James Ward-Prowse feeding Walker-Peters whose cross was diverted in by a sliding Gabriel.

It was the first goal Arsenal had conceded since Boxing Day.

Ings hit the woodwork shortly after the break, although his effort would have been offside, before Arsenal finally began to offer some attacking threat.

Arteta sent on Partey, Saka and Lacazette and shortly afterwards Rob Holding side-footed their best chance over the bar when a cross from Hector Bellerin fell kindly for him.

Eddie Nketiah blazed a late chance wide for Arsenal to leave Arteta frustrated at a first loss in seven games.

"Really sad to be out of the competition. Disappointed to be out and the way we conceded," the Spaniard said.

Man City escape shock Cup exit with late goals at Cheltenham

Fourth-tier Cheltenham Town came within minutes of one of the great FA Cup shocks before Manchester City scored three late goals to win an absorbing fourth-round tie 3-1 on Saturday.

Alfie May looked poised to write his name into the competition's folklore when he pounced to put his side ahead in the 59th minute at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium.

Cheltenham, 72 places lower than City in the standings, were holding on and edging towards a fairytale win but reality returned when Phil Foden equalised in the 81st minute.

Three minutes later Gabriel Jesus put City in front and Ferran Torres added a cruel third with the last kick.

Some say the romance of the world's oldest knockout competition has been diluted in recent times.

But this tie had everything apart from, sadly, a baying crowd because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were incredible goalline clearances, near misses, throw-ins launched like grenades and even a five-minute delay in the first half as fireworks exploded above the stadium.

In the end it was a relieved Pep Guardiola whose side's 10th successive win in all competitions set up a last-16 tie away to Championship high-flyers Swansea City.

"We came here with humility and had the quality to make the difference," Guardiola said.

"They used their quality in the box, they are taller and better than us there and we showed clips on how to solve it. It is difficult to control that."

For Cheltenham manager Michael Duff it was a case of what might have been.

"I'm incredibly proud. The players they brought on from the bench and the way they celebrated the goals tells you something. They know they've been in a game. They've done that to better teams than us," he said.

Guardiola made 10 changes to the side that beat Aston Villa in City's last Premier League game but his starting side still looked fearsome with the likes of Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Benjamin Mendy and Fernandinho all included.

Jesus almost gave City the lead inside the opening minute when he tried to dink a shot over home keeper Josh Griffiths.

But Cheltenham were far from overwhelmed and posed plenty of problems at the other end with their direct style.

Home skipper Ben Tozer produced an incredible goalline clearance to somehow keep out Mendy's thunderbolt while at the other end May forced a near-post save from City's American reserve keeper Zack Steffen.

Foden wasted a good chance and Griffiths made good saves from Torres and Mahrez.

Tozer's enormous throw-ins had unsettled City all night and when he launched another one into the mixer just before the hour mark it caused chaos and the ball squirmed through to May who prodded the ball high into the net.

It was the first goal City had conceded in around 500 minutes.

Foden, City's outstanding player, rescued them with a controlled volley from substitute Joao Cancelo's deep cross for his ninth goal of the season.

When Jesus finished from close range from Fernandinho's delivery, Cheltenham's gallant attempt was over.

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