Top-flight sides Brighton and Aston Villa lost to lower-league opposition in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday, while Watford and Newcastle squandered first-half leads to teams in relegation trouble in the third tier to be taken to replays.
The upsets kept coming in the world’s oldest club knockout competition, as teams fighting to avoid relegation from the lucrative Premier League rotated their starting line-ups after a packed festive schedule and came unstuck.
Sheffield Wednesday won 1-0 at Brighton, and Fulham – another side seeking promotion from the second-tier League Championship – beat Villa 2-1 thanks to a dipping, long-range winner from substitute Harry Arter.
Watford have been resurgent in the Premier League, winning three of their last four games to ignite hopes of staying up, but showed signs of their early-season poor form in slipping from 3-0 ahead after 34 minutes to draw 3-3 against Tranmere, who scored in the 65th, 78th and 87th minutes. Watford also ended the match with 10 men following the 89th-minute red card to Argentina midfielder Roberto Pereyra.
Also facing a replay are Newcastle, after 40-year-old striker Aaron Wilbraham scored an 80th-minute equalizer for Rochdale in a 1-1 draw. Newcastle, who have not gone beyond the fourth round since 2006, went ahead through Miguel Almiron’s 17th-minute strike – the Paraguay playmaker’s second goal in two weeks after having gone his first 11 months at the northeast club without scoring.
A replay, which is likely to take place on 14 or 15 January, was the last thing Newcastle or Watford needed after playing four games in 11 days over Christmas and the new year. Newcastle’s squad, in particular, was hit hard by injuries during the festive period and the team picked up two more injuries at Spotland as Almiron (groin) and Yoshinori Muto (hip) were forced off in the second half.
“We knew Rochdale would try and do something in the second half and they punished us,” Newcastle manager Steve Bruce said. “Credit to Aaron Wilbraham – he’s been around longer than I have!”
Burnley, Southampton and Norwich avoided upsets to book their places in the fourth round.
Burnley beat third-tier Peterborough 4-2, with striker Jay Rodriguez scoring twice, Southampton beat second-tier Huddersfield 2-0 and Norwich won 4-2 at Preston, with Irish striker Adam Idah scoring a hat trick.
Premier League teams entered the FA Cup at the third-round stage and there was one match between two top-flight rivals later on Saturday, where Manchester United fired blanks again as they were held to a goalless stalemate at Wolves.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have now failed to score in three of their last five games after Saturday's third round 0-0 draw at Molineux. Sergio Romero's fantastic save thwarted Matt Doherty, while Marcus Rashford hit the bar for the visitors in the second half.
Doherty had a late goal ruled out for handball but it was a forgettable game between two unimaginative teams, who now face a replay at Old Trafford.
Manchester City also began the defence of their title in a home match against fourth-tier Port Vale. Tom Pope fulfilled a boast to score against John Stones but could not prevent holders City easing to a 4-1 victory.
Pope, the veteran Vale striker, claimed in a mocking tweet last summer that he would score 40 a season if he played against City defender Stones every week. He came good as he cancelled out an Oleksandr Zinchenko strike at the Etihad Stadium but the League Two minnows were ultimately outclassed as Sergio Aguero, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Phil Foden netted for the Premier League champions.
Dominic Solanke ended a year-long wait to score his first Bournemouth goal as the Premier League strugglers picked up a morale-boosting 4-0 FA Cup third-round win at home to Luton. Philip Billing struck twice with substitute Callum Wilson also on target as the Cherries eased past their Championship visitors, for whom Alan Sheehan missed a penalty when the score was 1-0.
Leicester eased into the fourth round with a 2-0 victory against Wigan at the King Power Stadium. With a Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Aston Villa on the horizon in four day's time, Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers made 10 changes from the New Year's Day win at Newcastle.
Only left-back Ben Chilwell kept his place, but it made little difference to the result as an own goal by Latics debutant Tom Pearce and a Harvey Barnes strike had Leicester firmly in control at half time - and that is how is stayed.
And Portsmouth triumphed in an all-League One FA Cup battle as they eased to a deserved 2-1 win at Fleetwood.
A one-minute delay preceded Saturday’s games to raise awareness of a mental-health campaign, “Heads Up,” which is spearheaded by English Football Association president Prince William.
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