WE enjoyed plenty of goals in the Emirates FA Cup Sixth Round but no real shocks emerged.
There were four home victories with one tie featuring three red cards in quick succession. Sheffield United are the last remaining team from outside the Premier League. Interestingly, the Semi-Final draw means we could witness an all-Manchester FA Cup Final for the first time ever.
Here is my considered round-up of the action…
CITY CAVORT ONWARDS
Manchester City 6 Burnley 0
This result encapsulated in microcosm the vast quality gap between our top two divisions. Managerial legend Neil Warnock recently described Burnley as “the best Championship side I’ve seen in 25 years” because those runaway leaders have lost just twice among 37 League outings.
Yet they couldn’t contain the Premier League’s second ranked team Manchester City. Clarets boss Vincent Kompany suffered defeat on returning to the rain splashed Etihad Stadium where he is a celebrated former captain of course.
Even so, Kompany appreciated the standing ovation received from home fans ahead of kick-off.
Meanwhile, City reached their sixth FA Cup Semi-Final in seven years under Pep Guardiola and a fifth on the spin. Pep therefore maintains ambitions of clinching the fabled “treble” of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.
Erling Haaland grabbed another hat-trick via his sledgehammer left foot to amass a staggering return of 42 strikes in all competitions throughout 2022/23.
In addition, it was the sixth occasion he has netted three or more so far. Indeed, Haaland’s tally during the past week is nine in three games. The Norwegian marksman is now only two short of the Premier League era record for most goals in a season playing at an English top-flight club.
Although currently joint held by Ruud van Nistelrooy and Mohamed Salah, I’m sure Haaland will eclipse them both by registering between 55 and 60 this campaign if he stays clear of injury.
BLADES BATTLE THROUGH
Sheffield United 3 Blackburn Rovers 2
Sheffield United twice came from behind to edge a truly pulsating battle of two Championship promotion contenders.
On-loan Manchester City midfielder Tommy Doyle delivered their decisive winner 60 seconds into injury time at the denouement courtesy of a thunderous 30 yarder into the top right hand corner.
That was the finest FA Cup goal scored across the weekend in my opinion. It is nine years dating back to the Blades’ preceding Semi-Final appearance when they lost 5-3 to Hull City.
In fact, Sheffield United become the first team below the Premier League to grace the last four since Reading in 2015.
A huge boost then in light of newspaper reports alleging the South Yorkshire club recently introduced severe cost-cutting measures to avoid entering financial administration.
SEAGULLS SOAR PAST MARINERS
Brighton & Hove Albion 5 Grimsby Town 0
Brighton & Hove Albion battled through to the Semi-Finals for the first time in four years. Overall though, it is only the third instance where the Seagulls have made it to that stage.
A one-sided match saw those hosts establish 73% possession and five clinical goals, thereby embellishing a satisfying season chasing European qualification in the Premier League.
Irish teenage striker Evan Ferguson caught my eye scoring twice in dynamic fashion.
And so, League Two underdogs Grimsby Town bow out having last competed at the Quarter-Final juncture 84 years ago.
They can reflect on becoming the first side in FA Cup proper history (Round One onwards) to eliminate five opponents from higher divisions in one campaign.
Furthermore, the Mariners participated in as many FA Cup rounds as the two eventual finalists will play in.
Their travelling army of 4,621 fans completing the 520 mile round trip to Sussex took over Brighton Palace Pier prior to the game accompanied by shoals of inflatable ‘Harry Haddocks’ fishes.
UNITED UNDETERRED IN RED CARD MAYHEM
Manchester United 3 Fulham 1
An incredible all-Premier League contest which dramatically changed course amidst 60 seconds of devastating chaos. Aleksandar Mitrovic originally fired Fulham ahead on 50 minutes and the Londoners smelt a famous conquest.
However the pivotal point came with 15 minutes to go when Willian made a desperate goal-line block for the visitors following Jadon Sancho’s shot.
Match referee Chris Kavanagh signalled a corner initially, before being advised to consult the pitchside VAR monitor. Fulham boss Marco Silva was immediately red carded after protesting vehemently.
Kavanagh subsequently awarded a correct penalty decision for handball and sent off Willian. This led to Mitrovic remonstrating and nudging the ref so he received his marching orders as well.
Once calm had prevailed, Bruno Fernandes tucked away the spot kick. Marcel Sabitzer (77 minutes) and Fernandes (90+6 minutes) scored again against the nine men as United set a new competition milestone in attaining the Semi-Finals 31 times.
Fascinating to note too that Erik ten Hag’s outfit have won all four of their FA Cup encounters in 2022/23 by identical 3-1 scorelines – at home to Everton, Reading, West Ham United and Fulham.
EMIRATES FA CUP SEMI-FINALS DRAW
1. Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United
2. Manchester City v Sheffield United
The ties are scheduled at Wembley Stadium over the weekend of Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd April 2023. Further details to be confirmed in due course after talks between the Football Association, participating clubs and broadcast partners.
I’ve already mentioned the possibility of an unprecedented all-Manchester FA Cup Final. Whatever happens though, there will be a new pairing of teams in this year’s showpiece.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*