Monday, August 8, 2022

Chelsea survive scare; Man Utd knocked out of FA Cup

Chelsea escaped an FA Cup shock at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as they beat Plymouth Argyle 2-1 after extra time.
Thomas Tuchel, absent from the game after a positive COVID-19 test, saw his side battle back from an early Macaulay Gillesphey header through the unlikely duo of Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso.
Azpilicueta’s stylish finish drew the Blues level but it was not until the 16th minute of the additional period that Alonso struck to send them into round five.
Plymouth nearly forced a shoot-out but Ryan Hardie’s penalty was comfortably saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga in a dramatic finish, the Chelsea keeper sparing the blushes of Malang Sarr.
The visitors, whose last win over Chelsea was in the EFL Cup 42 years ago, had previously gone 13 consecutive FA Cup ties against top-flight teams without going through since they beat West Brom in 1983-84.
Their travelling fans were understandably in raptures when Gillesphey outmuscled Romelu Lukaku to glance in Jordan Houghton’s cross in just the eighth minute to put them ahead.
Luck then played its part in preserving Plymouth’s lead, Mateo Kovacic and Callum Hudson-Odoi each hitting the crossbar and the former rifling a low shot off the left-hand post.
Chelsea got their equaliser four minutes before the break, though, Azpilicueta backheeling home Mason Mount’s low cross from the right. The Spain defender repeated the trick just before the hour mark, but he was clearly offside following a header from Lukaku, who had earlier failed to meet a teasing Mount cross.
Chelsea could not turn dominance of the ball into many meaningful chances, though, and Kepa Arrizabalaga had to be alert to block an effort from Hardie, who was through on goal.
Michael Cooper then flew to his right to tip over a Mount strike as Plymouth stayed resolute against an attacking quintet of Lukaku, Mount, Ziyech, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz to force the extra 30 minutes.
Just before the extra-time interval, Chelsea finally put a clinical move together, Havertz playing a one-two with Werner before squaring for Alonso to side-foot home. That looked like being the end of the drama but, in the 117th minute, Hardie won a penalty from Sarr only to see his poor attempt saved by Kepa.
Man United stunned
Manchester United made an embarrassing early exit from the FA Cup after losing to second-tier side Middlesbrough in a penalty shootout at Old Trafford.
The fourth round got off to a stunning start when the English Premier League giant arguably saw its last realistic hope of silverware this season extinguished by Chris Wilder’s Championship outfit. Jadon Sancho opened the scoring for Ralf Rangnick’s star-studded side, but lifelong United fan Matt Crooks levelled, and the match finished 1-1 after extra time.
Every penalty found the net until Anthony Elanga missed his at the Stretford End, wrapping up an 8-7 spot-kick success for Boro and sending it’s 9,500 visiting fans wild.
Few could have seen the match going the distance given the way United started. Sancho hit the crossbar inside 80 seconds of a one-sided first half in which he would fire the hosts ahead via a slight Isaiah Jones defection shortly after Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty miss.
Boro looked limited, but the host’s profligacy hurt it, and Duncan Watmore crossed for fellow former United youth player Crooks to score in front of the raucous travelling Teessiders.
Most inside the stadium expected the goal to be ruled out for Watmore’s handball in the build-up, but it was apparently deemed accidental by both referee and VAR.
Fernandes inexplicably managed to hit a post with the goal at his mercy and the match went to extra time and then penalties, where Elanga shot over the crossbar after 15 successive goals.

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