5 things we learned from the FA Cup fourth round
The Video Assistant Referee system provided another talking point, while Michy Batshuayi starred for Chelsea.
The FA Cup fourth round saw controversy, shocks and superb football as there was more excitement in the world’s oldest cup competition.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at five talking points following an incident-packed weekend.
VARiety is the spice of life
The new video assistant referee system is being trialled in a number of FA Cup ties this season but has not been rolled out across the entire competition. There were some firsts for VAR at Anfield on Saturday as West Brom shocked Liverpool with a 3-2 win. The Baggies saw Craig Dawson’s goal ruled out for offside against Gareth Barry after referee Craig Pawson used VAR, before awarding Liverpool a penalty after a three-minute delay as Jake Livermore fouled Mohamed Salah. There was another delay in awarding West Brom’s third as the system continues to show teething issues – while it was not used during Manchester City’s win at Cardiff as Bernardo Silva seemingly had a perfectly legitimate goal ruled out.
Serious stuff from the big-boys…
While Liverpool crashed out and Tottenham were held to a replay by Newport, all of the big teams took the competition seriously and named strong sides. Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United – who handed a debut to new recruit Alexis Sanchez as they won 4-0 at Yeovil on Friday – made some alterations but still boasted plenty of household names. With City pulling so far clear in the Premier League, other sides know the FA Cup offers a better chance for silverware – whereas City themselves continue to chase success on four fronts.
…But Cupsets still keep dreams alive
Newport came so close to knocking out a strong Tottenham side which included the likes of Harry Kane, Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen. The League Two side will be pleased with the extra revenue which comes from a lucrative replay at Wembley, even if they were just eight minutes from a confirmed spot in round five. Notts County also have a replay against top-flight opposition after coming from behind to draw at home to Swansea. But it was League One leaders Wigan who provided the shock of the round as Will Grigg scored twice against 10-man West Ham to send the Premier League side packing.
Sanchez hits the ground running
Signed from Arsenal in a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan earlier in the week, Sanchez made his Manchester United bow in the modest surroundings of Huish Park. The Chile international was named man of the match after an action-packed performance saw him lay on the pass which led to Marcus Rashford’s opener and then set up Ander Herrera after the interval. Sanchez played a little over 70 minutes and was jeered throughout by the home supporters, but it made little difference as the 29-year-old showed just why Jose Mourinho and United were willing to offer him a weekly wage reported in some areas to be worth in excess of £500,000.
Batman shows he can be Chelsea’s unexpected hero
Chelsea have been linked with several strikers throughout the January transfer window but are yet to bring in a new forward as the deadline approaches. Summer signing and club-record acquisition Alvaro Morata has struggled at times and is out injured. Michy Batshuayi has been largely unfancied by manager Antonio Conte but scored twice in the 3-0 win over Newcastle. The Belgium international now has 10 goals for the campaign, a good return given that he has only started 11 times across all competitions – maybe Conte’s answer to his striker conundrum is much closer to home than he expected.