Manchester City sidestepped a potential banana skin in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday, beating Crystal Palace 3-0 away while Chelsea thumped Brentord 4-0 and Arsenal swamped Southampton 5-0 to make Liverpool the only ‘top’ Premier League side to suffer the ignominy of an upset on an action-packed day.
New signing Gabriel Jesus made his first start for the Sky Blues since making the move from Brazil to England in January and he had the likes of Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané for company as manager Pep Guardiola boldly went for a pacey but relatively inexperienced forward line.
Sam Allardyce, who had just started managing the Eagles, sent out a strong XI, with the likes of Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend featuring.
City had the first real chance of the game, David Silva’s run being spotted by Yaya Toure, who lifted the ball into his path only for Wayne Hennessey to deny him with a smart save.
A key point in the game occurred when Jordan Mutch went down on the wing after a blatant shove from Toure, who was already in the referee’s books. While the foul did warrant a yellow card, the match official didn't send him off, much to the home side’s frustration. Had City been playing most of the game with a man less, the scoreline may have been vastly different.
And City’s reserve goalkeeper Willy Caballero kept his side in the game with a brilliant save from James Tomkin’s swivelling volley before the visitors scored a key goal minutes before the interval.
Jesus held up the ball expertly near the half-line, before turning and sending a surging Sterling through on goal with a well-weighted through ball. Sterling didn't disappoint in a one-on-one situation for a change, calmly placing his shot past Hennessey to give the visitors a vital lead.
After the break, City began to dominate and Sane doubled their lead in the 71st minute, even as hailstones began to fall at an alarming rate around Selhust Park, Silva releasing the fleet-footed German with an immaculate through ball and Sane picked his corner to effectively seal the deal for City. Yaya Toure then scored a peach of a free kick in the 93rd minute to put the icing on the cake for the Manchester side and ensure Pep Guardiola’s side remain in contention for at least one trophy.
Premier League leaders Chelsea showcased their next-gen talent in the FA Cup, outclassing Championship side Brentford with the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Nathan Are and Nathaniel Chalobah all starting in a memorable win for the Blues.
Brazilian winger Willian opened the scoring for Chelsea in the 14th minute with a free kick which caught Brentford keeper David Bentley by surprise. Pedro then gave the capital club a two-goal cushion after Michy Batshuayi’s pass found him in the box and the Spanish winger finished well from a tight angle in the 21st minute. Full-back Branislav Ivanovic scored his first goal of the season after Pedro had set him up nicely and little over 20 minutes remaining, the result seemed a foregone conclusion now, despite a spirited Brentford fightback, which had almost seen them score just minutes ago but for Asmir Begovic’s alert reactions.
Batshuayi, on a rare start for the Blues, got the goal he has been craving in recent months, converting a 81st minute penalty to boost his and his side’s confidence ahead of a crucial Premier League clash with Liverpool on Tuesday.
In the late game on Saturday, Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick for Arsenal as they swatted aside Southampton to reach the fifth round but it was his teammate Danny Welbeck who stole the headlines with a morale-boosting brace on his first start of the season.
The ex-Manchester United striker had a brace before half an hour was played, scoring the first with a brilliant chip from an acute angle and got his second when he cooly finished past Harry Lewis in the Southampton goal to mark his return from injury in the best manner possible. Theo Walcott scored his first and side’s second in the 35th minute when Welbeck set himself up for an easy tap-in. The Saints, who had been in dreamland after reaching the EFL Cup after knocking out Liverpool on Wednesday were given a sobering reminder of the gulf in class between themselves and the league’s ‘top’ sides.
While they rested several key players, so did the Gunners and it was the former Saints man Theo Walcott, who piled on the misery in the second half, grabbing a hat-trick after substitute Alexis Sanchez supplied him with two assists late on to give the scoreline added gloss.