It was FA Cup Quarter-Final weekend which saw eight sides do battle for a place at Wembley for the Semi-Finals of the competition and continue their quest for cup glory, the first two cup ties took place on Saturday, beginning with the New Forest derby at The Vitality Stadium as Championship AFC Bournemouth hosted Premier League Southampton with the hosts looking to make history and reach the Semi-Finals for the very first time in their history…
AFC Bournemouth 0 Southampton 3
Many had this as a potential upset what with The Cherries fighting for promotion back to the Premier League whilst The Saints were in danger of being sucked into a relegation scrap in the top league, and Bournemouth had of course seen off Premier League opposition in their last FA Cup to reach this stage in Burnley at Turf Moor, so a tight and competitive contest was expected.
As it turned out though Southampton ended up cruising into the Final Four after a very impressive and professional performance although the hosts would have been very disappointed with their performance as they never really turned up for this one.
VAR was in use even though it was a non-Premier League ground, it had been decided well before this stage that VAR would be in use for the Quarter-Finals onwards regardless of what ground the ties would be taking place at, and it came to Bournemouth’s rescue early on when a lovely ball picked out Kyle Walker-Peters who burst into the box and squared the ball across goal and Cherries defender Cameron Carter-Vickers could only divert the ball into his own net, but VAR deemed that Walker-Peters was fractionally offside so the goal was chalked off, but eight minutes before half time the visitors were not to be denied when superb play from Nathan Redmond saw him drive across the pitch before playing a lovely pass for Moussa Djenepo to slot home a lovely finish into the far corner.
And in first-half stoppage time, Southampton doubled their lead when the host’s backline went missing and allowed the superb Redmond to drive into space and fire a lovely finish into the top corner, and the visitors had a two-goal cushion to take into the break and left the home side with a mountain to climb.
That mountain looked an impossible one early in the second period when Che Adams rifled home a lovely effort from the edge of the box after Stuart Armstrong had laid the ball back to him, but VAR once again came to Bournemouth’s rescue as Armstrong was rightly given offside during the build-up, however just before the hour mark the game was sealed by the visitors when after an Armstrong effort had struck the post, Redmond sent the rebound superbly back into the far corner, it had all come from sloppy play from the hosts trying to play out from the back, which led to their downfall, and The Saints had taken full advantage of that.
It kind of summed up The Cherries afternoon, lacklustre, sloppy, not at it, and they were outclassed by Southampton if truth be told, yes they did force Southampton keeper Fraser Forster into three decent saves, two of those in the first period, and one near the end when the game was already done, but this was a pretty comfortable contest for the Premier League side. The hosts will now concentrate on winning promotion back to the Premier League whilst Southampton can still dream of some silverware in a season that has really gone south in the last few weeks and months, this cup run is really keeping them going I feel and you could see the joy on the faces of those Saints players and management and see how much it meant to them.
The second tie on Saturday came from the North West as Everton welcomed quadruple chasing Manchester City to Goodison, could The Toffees possibly end City’s FA Cup chances for this season or would the visitors just keep motoring on?
Everton 0 Manchester City 2
City had to bide their time in this one before they eventually saw off a spirited Everton and keep their quadruple dreams well and truly alive, they dominated the ball for a large part of the contest, as is expected with City these days, but they were made to work extremely hard by a well-drilled Toffees outfit as you would expect under the guidance of Carlo Ancelotti.
For all of City’s first-half possession they barely tested Everton third choice keeper Joao Virginia, Jordan Pickford and Robin Olsen are both not available right now for the hosts so they have a keeper crisis you could say, and they even had fourth and fifth choice ones on the bench too, it is just as well they have so many keepers to pick on, and their side actually had the best chance of the first period if truth be told when Yerry Mina saw his glancing header towards the far corner cleared by Oleksandr Zinchenko who was standing on the far post, adding to the argument that you should always have defenders on the posts right? Everton though would have been very happy at half time and had so far nullified City’s attack.
The second half saw City pretty much dominate proceedings again, Raheem Sterling saw Virginia brilliantly fingertip his effort around the post, whilst Phil Foden fired just wide in another visiting attack, Everton’s only real chance saw Richarlison fire wide, but the hosts were having to do most of the defending in the second period and as the game entered its final ten minutes you felt maybe the match would go to extra time although how long the Toffees could keep up this effort of keeping City at bay was another valid question too.
Well with seven minutes to go City broke through, and it was made by central defender Aymeric Laporte, who drove at the box and after the ball came back to him his effort was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Virginia, Ilkay Gundogan was on hand to stoop and head the loose ball home, and Everton’s brave resistance was broken.
Could Everton find a response in the remaining minutes? Dom Calvert-Lewin had a sight of goal but saw it brilliantly blocked by Ruben Dias, but any hopes the hosts had were extinguished in stoppage time when Kevin de Bruyne, on as a second-half substitute, was played in and he shifted the ball onto his left peg before thundering an effort past Virginia and seal their passage into the Semi-Finals. Everton moaned that there was a foul in the build-up, but his was not the case, and their brave fight in this one was ultimately in vain, and they will now turn their attention to trying to qualify for Europe in the remainder of the season.
So Southampton and Manchester City are into the Semi-Finals, who will join them, here are those remaining matchups that take place on Sunday…
Chelsea v Sheffield United (1.30pm) (Thomas Tuchel will have eyes on a trophy in his first season as manager, and they will be huge favourites against a Blades outfit who are on their way back to the Championship and have lost their leader in Chris Wilder. But could The Blades possibly cause a big upset and harbour hopes of being a rare side who go down but win a major trophy in the process? The Blues though have beaten The Blades 4-1 and 2-1 already this season in the league, so it will be a tough task for the visitors)
Leicester City v Manchester United (5pm) (It’s third against second in the Premier League but both these sides will definitely feel they can win this competition, The Foxes have never won the FA Cup so would love to put that right this season which could also see them qualify for the Champions League, United last won the trophy in 2015-16 when they beat Palace at Wembley, famous for that Alan Pardew dance of course, and that was the season that Leicester won the league ironically. These two played out an entertaining 2-2 draw when the sides met here in the league, what will happen in this one?)