West Ham United were fortunate to escape from a tricky away match against Shrewsbury Town with the tie still alive and heading for a replay. David Moyes made several changes, but the team that he put out was a strong one with a number of regular starters being selected to play. It was surprising that the visitors created so few chances and looked lacklustre throughout, especially in the attacking half.
Although the Premier League opposition didn’t play well, that shouldn’t discredit the performance from Shrewsbury. The League One side were excellent and looked the more likely winners on the day. It will be tough for them to go to the London Stadium and get through to the next round, but it will be a great spectacle and a good money earner for the club. Here are three talking points from Montgomery Waters Meadow:
Javier Hernandez at West Ham hasn’t worked
It has been a difficult season for Javier Hernandez after returning to the Premier League and he didn’t take his opportunity in the FA Cup. The Mexican international has not featured as much as he would have liked for the Hammers and it has completely destroyed his confidence. He didn’t look like he wanted to have the ball on Sunday and when he did, his decision making wasn’t great.
For a player that is renowned for his intelligent movement and predatory instincts, Hernandez was easily dealt with by a League One defence. He didn’t have any attempts on goal and ended the match with a pass success rate of 50%. Considering he has played for two of the biggest clubs in the world, he should have had a much bigger impact on the game.
The next month is going to be interesting to see what business West Ham will do in the transfer market, as they have yet to find a striker to rely on. It was hoped that Hernandez would be that player, but he has yet to live up to his billing. If the club do manage to sign a new striker, it could be that the Mexican pushes for a move away. It hasn’t worked for either party and a transfer away could be what is needed to reinvigorate his career.
Shrewsbury are a team full of confidence
The Shropshire team are currently in the promotion places in League One and could be set for promotion to the Championship if they continue in their current vein of form. This tie had the potential to destroy the confidence in the squad, but they approached it with no fear and they ended this match with the nation’s respect.
They can take the confidence gained from this performance and go back into the league campaign as a better team. West Ham may have been bad, but the performance of Shrewsbury had a major impact on that. Their midfielders dominated the central areas and their defence coped with two international forwards with relative comfort.
The player to catch the eye for the home side was Ben Godfrey. The midfielder is currently on loan from Norwich City and he got the better of Pedro Obiang and Cheikhou Kouyate in the middle of the park. Shrewsbury have been willing to give chances to young players and it would be a great story if they were to make one more step up the ladder to reach the Championship. Based on this performance, it would take a brave man to bet against them.
Declan Rice impressed again
There were few positives for West Ham as they escaped Shropshire still in the FA Cup, but the performance of Declan Rice was one of them. The teenager has had a surprising rise over the course of this season and he is now performing like an established Premier League player. He was the team’s best player against Tottenham during the week and he backed that up with another good display against lower league opposition.
It would have been easy for a young player to buy into his own hype and fallen short on Sunday, but he approached the game in the same manner. His attitude is to be commended and he is establishing himself as an important first team player for the Hammers.
During the match, he showed a willingness to battle with the Shrewsbury players and dug in deep. Rice won five aerial duels, completed two tackles and made a further six interceptions. It was an excellent performance from a teenager and it was needed as the home side were putting West Ham’s defence under pressure.
How Wigan Athletic have helped to rekindle the magic of the FA Cup
Wigan Athletic’s dramatic FA Cup fifth round victory over Premier League leaders Manchester City has helped to rekindle the magic of the competition, writes Rob Meech.
FA Cup shocks don’t come much bigger than Wigan Athletic’s 1-0 victory over Manchester City.
The League One club produced a sensational performance to knock out the Premier League champions-elect, whose hopes of winning an unprecedented Quadruple were left in tatters.
Will Grigg was the unexpected hero for the hosts, as his 79th-minute strike sent the 2013 winners into the quarter-finals and the club’s supporters into dreamland.
Wigan’s adventure has been beset with obstacles.
But, one by one, these have been overcome and a trip to Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final is now a realistic proposition.
City are the third successive top-flight team to have been eliminated by the Latics, following Bournemouth and West Ham United who exited in rounds three and four, respectively.
Now, it is struggling Southampton that stand between Paul Cook’s men and the last four.
Arguably, City are the form team in Europe and one of the favourites to lift the Champions League.
But when it comes to the FA Cup, the form-book goes out of the window.
Despite being the runaway Premier League leaders, City succumbed to only their third defeat in all competitions this season.
Although the inevitable DW Stadium pitch invasion that greeted the final whistle sparked some unsavoury scenes, the result will be remembered as one of the greatest ever upsets.
There has been much talk about how the FA Cup has become devalued in recent years.
On top of an evening kick-off for the final, many clubs – not exclusive to the Premier League – field weakened teams and view the competition as an unwelcome distraction.
This has led to some pundits calling for it to be refreshed. Potential ideas include the scrapping of replays.
However, a by-product of big clubs treating the competition with disrespect is that the number of upsets has increased.
It’s not just Wigan who have sprung a surprise or two this season.
Coventry City belied their League Two status to dump out Stoke City in round three, while Newport County of the fourth division took Tottenham Hotspur to a money-spinning replay at Wembley Stadium.
League One’s Rochdale have done likewise in the fifth round, thanks to a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser at Spotland.
Despite what television companies might think, there is little appetite for watching two Premier League teams playing each other in the FA Cup.
Football enthusiasts want a chance to see the underdog have its day.
Wigan’s story has captured the imagination of supporters of all clubs, up and down the land.
Their stunning victory over a City side that, although not at full strength was nonetheless full of internationals, reinforced the legend of the FA Cup.
The romanticism of the competition has been rekindled this season, something for which Wigan deserve enormous credit.
Another factor is at play, though.
It may sound like a paradox, but if the FA Cup is to remain relevant then it needs the elite clubs to continue to treat it as an afterthought.
That way, shocks like Wigan’s will be repeated in seasons to come and interest in the world’s oldest domestic cup competition will remain high.
Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham – Lucas Moura shines despite disappointing day for Spurs
Tottenham are going to have to rely on a replay for the second successive round as they conceded a dramatic late equaliser to Rochdale. It was a reminder of the magic that the FA Cup still possesses and it will provide a useful cash injection for the League One club. Spurs opted to make several changes and rest key players, but they selected a team that should have progressed on the day.
Ian Henderson scored in the first-half to give Dale a first-half lead and it was deserved. Keith Hill’s team played good football and went toe-to-toe against their more illustrious opposition.
Lucas Moura and Harry Kane scored to put Tottenham into a 2-1 lead, but that wasn’t the end of the goal-scoring as Steve Davies scored to take the tie to a replay. Here are three talking points from Spotland:
Lucas Moura’s performance showed why Tottenham signed him
It was a signing that came out of left-field, as Tottenham prefer to do their transfer business in the summer. However, this opportunity was too good to turn down as they were given the chance to sign a proven Brazilian international. He had fallen on tough times at PSG and rarely featured this season, but he proved why the club signed him on Sunday.
The Brazilian wasn’t afraid of the fight and was up for the test offered by League One opposition. Every time he got on the ball, it looked like he could make something happen, as shown by his seven dribbles completed.
He had a touch of class that allowed him to stand out from the rest of the players on the pitch and if he can consistently perform at that level, he will turn out to be a great signing.
His movement was superb, as he regularly found pockets of space to exploit. Interestingly, he won five aerial duels and that shows that he has quickly adjusted to English football. It was Lucas that scored the equaliser mid-way through the second half with a confident finish. He will have played himself into Mauricio Pochettino’s plans for the coming weeks.
Rochdale impressed on their day in the spotlight
They were written off before a ball was kicked as they were facing one of the best teams in the country. Rochdale are currently rock-bottom of League One and 11 points from safety, albeit with four matches in hand. They laid a new pitch ahead of this match and the players adapted to it well, showing that they can play good football.
Callum Camps and Andrew Cannon impressed in the centre of the park, while their two wily experienced strikers got the goals. Ian Henderson was a tireless worker in the final third and put the Tottenham defenders under pressure.
He snatched at a couple of chances in the first-half, but he remained cool when another chance came his way and scored the opening goal.
It will be a tough ask for them to go to Wembley, but they can go there with no fear as they have nothing to lose. The tie will give them an injection of money that the club needs, especially if they are to suffer relegation this season.
Toby Alderweireld looks a long way from his best
The Tottenham defence didn’t look as assured as they usually do and both of their centre-backs struggled at times during the match.
Alderweireld was left out of the trip to Juventus and there were some supporters that questioned that decision. However, he looked short of match fitness against Rochdale and was arguably at fault for the late equaliser.
The Belgian international looked rusty and his decision making was not great. He picked up a yellow card for a rash tackle and that is one example of that. Juan Foyth played alongside Alderweireld and his inexperience showed when Rochdale did attack.
For Alderweireld, he wants to be back in the first-team and that is eventually where he will be, but he isn’t at the level required to be starting right now. Tottenham are fighting on multiple fronts and they can’t afford to have any players that aren’t at 100%. He is returning from a serious injury and he will need time to get back to his best.
Sheffield Wednesday 0-0 Swansea City – Tammy Abraham didn’t take first-team opportunity
Swansea City were held in the FA Cup away to Championship club Sheffield Wednesday. The Swans have been drawn to face lower league opposition in every round of the competition so far and this occasion saw Carlos Carvalhal return to his former club. It was a huge day for him and he will be slightly disappointed by the performance that he witnessed.
Although the Premier League side selected a talented team, it was an even contest and both teams had chances to score. Neither team deserved to go through on this viewing and they will have to meet again at the Liberty Stadium in just over a week’s time.
It will be interesting to see who will await the winners of this tie in the next round and that could dictate whether Swansea take the replay seriously or not. Here are three talking points from Hillsborough:
Tammy Abraham didn’t take his opportunity
It was a frustrating day for Tammy Abraham as he had few chances to impress in the final third and he was taken off midway in the second half. That will be a disappointment for the forward as this was an opportunity to earn more game-time in the Premier League and his contribution on Saturday is unlikely to bring that.
During the match, he failed to have a single attempt on goal, while his pass success was at a poor 58%. The service he received was non-existent as shown in the second half when Luciano Narsingh refused to play the striker in.
Abraham did nice work to release the winger and spin in behind his marker, but the return ball didn’t arrive. The striker was visibly annoyed that the ball wasn’t given back.
Jordan Ayew was the man that replaced Abraham and he offered more when he was on the pitch. He was willing to drop deep to be given possession, while he got two attempts in on goal during his short time on the pitch.
His distribution was more effective, as displayed by his two key passes. The former Aston Villa man is the player that should lead the line for the relegation-threatened club.
Adam Reach stood out in midfield
This has been a season to forget for Sheffield Wednesday as they are a considerable distance off promotion, despite being one of the best Championship teams in recent seasons.
The match against Swansea provided the players with an opportunity to prove they can compete with Premier League opposition and Adam Reach was one of the standout performers.
The 25-year-old showed glimpses of both attacking and defensive quality, which shows he can contribute in both halves of the pitch. He will be the first to admit his final ball could have been better, but he regularly got in positions to cause problems for the away side. During the match, he attempted three shots and completed 86% of his passes.
Meanwhile, he worked hard out of possession and didn’t allow Swansea to dominate the midfield battle. Reach won four tackles and made a further two interceptions. He was relentless in work rate and his energy rubbed off on the rest of the team. The midfielder will be a player to keep an eye on in the replay.
Alfie Mawson had to miss the match through injury
The Swansea City defender was pencilled in to start in the match, but he was injured in the warm up and had to be replaced in the starting eleven by Kyle Naughton.
This was a major blow for the team as Mawson is a born leader at the back and offers composure to the back-line. He was later pictured wearing a knee brace and holding crutches, in what was a worrying sight.
The last thing Swansea need is a serious injury, especially to one of the team’s most important players. Towards the end of the game, the cameras showed that he was moving his leg more freely, but it is a concern nonetheless.
Naughton came in and did well, with one excellent challenge saving a goal in the first-half. The entire Swansea defence played well, with Kyle Bartley standing out as a Premier League centre-half.
The former Leeds United loanee won five aerial duels and made four ball recoveries. He could be required to step up if Mawson has to miss some of the run-in.
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