Fulham and Leicester are out of the FA Cup after they suffered shock defeats at the hands of Oldham Athletic and Newport County respectively. Fulham lost 2-1 to League One’s Oldham, who came back from 1-0 down and scored an 88th minute winner from the penalty spot, while Leicester were beaten 2-1 by Newport, who also play in League Two. A late penalty also decided the Foxes fate, as Newport scored the winner with five minutes remaining.
I wrote yesterday that it was hard to get excited about the early rounds of the cup anymore. But I said that that only applied to the Premier League clubs. These wins for Oldham and Newport will live long in the memory. It’s a huge achievement for them to knock out a club from the top tier of English football.
It really is what makes the FA Cup special. Everybody at those clubs will be buzzing this morning after their huge victories. Six thousand, 705 people were at Rodney Parade to see Newport beat Leicester. There were Premier League winners on the Welsh pitch. Wes Morgan, Christian Fuchs, Danny Simpson, Shinji Okazaki and Marc Albrighton all won the league title, and started yesterday, but were unable to beat underdogs Newport. James Maddison, one of the finest young English midfielders around today, came off the bench for the second half. But that wasn’t enough for Leicester.
Many people will remember these results for years to come. It’s unlikely that Newport will ever rise up to the Premier League, and these are results that are often written into a club’s folklore. The same goes for Oldham. The draw for the fourth round takes place tonight, immediately after the Wolves vs Liverpool game. And these League Two sides won’t be looking for a favourable draw.
A game against another Premier League side would be ideal for them. They’d love to get one of the top six. Even if they’re beaten, it’s not the end of the world. Of course, they’d love to get a team around their level and have a chance of getting through another round, but the games against the big clubs are the ones that will be celebrated.
Even with the League Two clubs surprisingly beating the Premier League clubs, the surprise of the round probably came in Sheffield. Barnet, who are 15th in the National League, are the lowest-ranked side left in the competition after beating Sheffield United 1-0 at Bramall Lane. The magnitude of that result can’t be understated: it is huge.
These moments really are amazing to see. And it’s likely that we’ll see more in the next round. It’s not often that every team beats another team that are ranked lower than them, and shocks happen regularly. There could easily be more along the way.
Tonight, Wolves host Liverpool at Molineux. I expect Liverpool to make some changes for the game, as they prioritise the Premier League. That’s completely understandable, too. Jurgen Klopp’s men also have the Champions League to worry about, and they’ll see that and the Premier League as being much more important. I’m not sure what Wolves will do. Nuno Espirito Santo may feel his team have a good chance of winning this game and doing alright in this year’s competition, so he may go for a strong team.
In transfer news, Brahim Diaz has left Manchester City and signed for Real Madrid. There has been talk that the 19-year-old has wanted to leave the club for quite some time now, with his playing time limited as there are so many players ahead of him in the midfield pecking order. Man City have got around £15m for the youngster, which is very good business, considering he only had six months to run on his contract and would have left on a free in the summer. That fee will rise with add-ons, while City have added a 15 per cent sell-on fee. Interestingly, if he was sold to Manchester United, City would receive a 40 per cent sell-on fee.
Losing him isn’t good, though, because he’s seen as a real future star. They have high hopes for him, but you can’t blame him for leaving when he isn’t getting a look in. But, if you’re leaving for more first team opportunities, going to Real Madrid seems like an odd choice. He’s hardly going to walk straight into the first team there. Anyway, best of luck to him. Don’t be surprised if you see his name in the next few years.
I’m going to leave it there for now. Last week’s in-depth article was on the Southampton Academy. I didn’t have time to get it done by Friday, so that was posted yesterday: sorry again. This week’s is going to be on when Arsenal won the league at Anfield in 1989. I’ll be back here tomorrow, as always, with a look ahead to tomorrow’s big Carabao Cup tie between Tottenham and Chelsea. Have a good day!