CRAWLEY: Crawley Town’s Cypriot defender Nick Tsaroulla (C) shoots past Leeds United’s Spanish goalkeeper Kiko Casilla to open the scoring during the English FA Cup third round football match between Crawley Town and Leeds United at Broadfield Stadium in Crawley, southern England yesterday. – AFP

LONDON: Leeds suffered a humiliating FA Cup exit against Crawley as the League Two side swept to a shock 3-0 win, while Timo Werner ended his Chelsea goal drought and Bernardo Silva sparkled for Manchester City as the Premier League giants eased into the fourth round yesterday. After the spiking coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc with matches across the third round on Friday and Saturday, the FA Cup was back on more familiar ground as Leeds became the competition’s latest big name to be knocked out by a feisty underdog.

Crawley’s unexpected success encapsulated the FA Cup’s unique charm and football’s restorative powers at a time when the sport is badly in need of some positive news. Numerous clubs have been hit by COVID-19 problems as the new variant sweeps across Britain, forcing Aston Villa and Derby to field entire teams of youth players while their senior stars went into self-isolation.

Villa’s kids were beaten by Liverpool on Friday and Derby’s youngsters lost to non-league Chorley, with Southampton’s tie against Shrewsbury postponed after a virus outbreak at the League One side. Despite calls for the English season to be halted while the virus is contained, the FA Cup goes on for now and Crawley relished their chance to steal the spotlight.

Leeds sit 12th in the Premier League after a fine first season back in the top-flight, but boss Marcelo Bielsa paid the price for making seven changes at The People’s Pension Stadium in leafy Sussex. Crawley, sixth in League Two, had survived an incredible 6-5 win against Torquay in the FA Cup first round, but this victory was even more remarkable.

On a fairytale day for Crawley, it was fitting that Nick Tsaroulla should open the scoring with his first career goal in the 51st minute. Ashley Nadesan’s low shot crept under Leeds keeper Kiko Casilla’s weak attempted save to double Crawley’s lead two minutes later. Jordan Tunnicliffe delivered the final blow in the 70th minute, forcing the ball into the roof of the net after Leeds failed to clear a Sam Matthews free-kick. It is not the first time Leeds have endured FA Cup ignominy after Don Revie’s stars were famously eliminated by Colchester in 1971, while the club’s 2008 side were embarrassed by Histon and the 2017 squad lost to Sutton.

Werner back on track
Chelsea, eight-time winners of the FA Cup and runners-up last season, showed Leeds how to deal with an upset threat as they thrashed League Two team Morecambe 4-0 at Stamford Bridge. Two-time world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury has a gym at Morecambe’s Mazuma Stadium, but it was Chelsea who delivered the knockout blows.

Mason Mount marked his 22nd birthday in memorable fashion as the midfielder fired in from 25 yards in the 18th minute. Werner finally got on the scoresheet in the 44th minute, bundling home after Kai Havertz headed into his path. Callum Hudson-Odoi struck in the 49th minute and Havertz got the fourth in the 85th minute.

Romantics looking for a shock at the Etihad Stadium were left disappointed as Manchester City cruised to a 3-0 win against second tier Birmingham. Pep Guardiola made four changes from the team that beat Manchester United in the League Cup semi-finals on Wednesday.

Bernardo Silva was one of those who came in and he opened the scoring with a superb half-volley after eight minutes. Silva struck again with a close-range finish in the 15th minute and Phil Foden got the third in the 33rd minute.
Yesterday’s standout tie sees Marine, of the eighth tier Northern Premier League Division One North West, host Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham. It is the biggest gap — 161 places — between opponents in FA Cup history.

Marine’s squad is made up of teachers, NHS staff, bin men and factory workers, with the highest-paid player earning between £200 and £300 a week. If Marine cause the biggest shock in FA Cup history, fans in the Merseyside town of Crosby should look out for goalkeeper Bayleigh Passant, who visited a local shop to get beers to celebrate his side’s second round win — still dressed in his full kit.

Arsenal, Chorley advance
FA Cup holders Arsenal had beaten Newcastle 2-0 on Saturday as non-league Chorley knocked out coronavirus-ravaged Derby and West Brom suffered an embarrassing third-round exit against Blackpool. Arsenal, 14-time FA Cup winners, continued their recent revival with a fourth straight win in all competitions in their all Premier-League tie at the Emirates. Magpies captain Jamaal Lascelles made his first appearance in six weeks after being hit hard by the coronavirus as both sides made multiple changes.

Emile Smith Rowe — who earlier had a red card overturned after a VAR check — broke the deadlock in a disappointing game, drilling the ball home in the second half of extra time, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made the game safe.
Mikel Arteta turned his attention to the Premier League match against Crystal Palace on Thursday. “We want to keep going and win more games,” he said. “It’s always important to stay in the competitions. We want to fight for this competition again, so today was a big game for us.”

In the late match, Manchester United beat Championship side Watford 1-0, courtesy of an early header from midfielder Scott McTominay. United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hailed the Scotland international, who was captaining the side for the first time. “He is being more and more dangerous, we know he can be a box-to-box midfielder,” the Norwegian told the BBC. “He should have scored a few more on set-plays before now because he is a monster of a human being.”

Chorley shock
Earlier, Derby fielded a clutch of youngsters after their first-team squad and interim manager Wayne Rooney were ruled out following a virus outbreak at the Championship club. Chorley, from the sixth-tier National League North, took advantage of Derby’s weakened line-up to reach the fourth round for the first time with a 2-0 win.

Chorley’s modest Victory Park ground is so homely that one fan was able to watch over their back garden fence, while two others used a cherry picker crane to get a glimpse of the action. In freezing conditions, with snow cleared off the pitch before kick-off, the home side took an early lead through Connor Hall and Mike Calveley poked home from close range in the 84th minute. The cup upset was a welcome boost for Chorley manager Jamie Vermiglio, whose job as a primary school headteacher has been thrown into chaos by the coronavirus lockdown in Britain. “It’s a very proud moment for us,” he said. “Credit to our boys, they’ve been on a journey and we said it before the game, the journey can continue today and it has done.”

Leicester rested Jamie Vardy and James Maddison at second-tier Stoke but still won 4-0 as James Justin, Marc Albrighton, Ayoze Perez and Harvey Barnes all netted. There were also wins for Premier League sides Everton, Fulham and Burnley. The highlight of Sunday’s fixtures is eighth-tier Marine at home to Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham, while Manchester City play Birmingham and Chelsea entertain Morecambe. – AFP