BY JUSTIN FERGUSON
Just chalk it up to the magic of the Cup.
Sixteen Premier League teams entered the Fourth Round of the FA Cup at the beginning of this weekend. Five were knocked out of the competition by lower level clubs. Three needed late winners to avoid the dreaded replay. One club, the defending champion, had to grab a late equalizer to survive.
England’s wild weekend started Friday when Championship side Millwall handed reeling Aston Villa their second Cup exit of the week with an 89th-minute winner off the head of striker John Marquis. On Saturday, non-League side Luton Town pulled off the biggest FA Cup upset in over two decades, getting a 1-0 win at struggling Norwich City. As the drama at Carrow Road was coming to a close, QPR scored two late goals to avoid a shutout against League One’s MK Dons.
By Sunday, the underdogs were on the top of the world. League One’s Brentford took advantage of Chelsea goalkeeper Ross Turbull’s rash challenge inside the box, drilling a penalty to grab a 2-1 lead. However, Chelsea was saved ten minutes later when Fernando Torres laced an equalizer into the side of the net, his first goal since Chelsea’s 8-0 smashing of Aston Villa last month.
Liverpool and Tottenham would not be able to duplicate Chelsea’s late heroics. Clint Dempsey’s 58th-minute strike failed to spark a complete comeback for Spurs, and Andre Villas-Boas’s men suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of former Premier League power Leeds United. Then Oldham Athletic, a club in fear of being relegated from League One, capped off the craziness with a stunning 3-2 win over ‘Pool. Matt Smith, a 23-year-old defender that was playing non-league football just 18 months ago, made the difference for the upset-minded Latics with two first-half goals.
Elsewhere in Europe, arguably the game’s two biggest stars put on magnificent scoring shows on Sunday. Cristiano Ronaldo netted a second-half hat trick in Real Madrid’s much-needed 4-0 home win over Getafe, giving the Portuguese superstar 21 goals in 21 La Liga games. But he would be bested once again by rival Lionel Messi, who registered four goals in Barcelona’s bounce-back win over 10-man Osasuna at Camp Nou. Messi became the youngest player to get to the 200-goal mark in La Liga play with his second goal, a 28th-minute penalty conversion.
Here are the rest of the results from this weekend’s top European action:
Arsenal got an 85th-minute winner from substitute Theo Walcott to advance to the final 16 on Saturday, squeaking by the Championship’s Brighton & Hove Albion 3-2. The Gunners were embroiled in a back-and-forth battle with the host Seagulls until Walcott’s shot took a favorable deflection past Brighton goalkeeper Casper Ankergren. Everton took a similar route in eliminating their pesky Championship foes, advancing past Bolton on an injury-time winner from late substitute John Heitinga.
Meanwhile, the two Manchester clubs advanced in their Premier League vs. Premier League matches. Pablo Zabaleta gave City its first road win over Stoke City in seven tries as the club managed to secure a 1-0 win with Roberto Mancini’s controversial three-back formation. United cruised past Fulham at home with a 4-1 win, highlighted by a Ryan Giggs penalty and Javier Hernandez brace.
FA Cup Fourth Round Scoreboard:
Millwall 2, Aston Villa 1
Manchester City 1, Stoke City 0
Everton 2, Bolton 1
Arsenal 3, Brighton & Hove Albion 2
Blackburn Rovers 3, Derby County 0
Huddersfield Town 1, Leicester City 1
Barnsley 1, Hull City 0
Wigan Athletic 1, Macclesfield Town 0
Middlesbrough 2, Aldershot Town 1
Luton Town 1, Norwich City 0
MK Dons 4, QPR 2
Reading 4, Sheffield United 0
Manchester United 4, Fulham 1
Brentford 2, Chelsea 2
Leeds United 2, Tottenham Hotspur 1
Oldham Athletic 3, Liverpool 2
Atletico Madrid was forced to give up ground to in-city rivals Real on Sunday after suffering a 3-0 road loss to Athletic Bilbao. Bilbao knocked home all three of their goals in the second half, capped off by a brilliant counter attack by Oscar de Marcos in the 84th minute. With the loss, Real moves to only four points behind Atletico.
Also on Sunday, Malaga got control of the fourth and final Champions League qualifying spot with a 3-2 win over Mallorca. Javier Saviola and Isco combined to produce a quick 2-0 lead for the visitors, but Mallorca came storming back, pulling the match back to a one-goal difference on two separate occasions. In the end, Malaga got the victory and the table advantage over Real Betis, who got thumped 3-0 to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.
La Liga Scoreboard:
Celta Vigo 1, Real Sociedad 1
Levante 2, Real Valladolid 1
Real Zaragoza 0, Espanyol 0
Valencia 3, Deportivo La Coruna 2
Real Madrid 4, Getafe 0
Rayo Vallecano 3, Real Betis 0
Barcelona 5, Osasuna 1
On Monday: Sevilla vs. Granada
Bayern Munich saw their commanding lead on top of the Bundesliga stretch to 11 points on Sunday after completing a 2-0 road shutout over Stuttgart. Mario Mandzukic was the runaway man of the match, netting the opening goal and setting up Thomas Muller for the clincher.
The growth of Bayern’s lead was assisted by second-place Leverkusen’s scoreless draw at Freiburg. The visitors were able to get 15 shots off, but none of them were getting past Freiburg goalie Oliver Baumann on Saturday. To make matters worse for the second-place club, Borussia Dortmund closed the gap between themselves and Leverkusen to one point following their 3-0 win over Nurnberg. The two clubs meet in a battle for control of second next Sunday.
Borussia Dortmund 3, Nurnberg 0
Borussia Monchengladbach 2, Fortuna Dusseldorf 1
Eintracht Frankfurt 2, Hoffenheim 1
Augsburg 0, Schalke 0
Hannover 96 2, Wolfsburg 1
Mainz 3, Greuther Furth 0
Freiburg 0, Bayer Leverkusen 0
Hamburg 3, Werder Bremen 2
Bayern Munich 2, Stuttgart 0
Juventus failed to take advantage of second-place Lazio’s 1-0 loss to Chievo Verona on Saturday, drawing with relegation-zoned Genoa 1-1 in controversial fashion. After Fabio Quagirella’s opening goal was equalized by a strike from Marco Borriello, Juventus put all of its effort into finding a winner. An appeal for a penalty on Marko Vucinic was waved off, followed by a no-call on Andreas Granqvist’s clear handball in the box. Juve manager Antonio Conte stormed the pitch to confront the referee after the final whistle, but the decision was already made: Juventus was only getting one point.
Napoli, however, was able to take advantage of Lazio’s loss with a 2-1 win over Parma. The Azzurri now find themselves in second place in the Serie A table and now only six points back from Juventus.
In another noteworthy Serie A match this weekend, Sampdoria’s Mauro Icardi scored four goals in his club’s 6-0 thrashing of US Pescara.
Serie A Scoreboard:
Chievo Verona 1, Lazio 0
Juventus 1, Genoa 1
Bologna 3, AS Roma 3
AC Milan 1, Atalanta 0
Cagliari 1, Palermo 1
Catania 2, Fiorentina 1
Napoli 2, Parma 1
Sampdoria 6, US Pescara 0
Udinese 1, Siena 0
Inter Milan 2, Torino 2
Romain Alessandrini’s 88th-minute equalizer moved Stade Rennes into fourth in the Ligue 1 table and denied opponents Marseille the chance to move up to second. Marseille appeared headed to victory after brothers Jordan and Andre Ayew gave the visitors a late lead. But Rennes had other plans, and Alessandrini tapped home an easy goal after Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda handled a ball that fell right to the French midfielder.
European hopefuls Lorient suffered a major setback on Saturday when they lost to last-place Nancy 2-1. Sebastien Puygrenier’s 71st-minute winner gave the host team their first victory since Ligue 1’s opening day in August. Lorient could have risen as high as fourth with a win, but remain in sixth.
Ligue 1 Scoreboard:
Stade Rennes 2, Marseille 2
Nancy 2, Lorient 1
Evian Thonon 1, Ajaccio 1
Montpellier 2, Sochaux 0
Stade de Reims 1, Toulouse 1
Troyes 2, Brest 1
St Etienne 3, Bastia 0
Bordeaux 1, Nice 0
PSG 1, Lille 0