10 talking points from Premier League weekend and FA Cup quarter-finals – Irish Mirror


Manchester City’s hopes of winning a historic quadruple continued as they reached the FA Cup semi-finals.

But while Pep Guardiola’s men beat Swansea having been two-goals down, they saw Liverpool overtake them at the top of the Premier League.

The Reds needed to hold their bottle after Ryan Babel had cancelled out Sadio Mane’s opener – but James Milner stepped up to grab a late, and vital, penalty.

City will face Brighton at Wembley in the cup next month but the Seagulls needed penalties to see off Championship side Milwall.

Wolves piled a second defeat in a row onto Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United in the FA Cup – with Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez both netting.

City can still win the quadruple

They will face Watford in the semi-finals – after they beat Crystal Palace .

In the Premier League, Everton put in dent in Chelsea’s top four hopes with a 2-0 victory at Goodison Park.

While, West Ham added another nail into Huddersfield’s relegation coffin in a 4-3 thriller, while Bournemouth and Newcastle drew 2-2 and 10-man Leicester edged out Burnley with a late winner.

Here are all the key talking points from the English football weekend…

1. No VAR saves City

The big question of the weekend was: why wasn’t VAR in use at the Liberty Stadium?

The FA decreed that only Premier League grounds would use the video technology during the FA Cup quarter-finals, despite Swansea having the correct set-up for it.

Aguero was in an offside position

It was therefore inevitable that the winning goal would have been ruled out by VAR.

And so it came to pass as Sergio Aguero stood in an offside position before completing a sensational comeback, having been two-goals down.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, City are still well placed to win an unprecedented quadruple, with Brighton to face in the semi-finals of this competition next month.

2. Mo Salah’s struggles

Liverpool are back on top of the Premier League but there are still worries over Mo Salah’s struggles in front of goal.

He hasn’t now scored in seven games and has only four in his last fourteen. But to focus on the numbers is to overlook Mo Salah’s tremendous contribution to this Liverpool team – at both ends of the pitch.

Salah is on a poor scoring streak

Often double marked, Salah’s pace and creativity had the Fulham players and fans on edge throughout. Midway through the second half when it looked as though Ryan Babel would have a clear run on goal – before he eventually scored – it was Salah who ate up the ground to close down the winger’s options.

The goals will come again, he is too good a player for that not to be the case, but in the meantime his good work cannot be overlooked.

3. Ole’s wheel coming off?

Manchester United suffered their second defeat in a row as the smoke in front of the revolution Ole Gunnar Solskjaer blew backwards for the first time.

After losing to Arsenal in the Premier League last weekend they were outclassed by Wolves – without putting in a poor performance.

All the hallmarks are there that the deficiencies in the squad are catching up with Solskjaer.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures

Yes, the Red Devils squad is talented, and have suffered many injuries recently, but fourth or fifth is their position in the table.

The feel-good factor will remain but the momentum has stuttered.

It is now the time for United’s bosses to see exactly whether Solskjaer has the mettle to be a long term manager in the mould of Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.

4. Chelsea’s Champions League hopes

Maurizio Sarri’s men were completely undone by a second half resurgence by Everton at Goodison Park – where Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson both found the net after the break.

The result leaves Chelsea three points adrift of Arsenal in fourth, with both the Gunners and fifth-placed United starting to accelerate.

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri

The Blues’ Champions League bid is in tatters.

Well through the league it is.

Sarri’s attention may swiftly turn to the back door option of winning the Europa League – with a soft quarter-final against Slavia Prague coming up.

5. Brighton are on their way to Wembley

Brighton’s season had looked in turmoil less than a month ago with six games without a win in the Premier League putting relegation back on the cards.

Victories over Huddersfield and Crystal Palace have reignited their league hopes and a first trip to an FA Cup semi-final for 34 years – for just the second time in their history – has given purpose to their campaign.

They did it the hard way at the Den, as Millwall stormed into a 2-0 lead before throwing it away, quite literally in David Martin’s case, in the late stages.

Brighton celebrate

The Lions even led on penalties before Jake Cooper skied his penalty and the Seagulls progressed to face City at Wembley.

With Tottenham , Arsenal and a final day of the season clash with City still to play could derail their hopes but this season will definitely live in Albion fans’ memories.

6. Moutinho’s class

Wolves reached their first FA Cup semi-final since 1998 with their strikers doing the business in front of goal.

But it was midfielder Joao Moutinho that dominated the game and caught the eye.

He’s the wrong side of 30, isn’t as quick as he once was (he’s never been the quickest in truth) and at 5ft 7in isn’t going to win much in the air.

Moutinho in action

But Moutinho oozes class.

Every time he receives the ball, he has a picture of where his teammates are, where they’re moving and what he’s going to do.

In a crowded midfield area – often with as many as eight/nine players within 20-25 yards of one another – he was always able to find space and always enabled Wolves to make progress upfield.

The jinking run past three players into the penalty area, leading to Jimenez’s goal, wasn’t bad either.

7. Gomes’ tears

Watford’s Mr Popular Heurelho Gomes is set to hang up his gloves at the end of the season and become a pastor.

And the keeper was in tears at the final whistle on what is likely to be his last appearance at Vicarage Road as the Hornets knocked Crystal Palace out.

Gomes probably played at Vicarage Road for the last time

From flappy at Tottenham to a dependable at Watford, helping the club to Championship promotion, Gomes has always played with a smile.

A Wembley farewell in a semi-final, or potential a final if they can beat Wolves, is more than he deserves to finish his career.

8. Karlan Grant not enough to help Terriers

Huddersfield showed exactly why they are heading back down to the Championship after a two-year stay in the top flight.

The Terriers were 3-1 up against West Ham and perfectly playing to their tactics and somehow managed to conspire to lose 4-3.

Grant bagged a brace

But on a positive note Karlan Grant looks like one of the signings of January – especially with an eye already on promotion next season.

Strangely, he is the joint-top scorer at both the Terriers, for whom he netted a brace at the London Stadium, and at former club Charlton.

9. Captain Morgan

Wes Morgan was offered an extra year on his Leicester contract last week and fans exactly enamoured by the decision by the top brass at the King Power.

Morgan has been offered a new contract

It was a case of ‘thanks for the title, but next’.

Fast forward a few days and Morgan was the Foxes’ hero – coming on to step in for Harry Maguire after his early red card before stepping up to score a last gasp winner.

A true Leicester legend.

10. Ritchie comes back for second bite of the Cherries

Matt Ritchie will always be popular at the Vitality Stadium, even when he scores 94th minute equalisers against his former club.

Ritchie celebrates

Ritchie played 142 times for Bournemouth, helping them through League One, the Championship and to Premier League survival, before joining Newcastle.

He said after the match: “It’s a strange feeling as I owe so much [to Bournemouth]. I wheeled away and realised I have a lot of respect for this club.”

The Magpies are, according to Rafa Bentitez, one game away from safety – which after their horrific start to the season is an impressive achievement.



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