Despite the freezing cold weather and stadiums bereft of fans due to COVID-19, the magic of the English FA Cup is still alive and kicking, as the weekend served up some classic upsets and thrillers.
West Brom suffered another embarrassment under new manager Sam Allardyce as they crashed out to third tier Blackpool, Carlo Ancelotti’s resurgent Premier League side Everton needed extra-time to overcome resilient Championship strugglers Rotherham.
But the result of the round so far has to be non-league Chorley thumping Wayne Rooney’s Championship side Derby County. Granted, the Rams were shorn of players due to coronavirus, but the result and another FA Cup giant-killing act is what will be remembered in years to come.
It was like one of those matches of years gone by, players and coaches mucking in to clear the pitch of snow, a rickety ground with fans peering over the fences to get a glimps of the game, the underdogs punching above their weight, and nothing going right for the favourites. Truly magic.
Premier League high-flyers Manchester United were made to work hard in their 1-0 win over Championship club Watford, and had to rely on an early headed goal from the unlikely source of Scott McTominay to see off their opponents in a tight match.
Watford, who are sixth in the second-tier Championship having been relegated from the Premier League last season, actually dominated the closing 20 minutes but could not find a leveller that could have set up another potential shock.
With no replays in the FA Cup due to the tight schedule thanks to COVID-19 delays, Arsenal needed extra-time to overcome Newcastle United in an all-Premier League clash. The Londoners — and defending FA Cup champions — eventually progressed thanks to goals from Emile Smith-Rowe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at Emirates Stadium.
Even in the face of the adversities this winter have thrown up, the FA Cup continues to fight on.