LONDON: Angel Di Maria is proving himself a perfect cup specialist. Last season he won the Spanish cup with Real Madrid, now he has marked his FA Cup debut by scoring Manchester United’s second in their 2-0 win away to third division Yeovil.
The west country club have a ferocious reputation as cup giant-killers and they worked hard against a United side with dreams of winning the one competition which remains open to them and for the first time since 2004.
United’s success means that both Manchester managers, Louis Van Gaal and City’s Manuel Pellegrini, are safely into the fourth round.
Yeovil matched United for the first hour and striker Kieffer Moore should have opened the scoring but mis-hit his shot when clear in front of David De Gea. Ander Herrera punished that mistake on the hour then substitute Di Maria wrapped up victory on his return after three games out through injury.
Manchester City completed the ‘first leg’ of their neighbours double by defeating Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 but they risked embarrassment for uch of the match against their second division rivals.
Austrian Atdhe Nuhiu put the Owls ahead after only 14 minutes and Champions League contenders City failed to land even one shot on target for more than an hour.
Finally England midfielder James Milner, so often underrated alongside his more expensive and exotic team-mates, equalised on the hour then snatched the winner in stoppage time.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini, still missing injured Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, pushed Milner into attack as time ran on and was rewarded when the ex-Aston Villa man snatched the winner in stoppage time.
Pellegrini was a relieved man. With a busy spring ahead and injuries piling up, the last thing he needed was a difficult FA Cup replay.
He said: “One of the most pleasing things about the way we’ve been playing is that we have continued winning, even without any recognised strikers.”
Chelsea did not find their form until the second half to beat Watford 3-0. Andre Schurrle had a fitful first half. He had an early shot blocked and provoked Watford into conceding a couple of free kicks. But with the scoresheet blank at half-time he was replaced by Willian who justified the switch by scoring Chelsea’s first goal.
Major upset of the third round was the 3-0 home defeat for Premier League QPR at home to Sheffield United. The third division club thus extended the cup exploits which have also taken them to the semi-finals of the League Cup.
Alan Pardew saw his new club, Crystal Palace, progress with a 4-0 win at non-league Dover a day after his old club, Newcastle, were knocked out 1-0 by Premier bottom club Leicester City.