VAR (Video Assistant Referee), Vardy and Rochdale hit the headlines on FA Cup fifth-round weekend.
Here, FP looks at the main talking points of a thrilling weekend of cup football.
The lines literally became skewed as the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system came in for fresh criticism following Manchester United’s 2-0 win at Huddersfield. United’s Juan Mata had a goal disallowed for the narrowest of offsides after referee Kevin Friend consulted VAR official Neil Swarbrick back in studio. With Mata’s kneecap in an offside position, the decision was ultimately proved to be correct. But protocol appeared to be jettisoned with Swarbrick overturning a decision that was “not a clear and obvious error”. Add that to wobbly lines drawn on the pitch to show the TV viewer what the VAR official was looking at, as well as the amount of time it took to make a decision, the new system seems to be having some teething troubles.
Rochdale are Wembley-bound
Rochdale – bottom of League One – stunned Tottenham to draw 2-2 and force a Wembley replay. Steve Davies struck deep into stoppage time after Lucas Moura’s first goal in English football and a late penalty from substitute Harry Kane had overturned Ian Henderson’s first-half strike. Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino ultimately paid the price for making 11 changes from the side which had held Juventus in the Champions League in midweek. But the possibility of a stellar semi-final line-up still remains as Chelsea, Manchester City – who visit Wigan in the fifth round on Monday night – Manchester United and Tottenham were all kept apart in the last eight.
Spain is no place to prepare
West Brom manager Alan Pardew is under increasing pressure after a dreadful week (Nick Potts/PA)A week of crisis at West Brom, which saw allegations of four senior players stealing a taxi on a short club break to Barcelona, ended with a 2-1 home defeat to Southampton. The quartet – Jonny Evans, Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill – were out late after breaking a curfew. Boss Alan Pardew stripped Evans of the captaincy, but selected the Northern Ireland defender and Barry against the Saints. Earlier in the week Albion had sacked chairman John Williams and chief executive Martin Goodman – the men who appointed Pardew in November – and the manager’s own position could now be under scrutiny if bottom-placed West Brom do not beat Huddersfield on Saturday.
Foxes can flourish after Mahrez saga
Riyad Mahrez is back at Leicester and so are the smiles on Foxes’ faces. Mahrez returned to the starting line-up – and was back at the King Power Stadium – for the first time since downing tools after his proposed transfer to Manchester City fell through. The Algerian received warm applause as his name was announced before kick-off against Sheffield United, and a standing ovation when making way after setting up Jamie Vardy’s winner. Boss Claude Puel says the Mahrez saga is now over and, despite a tricky home quarter-final tie against Chelsea, the Foxes can go full tilt at grabbing FA Cup glory with no relegation worries to concern them.
Sheffield Wednesday fans show class
Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal probably did not know to laugh or cry when the FA Cup draw sent him back to Sheffield Wednesday just two months after leaving Hillsborough. In the end, Carvalhal admitted he almost cried – saying the warm welcome of Wednesday fans had made him the “most happy manager in the world”. It was the real highlight of the day as a dull 0-0 draw ensured Swansea’s third-successive replay in the competition. But at least Carvalhal had a trademark analogy for the occasion, saying: “It’s a bit like Police Academy. You have the first one, then Police Academy 2, then Police Academy 3.”