Football Features

Man City avoid cupset: 10 things you might have missed from today’s European action

By Harry Edwards

Published: 20:39, 23 January 2021

The football keeps coming this month and Saturday brought another day filled with action across Europe’s top leagues and the FA Cup.

But with so much going on, even with the ability to watch almost every game, it can be so easy to miss things.

That’s where we’ve come in, picking out 10 things you need to know about Saturday’s action.

FA Cup holders knocked out

Arsenal had won the FA Cup in four of the past seven seasons, not including 2020/21, making the competition their own and moving clear as the most successful club.

However, any hopes of the holders retaining the FA Cup were brought to an end by Southampton, and a Gabriel own goal. Despite Arsenal’s good record over the past seven years, the fourth-round exit was in fact the third time in the past four seasons that the Gunners have failed to get past this stage. In 2017/18, they were knocked out in the third round; 2017/18 they made it one further to the fourth; and, of course, they went all the way to win it last season.

Now Arteta’s attention can turn to securing a European spot through the league.

Barnstormer in Rome

Arguably the most exciting action of the day came in Rome as AS Roma hosted 15th-placed Spezia in Serie A’s early kick-off. But anybody expecting an easy game for the capital club was sorely mistaken – at the benefit of those watching.

After 55 minutes, Roma looked to have the game wrapped with thanks to goals from a Borja Mayoral brace and Rick Karsdorp, cancelling out Roberto Piccoli’s strike. But Diego Farias pulled one back for Spezia and, dramatically in the 90th minute, Daniele Verde equalised.

At that moment, Paulo Fonseca’s job must has flashed before his eyes amid speculation surrounding his future. But Lorenzo Pellegrini, who had reportedly fallen out with Fonseca, scored in the second minute of injury time to secure all three points and surely been his manager’s job safe for now.

2021 is En-Nesyri’s year

It was the Youssef En-Nesyri show in Seville as the 23-year-old continued his excellent start to 2021 and, his impressive 2020/21. En-Nesyri struggled in his first half-season at Sevilla but has truly put that behind him, now leading La Liga as top scorer.

He has now scored 12 goals in 19 games, 12 of which have been starts, including two hat-tricks, both of which have come in 2021 (also netting three against Real Sociedad at the start of January).

The Moroccan international has been linked with a move to West Ham this January window, and another three goals may have upped Sevilla’s asking price a bit more.

The Milans slip up

It was a big day for the Serie A title race as things got a little bit tighter at the top thanks to two massive results.

The first was Atalanta traveling to the San Siro to face leaders AC Milan and leaving with a 3-0 win. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side have been in excellent form of late, finally finding their feet, but nobody expected them to beat the league leaders the way they did – handing Milan just their second defeat of the season.

Atalanta’s win opened the opportunity for Inter to level on points with their Milanese rivals, but they were held to a goalless draw by Udinese in a game which also saw Antonio Conte sent off for dissent late on.

Andre Silva exceeds personal record

One former AC Milan man who would have been smiling today was Andre Silva, who continues to excel in the Bundesliga. The Portuguese forward went into Eintracht Frankfurt’s game against Arminia Bielefeld on 12 goals, already equalling his tally for the previous Bundesliga campaign after just 16 matches.

It took him just 25 minutes of Saturday’s game to beat that tally, opening the scoring for his 13th strike of the campaign. And he wasn’t done there, getting number 14 just eight minutes later, and moving him alongside Erling Haaland as the Bundesliga’s second-top goalscorer – or top excluding the non-human Borussia Dortmund striker and Robert Lewandowski.

Leverkusen falter again

What has happened to Bayer Leverkusen?

Peter Bosz’s side were excellent in their opening 12 games, winning nine and leading the Bundesliga. But then Bayern Munich came calling and started the free fall.

Including a dramatic 2-1 defeat to Bayern before the winter pause, Leverkusen have lost four of their past six games, only managing to get points in a draw against Werder Bremen and beating Borussia Dortmund in midweek. Wolfsburg were the latest team to beat third-placed Leverkusen, winning 1-0 on Saturday, moving level with Die Werkself albeit behind on goal difference.

Fireworks stop play as Man City avoid upset

The closest fans got to an FA Cup shock on Saturday came when Manchester City traveled to face League Two side Cheltenham Town. Despite naming a slightly rotated XI, Pep Guardiola was still able to start the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus, Aymeric Laporte and Ferran Torres, and an easy win was expecting.

But they went behind after an hour, with Alfie May scoring following a Cheltenham long throw. That wasn’t before the game was temporarily halted, however, due to fireworks behind set off in the first half.

Man City did recover late on, scoring three goals in the final 10 minutes to take their place in the fifth round and avoid a shock.

Mainz hand title initiative to Bayern

It was a successful day for Bayern without even kicking a ball as both of their closest title rivals lost. But for Leipzig the defeat was even more of a shock.

Julian Nagelsmann took his second-placed Leipzig to Mainz, who started the day only off bottom on goal difference, with just seven points from 17 games. And Leipzig took the lead through Tyler Adams’ first ever Bundesliga goal. But they were unable to hold the lead as Moussa Niakhate equalised, and levelled again after Marcel Halstenberg had put Leipzig back in front.

Then Leandro Barreiro got what turned out to be the winner, five minutes after half time, to leave RB Leipzig with just one win from their past four Bundesliga games.

Knockaert’s unique FA Cup hat-trick

Elsewhere in the FA Cup, Anthony Knockaert continued his good recent record in the competition, scoring in Nottingham Forest’s 5-1 defeat to Swansea City.

The Frenchman has now scored three goals in his past five FA Cup matches but, the most interesting part is that all three of those goals have come for different clubs. Maybe he’ll move again in the summer and make it four goals for four different clubs in the 2021/22 FA Cup.

Luka Jovic re-finds form in Germany

Luka Jovic’s struggles at Real Madrid were a sad sight for those who enjoyed watching the Serbian during his time at Eintracht Frankfurt, guiding them to the Europa League semi-finals alongside Sebastien Haller.

But he is now back at Eintracht, on loan from Madrid, and back amongst the goals. In 76 minutes for Eintracht, Jovic has scored three goals back in the Bundesliga, more than he managed in 569 La Liga minutes.