Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool were among the Premier League sides to book their spots in the FA Cup fourth round over the weekend.
The third-round games had a bit of everything, with non-league sides drawing plaudits, youngsters stealing the show and coronavirus outbreaks wreaking havoc on some teams’ preparations.
Liverpool kicked off the action on Friday with a victory over a spirited Aston Villa side with an average age below 19.
FA Cup holders Arsenal entered the fray on Saturday and battled to a hard-fought victory over Newcastle in extra time, before Manchester United overcame Watford later that evening.
Sunday saw convincing victories for Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham over lower-league and non-league clubs.
Here are 10 talking points from an entertaining weekend of FA Cup action.
1. Barry’s moment of magic
It’s been a remarkable couple of years for Aston Villa’s 17-year-old starlet Louie Barry.
The Birmingham native came through the ranks with West Brom before joining Barcelona in July 2019 to continue his development, but swiftly returned to the Midlands to join Aston Villa for £880,000.
Making his senior debut for the club against Liverpool, Barry started on the front foot and caused the makeshift centre-back pairing of Fabinho and Rhys Williams some early problems.
There were glimmers of promise from the youngster and Villa grew into the game as the first half wore on, but few expected what would come in the 41st minute.
Callum Miles Rowe split the two centre-backs with an incisive through-ball and Barry burst onto the ball, outpacing Rhys Williams and brushing the ball beyond Caoimhin Kelleher.
Barry is tipped to achieve great things, and although the Reds went on to win the tie 4-1, his goal against Liverpool is a moment he will always remember.
2. Arsenal’s in-form youngsters outshine old guard
Mikel Arteta has transformed Arsenal’s form since Christmas by turning to his motivated youngsters to address his misfiring attack.
Against Newcastle, however, Arteta reverted to a more experienced – and less effective – attack which included Willian and Nicolas Pepe.
Both players were guilty of of firing over or wide when in good shooting positions, and on the front foot Arsenal looked the disjointed muddle they were for swathes of the first half of the season.
Fully aware of his side’s shortcomings, Arteta didn’t even wait until the hour mark to bring on Emile Smith Rowe for Pepe, with Willian making way for Bukayo Saka soon after.
The introduction of Alexandre Lacazette helped tip the balance in extra time, but it was the youngsters who made the headlines as Smith Rowe fired the decisive extra-time goal, as the Gunners went on to win 2-0.
3. Van de Beek’s mixed night
“Sometimes it takes time. You don’t expect people who care for him to be quiet at times, especially when they want the best for them,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Donny van de Beek in the build-up to Manchester United’s clash with Watford.
Reports from the Netherlands have been highly critical of the former Ajax midfielder’s treatment since his summer switch.
Previously he was told to “pack his bags” if he wasn’t handed more chances. Against the Hornets he was handed a rare start, but it was another very mixed night for the £35million signing.
Van de Beek showed the kind of quality that everyone knows he have, with several clever touches and probing passes.
But it still feels Solskjaer doesn’t know his summer signing’s best position. Asked to play as one two holding midfielders, the Dutchman looked desperate to move forward, but was restricted by his role.
The harsh reality is at present, when using him in that position, United’s best midfield simply doesn’t include Van de Beek.
4. Mark Wright features in Crawley triumph
Mark Wright came off the bench for Crawley Town as they produced one of the upsets of the FA Cup third round by beating Premier League side Leeds United on Sunday.
The reality TV star was selected in the League Two side’s squad for the first time and helped them see out the final few minutes of their 3-0 victory.
Wright, 33, has recently re-signed for the Red Devils, 13 years after a first stint for the club. The TOWIE star’s return to the professional ranks is being documented by the BBC in a programme called “Mark Wright: The Last Chance”.
And his Crawley Town return could not have gone better, as they took control of the match courtesy of two quick-fire goals in the opening minutes of the second half, en route to an emphatic victory over Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
5. Werner back amongst the goals
It has been a hectic season so far – so make sure you don’t miss a single thing by signing up for the brilliant new Mirror Football newsletter!
All the latest transfer news and big stories will land straight into your inbox. You won’t miss out.
To sign up, put your email at the top of this article or follow the instructions on this link.
Chelsea went about things the hard way early on but got the job done against League Two Morecambe at Stamford Bridge.
For much of the first half it wasn’t pretty. Morecambe would actually have gone ahead had calamity keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga not scrambled to prevent a cross-shot from Adam Phillips from humiliating him.
It took an 18th-minute, right-footed sizzler from Mason Mount, from outside the box, to put Chelsea in front. Even then, Morecambe didn’t fold. It was not until a minute before the break that Timo Werner grabbed a first goal in 12 games to earn his side some breathing space.
The Blues improved four minutes into the second half. Callum Hudson-Odoi beat the offside trap to score the hosts’ third, before Kai Havertz ended his 15-game goal drought with five minutes remaining.
6. Spurs’ classy gesture at Marine
Spurs travelled to the non-league club – which competes in English football’s eighth tier – in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.
The visitors cruised to a resounding 5-0 victory thanks to Carlos Vinicius’s hat-trick and Lucas Moura’s strike in the first half, and a record-breaking goal by youngster Alfie Devine.
The fixture was played behind closed doors due to Covid-19 rules – though Marine’s virtual ticket sale raised a huge sum – and the Football Association has banned shirt-swapping at the final whistle.
But Spurs ensured they could complete the post-match formalities in a safe manner by providing Marine’s players with a full set of match shirts to mark the occasion.
The club made the announcement on its Twitter page, writing: “The players are unable to swap shirts after the game due to COVID protocols, so we’ve provided Marine with a whole set of fresh match shirts as a souvenir of today’s historic match.”
7. Burnley scrape through
Talk about last-gasp.
Matej Vydra was the hero for Burnley against MK Dons, coming off the bench to score a 94th-minute equaliser at Turf Moor, after the hosts trailed for over an hour following Cameron Jerome’s opener.
The Clarets’ goal had been coming, but the visitors were distraught to throw away their advantage late on as the game went to extra time.
Neither side could find a winner in the additional 30 minutes and, supposedly full of confidence, Vydra stepped up to take Burnley’s first penalty after Regan Poole converted for MK Dons.
Incredibly, the Czech striker saw his spot kick saved by Lee Nicholls, but it was Burnley’s debutant shot-stopper Will Norris who stole the show in the shootout.
Norris denied Lasse Sorensen then Ben Gladwin, before Phil Bardsley tucked into the bottom corner to steer Sean Dyche’s side through to the fourth round with a 4-3 penalties victory.
8. Chorley cap lucrative Derby upset with Adele recital
Non-League Chorley celebrated reaching the fourth round of the FA Cup by belting out Adele songs … and now they are rolling in the cash.
The National League North side saw off Derby County – forced to field youngsters due to a coronavirus outbreak – thanks to goals from Connor Hall and Mike Calveley to guarantee themselves a £500,000 pay day.
“For a team that was bottom of the National League after four games with zero points to be in the fourth round of the FA Cup is unreal,” said manager Jamie Vermiglio, a primary school head teacher.
“We’ve made around £250,000 before today, goodness knows what it will be now.
“It’ll certainly be £300,000 or £400,000 – we could possibly get to half a million now and for a club like us, not only does it save us, it enables us to grow.”
9. Man City cruise to victory
Are Manchester City your favourites to lift the FA Cup this season? Have your say in the comments.
Bernardo Silva scored two fantastic goals as Manchester City eased their way past Birmingham City at the Etihad.
It didn’t take long for Pep Guardiola’s men to expose the gulf in class between his Premier League contenders and the Championship club.
Silva hammered a volley into the top corner in the eighth minute to give the hosts the lead, before he added a second with 15 minutes played, finishing an incisive team move involving Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne.
Mahrez and Foden then combined to put City three up just after the half-hour mark, with the latter rifling into the bottom corner from outside the area.
The visitors managed just two shots on target as City coasted through to the fourth round in what was a statement of intent from Guardiola.
10. Eze in trouble
Crystal Palace star Eberechi Eze is facing a Football Association investigation into a potential breach of Covid rules.
Eze, 22, was spotted at Queens Park Rangers’ FA Cup tie at Fulham on Saturday with the Championship club insisting their former player was a guest of the club.
But despite reports that QPR had received FA permission, Mirror Sport can reveal no such permission was given for the player to attend and the FA will now be looking into the matter.
It could even have implications for QPR if they were shown to have claimed he had permission when he did not. QPR insist they did not claim that to be the case.
Eze was pictured in the stands for the west London derby – which Fulham won 2-0 after extra time – without a face mask chatting to pals.
Sign up to the Mirror Football email here for the latest news and transfer gossip.