United, Spurs, Southampton and Chelsea advance to Wembley

The FA Cup quarter-finals threw up no real surprises, as each of the favourites went through to the semi-finals. Manchester United overcame Brighton at Old Trafford, while Spurs beat Swansea at Wembley. Southampton won their first game under new manager Mark Hughes by dispatching Wigan, and Chelsea needed extra-time to dispose of Leicester City.

United needed a win in order to raise spirits after the limp defeat to Sevilla which sent them tumbling out of the Champions League in midweek, and goals from Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic duly provided the goals in a 2-0 victory over Brighton. Jose Mourinho was not satisfied though, as he laid into his team’s perceived “lack of class and lack of desire” after the game. Paul Pogba was once again conspicuous by his absence, with Alexis Sanchez benched for the first time since his arrival, while Luke Shaw was withdrawn at half-time for tactical reasons. Tottenham strolled to a 3-0 win over Swansea, with Harry Kane’s injury-enforced absence not affecting their attacking fluency. Christian Eriksen scored a wonderful brace, with Erik Lamela getting the other goal, to ease into the FA Cup semi-final for the second year running. The scoreline could have been much wider, as Spurs had a staggering 24 attempts on the Swansea goal, and enjoyed 75% possession against an utterly passive Swansea team. VAR came into focus yet again, as a Son Heung-min goal was flagged offside, and after three or four minutes of inconclusive replays, the on-field decision was allowed to stand.

Southampton brought Wigan’s giant-killing run to a halt, and got themselves a Wembley semi-final appearance, courtesy of a 2-0 win over the Latics. Mark Hughes saw his new side score two goals and even miss a penalty in the second half, in a display which will give the Saints faithful some hope of getting the goals necessary to stave off relegation. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg put Southampton ahead with a scuffed finish just after an hour had been played, after which Manolo Gabbiadini saw his spot-kick saved by Christian Walton. Wigan did not do much to trouble Southampton after that, and Cedric Soares sealed the result in stoppage time when he slotted past Walton. The closest game of the round saw Leicester take Chelsea to extra-time at the King Power Stadium, but the London side eventually prevailed. Alvaro Morata scored for the first time this year, indeed for the first time in 13 games, to put Chelsea in front a little before half-time, although Leicester had been having the better of the game till then. The Foxes rallied in the second half, and after a couple of half-chances, finally equalised through Jamie Vardy, who scored a poacher’s effort following a goalmouth scramble, where his first effort was blocked, with the rebound from Vicente Iborra also blocked, the Spaniard’s follow-up to that saved brilliantly by Willy Caballero, only for his luck to run out as Vardy tapped into the net. Leicester ended the half strongly, but were left deflated when the substitute Pedro capitalized on Kasper Schmeichel’s mistake to head into an empty net and send the Blues on to Wembley.

The draw that took place after this game sees Manchester United play Tottenham, while Chelsea will face Southampton in the semi-finals. United did well to get past Brighton, and now face a difficult tie against a Spurs side in good form and with the benefit of playing the game in familiar surroundings; nevertheless, United will need to progress, as the FA Cup now represents their only hope of silverware in this campaign.