Fantastic five: Top FA Cup performers from thrilling fourth round
Holly Thackeray | January 31, 2016
The FA Cup fourth round did not disappoint, with an abundance of goals and deserved replays forced, as teams across the country took to the field in English football’s most cherished cup competition.
As the perfect stage for new and old protagonists alike to emerge, Coral duly dish out the praise, with our top five performers from what has been a brilliant fourth round of battles…
There was a match ball in store for Manchester City’s striking starlet Iheanacho, who proved a hat-trick hero against error-laden Aston Villa, but in truth he could have hitched his tally even higher.
A fox-in-the-box follow-up, ice-cold conversion of a spot-kick which oozed confidence and a clinical finish to complete his terrific trio of goals, saw the Nigerian teenager catapulted to new heights with the FA Cup his true unveiling as a top-draw talent.
Exciting Iheanacho clearly has shades of Anthony Martial-style composure about him and now has an excellent eight in 16 outings for the Sky Blues (6/1 with Coral to lift the FA Cup). Though the youngster was not getting carried away, as he told eager press: “I won’t be kicking Sergio Aguero out of the team just yet!”
Manager Manuel Pellegrini was a little more forthcoming about his promising poacher, however, stating: “I’m very happy. Kelechi is a very good young player. We let Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko go because I see Kelechi every day and know what he can do.” High praise indeed.
Meanwhile, for the red half of Manchester, oft-forgotten man and first David Moyes signing Varela really pushed his credentials at right back versus Derby County.
The Manchester United defender defined just how tight the margins are in football, as he was thrown back into the first-team fray amid rumours he was to be offloaded to Serie A side Genoa on loan.
Instead, Varela’s forays from full back gave the Red Devils an edge, and the 22-year-old stood out at Pride Park for his willingness to risk runs and a couple of cracking crosses.
For a United team often starved of adventure, the Uruguayan (thrown into the deep end on more than one occasion this season) really staked a claim to start again versus Stoke City, and was no slouch defensively either, as he topped the stats for interceptions. One to watch.
A rarely seen species this season, one of last campaign’s breakout stars Berahino bagged a brilliant brace to remind indecisive suitors of his undoubted ability in front of net.
A dangerous double from the Burundi-born frontman almost sank plucky League One side Peterborough United, but the underdogs fought back to earn a replay. Still, this did not tarnish the West Bromwich Albion attacker’s intuitive and effective outing, which included a tremendous 25-yard strike.
Coach Tony Pulis had stated that Berahino’s transfer request “wasted three or four months of his career”, but the striker certainly responded to show the likes of Spurs and Newcastle United that he is still worth pursuing.
“His sharpness is nowhere near what it was last year and you can see that as much as I can,” Pulis told press.
“Not playing football certainly knocks your fitness and sharpness but one thing you certainly can’t take away from the kid is calmness in front of goal. He has that wonderful, wonderful ability to put the ball in the back of the net.” Will he stay or will he go?
The race for Euro 2016 spaces in the star-studded, attack-packed Belgium squad is on, and wideman Chadli has been pushing hard since a return from a long injury lay-off and came out all-barrels-blazing for Tottenham against Colchester United.
Unluckily, the Essex outfit lost two defenders after an early collision, and Chadli duly pounced, providing a brace and an assist as Spurs eased to a 4-1 win.
Wing whizz Chadli was the undoubted star, striking lethally for the opener, also hitting the crossbar before capping his potent performance with a header and providing an incisive assist for Tom Carroll’s 78th minute volley.
A weapon in the London club’s race for a top four spot, and on target for the third game in a row, manager Mauricio Pochettino was quick to offer praise of Chadli, saying: “I’m very pleased with him.”
“After his injury it was difficult to find his level but this was the kind of performance from before. Yes, he hit the crossbar, but I’m very pleased and maybe he was keeping some goals for the next game.”
Hat-tricks were the theme of the weekend, as Chuba Akpom also put three past Bury for Hull City, but Oscar gets the nod here for being the catalyst to Chelsea’s emphatic 5-1 thrashing of MK Dons.
Some were expecting Dons to disrupt the Blues, but their Brazilian box-to-box midfielder dominated the stage, bamboozling opposition defenders with three first-half goals. The Samba schemer stretched to squeeze in the first, before lashing in two longer range fine finishes to boost the Stamford Bridge side.