LONDON (AFP) – Holders Arsenal won through to the FA Cup last 16 with a hard-fought 3-2 victory at Brighton on Sunday as West Ham and Aston Villa
also avoided the embarrassment of becoming the latest Premier League clubs to be knocked out by lower league opposition.
English football was still reeling from a sensational Saturday that saw Premier League leaders Chelsea beaten 4-2 by third-tier Bradford City at Stamford Bridge, while Manchester City lost 2-0 at home to Championship high-flyers Middlesbrough.
However, after West Ham won 1-0 away to third-tier Bristol City thanks to Diafra Sakho’s header nine minutes from time and Aston Villa beat Championship leaders Bournemouth 2-1, Arsenal completed a Premier League sweep of Sunday’s Cup ties.
It took Arsenal, the joint-record 11-times FA Cup winners, fewer than 90 seconds to open the scoring away to Championship club Brighton when Theo Walcott, played in by Calum Chambers, struck from 12 yards out.
Arsenal were cruising at 2-0 in the 24th minute when when Germany World Cup-winner Mesut Ozil scored just his second goal of the season.
South coast side Brighton gave themselves a 50th-minute lifeline when Chris O’Grady held off Mathieu Flamini and shot low into the bottom corner.
Nevertheless, Tomas Rosicky restored Arsenal’s two-goal lead at the Amex Stadium in fine style with a 59th-minute volley that was too hot for Brighton goalkeeper David Stockdale to handle.
But the Seagulls set up a grandstand finish when Sam Baldock expertly chipped the ball over Gunners keeper Wojciech Szczesny 15 minutes from time.
“We were still in control at 3-1, but at 3-2 of course then they had more belief,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told beIN Sports. “It shows you how difficult it is psychologically in the cups.
“(The results yesterday were) a huge surprise. You check twice to see if it is true or not because you don’t believe it but that is the cup and why people love football, it is only in our sport that lower division teams can beat those of the higher divisions.”
Brighton manager Chris Hughton was proud of the way his side recovered after their dreadful start.
“We gave ourselves a mountain to climb and then all you can ask for is a reaction,” Hughton told the BBC.
“You can’t afford to start like that against the quality Arsenal have but we showed great spirit.”
Meanwhile second-half goals from Carles Gil and Andreas Weimann saw Villa into the last 16.
Spanish winger Gil put the hosts ahead in the 53rd minute at Villa Park with a stunning first goal in English football.
He received the ball out wide on the right, cut inside the full-back and lofted the curling effort into the top corner from at least 25 yards out before Weimann rounded off a neat move to score the Birmingham club’s second 19 minutes from time.
Callum Wilson pulled a goal back for Bournemouth in the 90th minute but it was all too late for the Cherries.
“After seeing yesterday’s (Saturday’s) results, we had nothing to gain,” said Villa manager Paul Lambert.
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe defended his decision to make eight changes by saying: “We were hampered by injuries but I have no qualms playing those I did today.”
With Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton — defeated 3-2 by top-flight rivals Crystal Palace on Saturday — all beaten, none of the Premier League’s top three remained in the FA Cup.