LONDON (AFP) – Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and holders Arsenal reached the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday, while third-tier Sheffield United demonstrated their cup pedigree by eliminating Queens Park Rangers.
Arsenal progressed after winning 2-0 at home to Hull City in a repeat of last season’s final, which saw Arsene Wenger’s side end their nine-year trophy drought by coming from behind to win 3-2.
The reunion with Steve Bruce’s Hull was a less dramatic affair. Per Mertesacker headed Arsenal in front from Alexis Sanchez’s 20th-minute corner and Sanchez sealed victory with a precise shot eight minutes from time.
Premier League joint-leaders Manchester City were given a scare by second-tier Sheffield Wednesday before coming through 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium thanks to a 91st-minute winner from James Milner.
Wednesday had lost 7-0 at City in the League Cup in September, but they took a 14th-minute lead through Atdhe Nuhiu, only for Milner, on his 29th birthday, to equalise in the 66th minute before snatching a last-gasp winner.
City’s cross-town rivals Manchester United also recorded a hard-fought victory over lower-league opposition, winning 2-0 at third-division Yeovil Town.
United manager Louis van Gaal named a strong side featuring Wayne Rooney and Radamel Falcao for his first FA Cup tie, but had to wait until the 64th minute for Ander Herrera to put the visitors in front with a glorious, looping strike from 20 yards.
Yeovil continued to press, but United killed the game off in the last minute when Rooney freed substitute Angel di Maria to run through and chip home.
Chelsea enjoyed a rather more straightforward victory, winning 3-0 at home to second-division Watford courtesy of second-half strikes by Willian, Loic Remy and Kurt Zouma.
It could prove a positive omen for Jose Mourinho’s side, as Chelsea beat Watford en-route to glory in the competition in 1970, 2009 and 2010.
Sheffield United, who reached last season’s semi-finals and face Tottenham Hotspur in the last four of this season’s League Cup, won 3-0 at QPR via a Marc McNulty goal and a second-half brace from Jamal Campbell-Ryce.
QPR became the second top-flight team to be knocked out in the third round following Newcastle United’s 1-0 loss at Leicester City on Saturday.
Southampton were taken to a replay by Championship side Ipswich Town after a 1-1 draw at St Mary’s, while it took a powerful late effort by Christian Benteke for Aston Villa to overcome second-tier Blackpool 1-0.
Meanwhile, non-league Wrexham of the fifth-tier Football Conference came within 10 minutes of creating another piece of FA Cup history, only to lose 3-1 at top-flight Stoke City.
The Welsh side, who knocked out holders Arsenal in the third round in January 1992, went 1-0 up in the 73rd minute at the Britannia Stadium when Mark Carrington headed home a right-wing cross from Connor Jennings.
But with another famous upset beckoning, Marko Arnautovic stabbed home an equaliser in the 80th minute before Stephen Ireland claimed a late brace to send Mark Hughes’s side through.