It was one of the FA Cup’s biggest shocks of recent times – and it came in the most dramatic fashion as Aston Villa became the latest Premier League side to pull out over a weekend. “magical” end of third round.
A record number of Premier League clubs, since the league’s inception in 1992, are now guaranteed an early exit from this season’s competition.
Eight Premier League clubs have already been knocked out of this year’s third round and another top-flight elimination is certain when Liverpool and Wolves meet for their replay.
This ensures the highest number of Premier League sides withdraw at the first hurdle since 2007-08 – the only other season to feature up to nine teams since 1992.
The 2007-08 season was also, incidentally, the last in which a team from outside the Premier League reached the FA Cup final.
League leaders Arsenal are hoping to avoid a similar fate at Villa when they make it to League 1 side Oxford United Monday night, as Leeds United face a replay against Cardiff City of the Championship.
‘It’s what dreams are made of’ – ‘big-hearted’ Stevenage stuns Villa
Villa manager Unai Emery, a four-time Europa League winner, made it clear this week that he is preparing his players with the aim of winning the competition.
But in a remarkable conclusion to Sunday’s encounter, which confirmed that the FA Cup’s propensity to surprise remains alive and well, it was Stevenage boss Steve Evans and his team who found themselves celebrating with their supporters. traveling amid full-time happy scenes.
“It’s magic for the players, the chairman and for the town of Stevenage,” said Evans.
“To see over 3,000 fans here and win like we did is the FA Cup and what dreams are made of,” he added.
“The plan all week was to make sure we were in the game at 75 minutes. If we were, I knew we had an incredibly fit group and I could use the guys who have hearts the size of of Big Ben.”
While Villa’s recent form in the FA Cup has been abysmal, losing each of its last eight games in the competition, Emery has named experienced players such as Danny Ings and Philippe Coutinho in his starting line-up.
And while he wasn’t alone, a frustrated Coutinho left after 65 minutes after netting a shot on target despite five game-leading attempts – and Stevenage’s official Twitter account couldn’t resist a dig at farewell.
There’s no shortage of upheavals – but which surprised you the most?
Stevenage’s memorable upset against a club ranked 59 league places above them capped off a brilliant weekend of FA Cup third round drama.
They are the first fourth-tier side to beat a Premier League side in an FA Cup away tie for four years, when Oldham knocked out Fulham.
On Saturday, Premier League sides Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth and Newcastle United also fell to lower league opposition.
Second-tier strugglers Blackpool recorded an emphatic 4-1 win over Forest and Championship leaders Burnley prevailed 4-2 against Bournemouth, while Premier League third-placed Newcastle lost 2-1 at the Premier League club. League 1 Sheffield Wednesday.
A far cry from Premier League losers, non-league Wrexham also claimed the biggest shock of the round.
The National League club, owned by Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, beat a seven-goal thriller against Championship side Coventry to reach the fourth round for the first time since 2000.
There are plenty to choose from, but which result surprised you the most? Have your say below.