Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers booked their place in the Emirates FA Cup fourth round on Friday night, as they both overcame Premier League opposition to progress in the competition.
Jurgen Klopp’s side overcame a youthful Aston Villa team at Villa Park, with Sadio Mane among the scorers in a 4-1 victory for the Premier League champions, while Nuno Espirito Santo’s side overcame Crystal Palace 1-0 at Molineux.
Adama Traore scored the only goal of the game for the home side with a thunderbolt ten minutes before half-time, as the Eagles exit the competition at the first hurdle for the second successive year.
After a number of first team players were deemed unavailable for the tie, Dean Smith was forced into playing a number of young guns for the clash with the Reds, with the Villans fielding a side with an average age of 18 years and 294 days.
And the visitors took full advantage of their hosts’ lack of experience in the early minutes in the Midlands, as Mane latched onto a Curtis Jones cross to head Liverpool ahead within the opening five minutes to score his first ever Emirates FA Cup goal.
Villa’s 19-year-old goal keeper Akos Onodi was a busy man in the first-half as he tried to keep his side in touch, with the Hungarian having to make a smart save from Mohamed Salah on the half-hour mark.
And his efforts were well-rewarded five minutes before the break, as Louie Barry broke free of the visiting defence to slot past Caoimhín Kelleher and level the scores heading into halftime.
But a five minute period just after the hour mark swung the tie in Liverpool’s favour, as Gini Wijnaldum, Mane and Salah all found the net to put the game to bed and seal the Reds’ progression into round four.
At Molineux, it always looked as if it was going to take a bit of magic to separate these two sides, and that was exactly what we got as Traore took centre stage.
The tricky winger gave his side the advantage in the first-half against Palace, as he cut in from the right-hand side, before unleashing an unstoppable drive from the edge of the penalty area that left Jack Butland with no chance in the Eagles’ goal.
Pedro Neto had a great opportunity to double the advantage in the second-half, but the 20-year-old’s strike just went wide of the post.
And try as Palace might, they couldn’t breakdown Wolves’ backline on Friday night, as Roy Hodgson’s side faced an early elimination from the competition.