The Good, The Bad & The Ugly EFL

With Christmas and New Year’s celebrations out of the way, football took centre stage. As it was time for the eagerly anticipated FA Cup third round weekend.

With both Premier League and EFL Championship clubs entering the fray, there was an opportunity for big upsets to be caused.

However, there was also a chance for some incredibly one-sided matches, as well as some other surprises along the way, in this week’s good, bad and ugly from the FA Cup weekend.

Good: Super Sunday throws up some shocks

The bulk of the FA Cup matches were on Saturday, with the biggest shock being Gillingham’s win over Cardiff City. Therefore, going into Sunday, we were hoping that it would deliver us with some even bigger surprises. And so it did, with three spectacular shocks.

The first of which came at Craven Cottage, where after a quiet first half, Fulham took the lead against League Two Oldham Athletic through Denis Odoi. A goal that would have eased any initial nerves of an upset for the home fans.

However, the Latics didn’t give up and levelled through Sam Surridge’s spot-kick 14 minutes from time. The hosts were then awarded a penalty of their own, with substitute Aleksander Mitrovic seeing his effort saved.

This opened the door for a frantic finish, with Oldham forward Callum Lang heading in an 88th-minute winner to send the travelling support into raptures.

Elsewhere, there was another away day upset. This time at Bramall Lane. As non-league Barnet were able to overcome Championship Sheffield United, thanks to a first-half penalty from Shaquile Coulthirst. With the Bees holding on in the second half to claim the famous win.

But the best was saved for last as League Two Newport hosted 2016 Premier League Champions Leicester City. With the home side’s hopes of an upset being boosted in the 10th minute, when Jamille Matt headed them in front.

The Exiles held out until eight minutes from time, when Rachid Ghezzal fired in the equaliser. However, they responded almost immediately, as they won a penalty, allowing Padraig Amond to coolly slot home the winner. Showing that the magic of the cup still exists for those daring to dream.

Bad: VAR takes centre stage

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology was used for the FA Cup weekend, as it’s slowly implemented into English football.

It is a system that has caused multiple debates since its introduction, with many arguing about both the speed and accuracy of the decision making. And it once again caused some talking points in certain games this weekend.

The most controversial incident was at Turf Moor, where Burnley were awarded a 20th minute penalty in their match against League One Barnsley.

Matej Vydra had gone down in the box, and was stepping up himself to take the spot kick. However, referee Simon Hooper stopped Vydra mid run-up to signal that VAR had spotted Vokes in an offside position.

The striker was adjudged to have been interfering with play, so therefore the initial decision was overturned. The incident took several minutes to clarify, somewhat killing the pace of the game, and as many argue, makes it feel less real.

The Clarets did ultimately come out on top, with Vokes scoring a 92nd minute penalty that wasn’t overturned. And despite being annoyed at the time, Burnley boss Sean Dyche was positive towards the use of the technology.

He said: “I’m a big advocate of VAR but the referee needs to hold the ball. I know they want to be right, but they do need to speed it up and those things will get ironed out.”

Ugly: Big boys show no mercy

When the FA Cup draw is made, and big teams are pitted against smaller teams, we look forward to potential upsets. However, on the other side of the coin, it opens the door for humiliating scorelines, which is exactly what happened.

We were shown the gulf in class between the top flight and lower leagues as early as the Friday night game. As title-chasing Tottenham Hotspur travelled to League Two Tranmere Rovers, in what was initially marketed as a possible banana skin.

What unfolded at Prenton Park, however, was somewhat of a massacre. The score was only 1-0 to Spurs at half-time, with the home side still believing that they were within a shout. But the Premier League side turned on the style in the second half.

A hat-trick from Fernando Llorente, along with a second for Serge Aurier and goals from Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane, saw Spurs cruise to victory. Leaving Tranmere fans to wonder what had just hit them.

Not to be outdone by their title rivals, Manchester City decided to name a strong side when they hosted Championship side Rotherham on Sunday. And they did indeed show their dominance, matching Friday’s scoreline with a scintillating performance.

There were seven different goalscorers, with 18-year-old Phil Foden getting his first goal at the Etihad, late in the first-half. Showing that, like Spurs, they would be taking England’s biggest cup competition seriously.