FA Cup Team of the Week
Kicking off Soccernet's FA Cup Team of the Week is Tim Howard. Howard has been one of the Premier League's most consistent performers since joining Everton, but the American has an innate ability to raise the bar even higher for the big games. Seemingly impossible to beat at times, he was in that kind of mood against Chelsea. Florent Malouda, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard all experienced this as Howard kept Everton in the game on numerous occasions - not to mention having the presence of mind to make a crucial save from Nicolas Anelka in the shootout.
One of the first names on this weekend's team of the week is another Toffee, Everton left-back Leighton Baines. Baines was tremendous throughout against Chelsea and his burgeoning reputation is fully justified. Since joining Everton, Baines has become the complete full-back, adding solidity and good positioning to his repertoire. But it was Baines' party-piece - his 25 yard free kick - that had Peter Cech stranded, forcing a penalty shootout and, ultimately, a memorable win. We won't mention that he missed his spot kick…
Some had Manchester United vs Crawley Town down as a possible 10-0. Only in the FA Cup can millionaires face milkmen, but fully professional Crawley equipped themselves tremendously well and, in the end, were the width of a crossbar away from forcing a replay. But Crawley's plucky display would not have been possible without the towering performance of centre-back Pablo Mills. Mills reduced Javier Hernandez to scraps and kept an eye on every high ball, low cross and deft move United attempted to catch him out with. A brilliant display.
Wes Brown doesn't have too many opportunities to impress in the United defence these days given that he has two of the world's best defenders ahead of him. But United's captain on Saturday was at his commanding best against a plucky Crawley side, who hadn't travelled to Old Trafford to make up the numbers. Brown's ability to fit seamlessly back into the side after a long run without games is commendable, and bodes well for a title and various cup run-ins.
Whereas Notts County travelled to Eastlands with a positive game plan, and went home on the end of a hiding, Leyton Orient's courageous draw with Arsenal was built on nothing but defensive obstinacy. And central to their rearguard display was Ben Chorley. Against a Gunners forward-line of Marouane Chamakh, Nicklas Bendtner and Andrei Arshavin, Chorley hassled, harassed and harried for everything, forcing Arsene Wenger's side to look for other ways through.
Alexander Hleb may have only been on the pitch for 26 minutes, but he was instrumental in Birmingham's 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday, creating goals for Jean Beausejour and then Obafemi Martins as Birmingham romped into an early lead. It was no coincidence that after the former Arsenal player was stretchered off, Birmingham lost that touch of quality in the attacking third. The Belarusian's injury could prove to be costly if he fails to recover in time to face his former club in the Carling Cup final at Wembley next weekend.
Like Wes Brown at Manchester United, opportunities for Patrick Vieira are scarce at City - but the veteran took his opportunity with both hands, scoring twice with his head in City's 5-0 rout of Notts County. Vieira was comfortable in midfield throughout and proved that while a good shift against League One opposition won't be enough to make him the first name on the team-sheet, it is a reminder that the 34-year-old Vieira still has something to offer.
Everton boast a squad of big game players and Phil Neville, as underrated as he remains, is no different. Neville has played in FA Cup finals for both Everton and Manchester United and all of his nous and knowhow was on display against Chelsea. He bossed central midfield for long periods, so much so that the ineffective John Obi-Mikel was substituted at half time. Neville completed an accomplished display by stroking home his penalty in the shootout.
In a first half that saw Manchester City outplayed by Notts County for extended periods, David Silva was the only City player who looked capable of unlocking a stubborn County back-line. While Balotelli drifted in and out of the game and Dzeko was forced deep, Silva's exploitation space and quality on the ball meant that City always had options to score. He may not get on the score-sheet every week, but he is becoming increasingly indispensable to Roberto Mancini.
Ivan Klasnic is proving to be a real cup hero for Bolton, having now scored the winning goal in Bolton's last two wins - over Wigan and now Fulham. Klasnic could have had two or three goals to his name if not for the smart saves by Mark Schwarzer, as the Croatian threatened to run riot. "Ivan is a natural goalscorer," said Bolton boss Owen Coyle. "There is still more to come from him."
Leyton Orient knew that to get anything out of a game against the conquerors of Barcelona, they may, at some stage, require a moment of inspiration. It turned out that Orient substitute, Jonathan Tehoue, was the man with the magic. Tehoue, an attacking powerhouse, exploited a gap between Kieran Gibbs and the flagging Ignasi Miquel, before firing a hard low drive under Almunia. A brilliant finish at the perfect moment.
Russell Slade, one of the most respected managers in the Football League, pulled off the result of the weekend, guiding Leyton Orient to a memorable draw with Arsenal. Much of Orient's play was far from pretty - but like Bolton and Blackburn have proved in the past - Arsenal's feathers are there to be ruffled. Slade's 63rd minute substitution - Jonathan Tehoue for Scott McGleish - proved to be inspired as Tehoue blasted home the equaliser just two minutes from the end.