Five-star Erling Haaland fires Man City through as Newcastle win on penalties

By Sports Desk February 27, 2024

Erling Haaland plundered five goals as holders Manchester City powered into the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 6-2 victory at Luton.

The Norwegian notched a first-half hat-trick at Kenilworth Road to put City 3-0 up, with Kevin De Bruyne providing the assist for each of the goals.

After Luton replied with efforts from Jordan Clark just prior to and just after the interval, Haaland notched his fourth – De Bruyne again registering an assist – and then a fifth, before Mateo Kovacic completed the rout.

Championship leaders Leicester pulled off a 1-0 win at Bournemouth thanks to an extra-time effort from substitute Abdul Fatawu.

Fatawu sent a fine shot past Cherries goalkeeper Mark Travers in the final minute of the first half of the additional period.

Newcastle are also through after getting past Blackburn 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes at Ewood Park.

The contest went to spot-kicks after Sammie Szmodics’ 79th-minute equaliser for the Championship hosts cancelled out Anthony Gordon’s effort eight minutes earlier.

In the shootout Martin Dubravka made saves to deny Szmodics and Dominic Hyam as the Magpies prevailed.

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    Ange Postecoglou feels Newcastle should serve as a cautionary tale for Tottenham about what can happen if a club do not have the squad depth to cope with Champions League football.

    Spurs travel to St James’ Park on Saturday in pole position to return to Europe’s elite competition after they moved ahead of Aston Villa in the race for fourth last weekend.

    It was a different story last season, with Newcastle able to clinch Champions League qualification and they finished 11 points ahead of Tottenham, but it has failed to translate into a period of dominance for Eddie Howe’s Saudi-backed club.

    The challenge of competing on four fronts has contributed towards injuries decimating the eighth-placed Magpies, which has often led to Postecoglou citing them as an example over why a top-four finish should not be seen as a guarantee for progression in the long run.

    Postecoglou reflected: “Certainly there is a cautionary tale there that getting into Champions League also means greater demands.

    “Demands on players, demands on the squad and you have to be geared up for it or else it can affect all parts of your season.

    “It has been tough on Newcastle this year because the progress last year was fantastic, the reward for that was Champions League and this year for whatever reason it has made it a really challenging season on all fronts for them.”

    This is Tottenham’s first return to St James’ Park since last season’s 6-1 hammering, which proved to be the nadir of a sorry campaign.

    Postecoglou did not feel any need to watch that fixture back but he did reflect on the importance of the 4-1 victory over Newcastle in December.

    Spurs entered that match with a lengthy list of absentees and after they had lost four of their past five matches.

    “I think it was important in context of the results,” Postecoglou acknowledged.

    “You don’t want to go through too long a spell where you’re not picking up wins because obviously that affects the course of your season.

    “I thought our performances prior to that were still pretty strong, we obviously weren’t getting over the line for one reason or another.

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    “From the results point of view it was important, but from a performance point of view no more so than any other game.”

    Spurs will remain without Richarlison (knee) for the lunchtime kick-off, but the Brazil forward is expected to be fit for the derby meeting with Arsenal later this month.

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    Pep Guardiola has said he will rest Rodri if the Spain midfielder asks to sit out Saturday’s Premier League match against Luton.

    Following Tuesday’s 3-3 Champions League draw with Real Madrid, Rodri’s 41st appearance of the season, the 27-year-old said he was tired and that a rest was “something we are planning”.

    Rodri is arguably the most difficult player for Guardiola to replace in his squad, and City lost all four of the domestic games he missed through suspension earlier this season. They have not lost any of the last 66 games in which Rodri played.

    “I didn’t speak with him but if he needs a rest he will have rest,” Guardiola said on Friday. “Or no. I don’t know.

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    If City beat Real in next Wednesday’s second leg of their Champions League quarter-final, they will not have a free midweek for the rest of the campaign, and Guardiola acknowledged it is increasingly difficult to manage player fitness during such an intense schedule.

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    Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Josko Gvardiol got City’s goals in Madrid, with Erling Haaland having scored only one in his last five for City – although he has 30 goals for the season so far.

    Haaland may have scored 82 goals in 90 appearances since joining City at the start of last season, but Jamie Carragher this week said he was a luxury player who is not yet at a world-class level.

    Guardiola has defended the 23-year-old striker against criticism but said there was still much he could do to improve his game.

    “He’s a young player,” Guardiola said. “He has some departments where he has to improve, like a 33-year-old player has margins to improve too. But it’s more about the team than him. We scored three goals (in Madrid). They had two central defenders close to him and it’s not easy.

    “It’s the most difficult position on the pitch. Two against one. They were so tight and are really good defenders…

    “He has to play more minutes, learn what you have to do. The target is not to win the Ballon d’Or, it’s the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, and he did it.

    “Without him what we won last season, five titles, it wouldn’t be possible, no chance.”

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