LIVERPOOL: Jayden Danns of Liverpool shoots to score past Southampton goalkeeper Joe Lumley during their FA Cup fifth-round match at Anfield.—Reuters
LIVERPOOL: Jayden Danns of Liverpool shoots to score past Southampton goalkeeper Joe Lumley during their FA Cup fifth-round match at Anfield.—Reuters

LONDON: Manchester Uni­ted will host Liverpool in an FA Cup quarter-final blockbuster after the bitter rivals took contrasting routes to their fifth round victories on Wednesday.

United eased the pressure on beleaguered boss Erik ten Hag as they scraped through with a 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest thanks to Casemiro’s late goal.

Fresh from their League Cup final triumph against Chelsea on Sunday, Liverpool relied on their youngsters again in a 3-0 win against second tier Southampton at Anfield.

Chelsea bounced back from their painful 1-0 defeat to Liverpool at Wembley, snatching a 3-2 win against Champ­ionship promotion chasers Leeds United to book a last eight date with Leicester City.

After Liverpool’s ball boys paraded the League Cup around Anfield prior to kick-off, Jurgen Klopp’s kids gave another glimpse into a bright future as two of their young guns inspired the win.

With Liverpool ravaged by injuries to Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota and Alisson Becker among others, Lewis Koumas, the son of former Wales and West Brom midfielder Jason Koumas, marked his debut with the opening goal in the 44th minute.

The 18-year-old forward drilled a fierce low drive that deflected in off Southampton’s Jack Stephens.

Jayden Danns, another 18-year-old offspring of a former player — his father Neil starred for Crystal Palace — netted Liverpool’s second in the 73rd minute with a composed finish that belied his tender age.

James McConnell, 19, and Bobby Clark, 19, also impressed for Liverpool, who introduced 16-year-old Trey Nyoni to become their youngest ever FA Cup player in the second half.

Danns capped the victory in the 88th minute when he lashed home in front of The Kop.

“We don’t take these things for granted,” Klopp said of facing United. “The situation is horribly difficult. We have too many games and not enough players. They (the youngsters) have got to learn and improve, but it was a top performance.”

At the City Ground, United reached the FA Cup quarter-finals for a record 48th time.

Ten Hag insisted this week that he doesn’t need a public vote of confidence from Jim Ratcliffe after the British billionaire took charge of United’s football operations.

But United are languishing in sixth place in the Premier League, eight points adrift of the top four, after Saturday’s shock 2-1 home defeat against Fulham.

A loss to Forest would have been a major blow for Ten Hag after Ratcliffe was linked with a move for former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

The FA Cup represents United’s last silverware chance this term and, after missing a host of chances, they finally hit the target in the 89th minute when Bruno Fernandes’ free-kick was headed in by Casemiro.

“It’s the best time to score at the end. On Saturday we felt the defeat in stoppage-time. What they showed today is great,” Ten Hag said.

At Stamford Bridge, Mauricio Pochettino will have felt similar relief to Ten Hag.

With the pressure mounting in his troubled first season in charge, the Argentine was indebted to Conor Gallagher for a late winner.

It was the first FA Cup tie between Chelsea and Leeds since the Blues won the 1970 FA Cup final replay, a booking-filled clash regarded as one of the most vicious matches in English football history.

Mateo Joseph put Leeds ahead before Nicolas Jackson and Mykhailo Mudryk netted to give Chelsea the lead.

Joseph scored again but Gallagher won it in the 90th minute.

“In the context of the week, I’m happy. The performance wasn’t great but of course it’s about building our confidence again,” Pochettino said.

Elsewhere, Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 at Molineux, with Mario Lemina’s goal after just 77 seconds securing a home tie against second tier Coventry.

Holders Manchester City, who beat Luton 6-2 on Tuesday, will host Newcastle in the other quarter-final.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2024

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