Manchester United became the first club to earn an FA Cup semi-final spot on Saturday, as they beat Norwich City 2-1 after extra time at Carrow Road.
The first half was one of few chances, with neither side recording a single shot on target. Harry Maguire made a solid block to deny Lukas Rupp at one end, while Odion Ighalo could not get a shot on goal against a stubborn Norwich defence.
Finally, Manchester United found the breakthrough six minutes into the second half. A defensive mix up saw the ball fall kindly to Ighalo, who hooked his shot past Tim Krul to put United in front and make it five goals in his four starts for the Red Devils.
Norwich were unlucky not to snatch an equaliser, as Alexander Tettey’s header cannoned off his unfortunate teammate Aaron Godfrey. But the Canaries earned their just rewards not long after, when Todd Cantwell drove his shot hard into the bottom corner to level it up at Carrow Road.
There was a game-changing decision a minute from the end of normal time, when Timm Klose was shown a straight red card for a foul on Ighalo.
As the clock ticked towards the 118th minute, Manchester United snatched the win in dramatic fashion. Harry Maguire found his way to the ball through a forest of Norwich defenders, stabbing his shot home to settle the tie and send the Red Devils into the FA Cup semi-finals.
Key Talking Point
As their 1-0 loss to Everton marked a third straight league defeat, Norwich City were hoping that a return to FA Cup duty could be the start of their resurgence. And it looked like that could be the case as the Canaries were quite lively from the start and certainly showed they were up for it, with a few half-chances before a break.
Some underwhelming defending allowed the visitors to take the lead however, but instead of succumbing to this disappointment, conceding breathed new life into the Canaries, hungrier and more determined than ever. They were very encouraging in attack, and got a deserved equaliser through Cantwell’s excellent strike. But Klose’s dismissal was a huge blow for Norwich, as the hosts had to go into extra time with ten men on the pitch.
Norwich handled the final 30 minutes with one less player in impressive fashion, defending perhaps better than they have all season. Krul was key to their resilience at the back, while the backline were immense in resisting the visitors’ pressure despite being one man down. With just two minutes left before penalties, they broke down and conceded the costly winner.
Although Norwich could not make it to Wembley, they put in a valiant effort and should be proud of their run to the quarter-finals. Focus now returns to the fight for Premier League survival, but if Daniel Farke’s side put in more hard-fought performances like this, they will have at least give themselves a glimmer of hope of avoiding relegation.
Starting XI: Krul (7); Aarons (7), Godfrey (6), Klose (5), Lewis (6); Tettey (7), McLean (6); Rupp (6), Buendía (6), Cantwell (7*); Pukki (5).
Substitutes: Hernández (6), Drmić (6), Trybull (5), Duda (5).
Norwich could boast a handful of great individual performances on Saturday. Krul was extremely busy in goal with a number of crucial and outstanding saves, Max Aarons was solid in defence and Tettey led by example as captain for the afternoon.
But it was Todd Cantwell who shone brightest. His driving runs and excellent dribbling was cause for concern for the visitors, and his wonderful strike dragged Norwich back into the tie and capped off a brilliant match for the 22-year-old.
Key Talking Point
Manchester United were looking to make it to Wembley for the third time in five years, coming to Carrow Road off the back of an impressive 3-0 win over Sheffield United. However, they were rather flat in the first-half, rarely pushing into the final third with any semblance of intent.
Something needed to change after the break, and it was some genius play from Ighalo which saw him find the back of the net. It was their first real chance of the game and they capitalised, but. they fell into the trap of attempting to defend their lead soon after. Before they knew it, they were pegged back and the tie was all level once again, waking the Red Devils up and in turn revitalising them for the final stretch of the match.
United looked much better in extra time, playing the man advantage into favour in a resurgent half hour. They had a flurry of massive chances to win the game, and would have done so with ease were it not for the heroics of Dutch goalkeeper Krul. They had to dig extremely deep, and after 35 attempts on goal they finally got their goal through captain Maguire.
It was a truly hard-fought win for Manchester United, and a deserved one in the end.
Starting XI: Romero (6); Dalot (6), Bailly (6), Maguire (7), Shaw (6); McTominay (6), Fred (7); Mata (6), Fernandes (7*), Lingard (6); Ighalo (7).
Substitutes: Rashford (6), Greenwood (6), Williams (5), Pogba (6), Matić (6), Martial (6).
Fernandes put in yet another solid performance in midfield, with the Portuguese international being the starting point of every attack. He demonstrated his range of passing throughout the game, and although he lost possession a concerning number of times, his impact for the Red Devils was vital.
Both sides are back in Premier League action midweek. Norwich go to London to play Arsenal next Wednesday, before returning to Carrow Road in a huge relegation clash with Brighton in an early kick-off on 4 July.
Manchester United are on the south coast next Tuesday, as they face Brighton at the AMEX Stadium. The Red Devils continue their pursuit of Champions League football back at Old Trafford, as they host Bournemouth at the Theatre of Dreams on 4 July.