Oxford United v Swansea City
Oxford United stormed into the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup with a fantastic 3-2 win over Premier League Swansea City at the Kassam Stadium this afternoon. A penalty from Liam Sercombe and two goals from Kemar Roofe sent the U's through in the tie of the round in a game which underlined the magic of this famous old competition.
The magnificent home fans turned the stadium yellow and blue before kick-off and unveiled a banner saying ’Rise Like The Spirit of 1986’. The modern day U’s did just that, setting a ferocious tempo from the very start and looking to play their usual brand of passing football, although Jefferson Montero had the first shot of the day with a powerful effort that would have added a punctuation mark if the banner was still up.
Jonjo Shelvey smashed a further couple of efforts into the same stand from long range but there was little to trouble Sam Slocombe in the first 15 minutes while one or two nice moves from the U’s had warned their Premier League opponents of the challenge they faced. On 17 minutes they almost took the lead when Roofe and Chris Maguire worked an opening and Ryan Taylor’s flicked header was dipping under the bar until Kristoffer Nordfeldt got a hand to it.
On-loan Maguire, given late permission to play by parent club Rotherham, was causing plenty of problems on the left wing, while Roofe was looking lively in a central role alongside Taylor. His 18th-minute effort forced Nordfeldt into another save and United were causing plenty of problems.
However, Swansea are a dangerous side on the counter and on 23 minutes they were in front when Montero drifted in from the left, exchanged passes with Marvin Emnes and flicked the ball past the exposed Slocombe for a clever finish to make it 1-0.
It was very harsh on the Yellows who came back strongly and were full value for their equaliser. Nordfeldt caught another Maguire shot on the half hour and Lundstram powered in a 25-yard effort that flew over the bar on 32.
Lundstram and Shelvey were exchanging passes like NFL quarterbacks, spraying their passes to all corners and pushing their teams forward, and Shelvey thumped a 35th-minute effort well over the top to match Lundstram’s earlier effort before curling a 37th-minute free kick into the side-netting.
The U’s were far from overawed though, and right on half time were deservedly level. The build-up was superb and in the end it was skipper Jake Wright who had the chance, driving in a left-footed effort which Nordfeldt flew to his left to save. MacDonald was on it in a flash and flew past Kyle Bartley who threw himself into a challenge to bring down the flying winger. Sercombe was calmness personified as he drove the penalty home to make it 1-1 at the interval. What a cup tie we had on our hands.
After earning parity United were nearly in front in just the second minute of the second half, when the marauding George Baldock powered past three men and cut the ball back but Maguire could only blast his effort over the bar.
Playing with huge belief and commitment, it didn't take long for the second to come though. Roofe has scored some spectacular efforts this season and as soon as he jinked in from the left and reached the edge of the box the whole Kassam Stadium held its breath as he set his sights. His aim was true, a powerful right-footed effort was on its way and Nordfeldt was picking the ball out of the far corner of his net. A great goal and a great cup tie.
Swansea were fighting for their lives and a couple of quick yellow cards confirmed their desperation. Slocombe needed to make a smart save to deny Jack Cork on 58 but from the resulting corner United romped to the far end and scored a peach of a goal to make it 3-1. Wright, magnificent all day, carried the ball from defence and set Maguire free on the left. He drew a defender and then timed his pass perfectly for Roofe to nick it past Liam Shephard and steam towards Nordfeldt's goal. The keeper did his best but the shot was too strong and, after an eternity, looped off the prone keeper and into the back of the net to spark wild celebrations in the capacity home crowd.
Swansea were never going to take it lying down and on 55 were back in the game when Befetembi Gomes made it 3-2 with another well-worked goal. Having threaded the ball through to Cork he continued his run to receive the return ball and finish past Slocombe, despite the hint of offside when he received the pass.
It was end-to-end FA Cup gold and Slocombe needed to make an important save from Montero on 74 to keep the U’s in front, with Mullins making at typically brave block soon after to help a goalbound effort over the top.
It was far from a siege, with sub Callum O'Dowda's earlier effort almost making it 4-2 as the Yellows refused to sit back and invite pressure. The closing minutes were just as exciting as those that had gone before, although five minutes of added time made it unbearably tense before the ovation at the final whistle.
An epic afternoon of football. Make no mistake, this was not a lower league side riding their luck for a win. This was a quality Oxford side sticking to their principles, playing good football and totally deserving to grab the national headlines.
The draw is on BBC 1's The One Show on Monday evening. Can't wait...
Spirit of 1986 indeed.
Fifty/50 431688 wins £1,777
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels and Darrell Fisher. Stats by OPTA
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