Isak stars as Newcastle beat Sunderland in FA Cup while Chelsea, Villa win

Newcastle United’s Paraguayan midfielder #24 Miguel Almiron (L) tackles Sunderland’s English midfielder #07 Jobe Bellingham (R) during the English FA Cup third round football match between Sunderland and Newcastle United at The Stadium of Light in Sunderland in north east England on January 6, 2024. AFP

Newcastle ended their 13-year wait to beat bitter rivals Sunderland as Alexander Isak’s double inspired a 3-0 win in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.

Chelsea joined Newcastle in the last 32 with a 4-0 rout of second tier Preston while Aston Villa snatched a late 1-0 win at Middlesbrough.

In the first Tyne and Wear derby since 2016, Newcastle put Sunderland to the sword thanks to Dan Ballard’s first-half own goal and Isak’s brace after the break at the Stadium of Light.

Newcastle had lost six of their previous seven clashes with Sunderland, but their composed display neutered the fired-up Black Cats and delivered a first derby success since a 1-0 victory in 2011.

After four successive defeats in all competitions, Newcastle coach Eddie Howe hoped the derby would be a “season-changing” moment to salve the wounds from their Champions League exit and poor Premier League form.

Whether vanquishing second-tier opponents will prove transformative remains to be seen, but for now local pride was all that mattered to the 6,000 Newcastle fans who waved their black and white scarves in delight at the final whistle.

“We handled the occasion well, were brave with the ball and were very composed. We didn’t let the crowd take over,” Howe said.

“Today will have done us the world of good. It keeps us in an important competition and that brings hope.”

While the northeast rivalry might lack the glamour of the Manchester and north London derbies, there is no questioning the rivalry between clubs separated by just 14 miles.

Encapsulating the enmity was a bizarre incident this week when Sunderland were forced to apologise to furious fans after a stadium bar was redecorated with Newcastle colours in the corporate hospitality section of the visitors’ support.

Newcastle’s fans were taken to the stadium on buses in a huge police convoy, then given their tickets to the match, in a bid to avoid the violent scenes that have marred previous encounters.

Amid the sound and fury in the stands, Newcastle kept their nerve and snatched the lead in the 35th minute as Ballard diverted Joelinton’s cross into his own net.

Sunderland gifted Newcastle their second goal less than 60 seconds after the interval when Almiron robbed the dawdling Pierre Ekwah inside his own area and teed up Isak to fire home from 10 yards.

Ballard’s 90th minute foul on Anthony Gordon conceded a penalty that Isak converted to cap the exclamation point on Newcastle’s victory.

Chelsea goal spree

At Stamford Bridge, inconsistent Chelsea dismissed Preston with three goals in 11 second half minutes.

Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino has urged his players to use the FA Cup as a route into Europe given their dismal form in the Premier League.

Heeding that message, Armando Broja headed home to break Preston’s resistance in the 58th minute.

Thiago Silva nodded in the second from a corner and Raheem Sterling grabbed the third with a fine free-kick.

Enzo Fernandez tapped in to complete the rout in the 85th minute.

Aston Villa, just two points behind table-topping Liverpool, needed an 88th minute strike from Matty Cash to see off Championship side Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.

Cash’s shot took a wicked deflection off Middlesbrough’s Emmanuel Latte Lath to spare Villa an unwanted replay.

Non-league Maidstone United, the lowest ranked team left in the competition, clinched a surprise 1-0 win against Stevenage to reach the fourth round for the first time.

There is a 69-place gap between George Elkobi’s Kent-based club and third-tier Stevenage.

But in their first third round appearance since 1988, the National League South minnows made history as Sam Corne netted a penalty in first half stoppage-time before fans flooded the pitch in celebration at the final whistle.

Bournemouth came from two goals down at half-time to win 3-2 at second tier QPR via strikes from Marcus Tavernier, Kieffer Moore and Justin Kluivert.

Inspired by Joao Pedro’s double, Brighton won 4-2 at Championship outfit Stoke despite falling behind early on.

Sheffield United, bottom of the Premier League, cruised to a 4-0 victory at fourth tier Gillingham.

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