LONDON – Arsenal began its F.A. Cup defense with a 3-1 comeback victory against Sunderland and was joined in the fourth round by Manchester United and Manchester City on Saturday.
United labored past Sheffield United 1-0 at Old Trafford, and Manchester City emphatically defeated Norwich 3-0.
Also, Premier League side Aston Villa was held to a 1-1 draw at fourth-tier Wycombe, while fifth-tier Eastleigh drew 1-1 with second-division side Bolton.
It looked as if there could be a shock at Emirates Stadium, where Premier League leader Arsenal fell behind to a Jermaine Lens strike after 17 minutes.
But Joel Campbell equalized, then two goals in three second-half minutes from substitute Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud ensured Arsenal moved on to the next round.
“In the second half we took over,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “We played in their half, scored great goals, and created many chances.”
United overcame Sheffield with a penalty from Wayne Rooney with time virtually up, but its performance against third-tier opposition was another display lacking attacking intent.
When substitute Memphis Depay tried his luck with a low shot which went comfortably wide in the 66th minute, it was United’s first attempt at goal, and was greeted with sarcastic cheers by supporters.
Depay was felled in the box in the third minute of injury time by Dean Hammond, and Rooney scored from the spot.
United manager Louis van Gaal regarded the result as more important than the performance.
“You have to play more quickly than we did in the first half,” Van Gaal said. “They are defending with 10, 11 players behind the ball. It’s more easy to defend than attack.”
Zidane gets debut win
Zinedine Zidane’s head-coaching career got off to a winning start as Real Madrid defeated Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 in the Spanish League on Saturday.
Gareth Bale had a hat trick and Karim Benzema scored twice, including with a back-heel flick.
Zidane received a warm welcome at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, with fans loudly cheering the former galactico before and after the game. It was a completely different atmosphere compared to when Rafa Benitez was in charge. Benitez was jeered in nearly every game since a demoralizing 4-0 home loss to Barcelona in November, a result that ignited a crisis at the Spanish giant.
“The fans were behind the team from the first minute until the end. It was a great atmosphere,” Zidane said. “But we have to understand that this was only the first game, we have to keep winning. The goal is to keep playing well and keep winning games.”
Real Madrid moved to within two points of Barcelona, which earlier defeated Granada 4-0 with a hat trick by Lionel Messi and a goal by Neymar.
Third-place Atletico Madrid was one point behind Barcelona and can regain the lead when it plays at fifth-place Celta Vigo on Sunday.
Barcelona will have a game in hand after the 19th round this weekend.
Zidane, who thrived at Madrid until retiring in 2006, stepped up from Madrid’s B team when Benitez was fired this week after seven months on the job.
“It means a lot to me to be here,” Zidane said. “I want to enjoy this win.”
At the Nou Camp, Messi scored twice within the first 15 minutes and added his third in the second half. Neymar closed the scoring late.