LONDON – Arsenal’s bid for a third straight F.A. Cup title was delayed by a frustrating 0-0 draw against Hull in the fifth round on Saturday, forcing the teams into yet another meeting in the competition and reigniting the debate over replays.
West Bromwich Albion exited in disgrace, though, losing 3-1 at second-tier Reading before its captain, Chris Brunt, was struck near his eye by a coin thrown by one of his team’s own supporters after the game.
“I was absolutely disgusted and ashamed,” Brunt, sporting a cut under his left eye, said of the incident.
Premier League teams Everton and Watford also advanced to the quarterfinals.
Fielding a weakened team ahead of a Champions League last-16 match against Barcelona on Tuesday, Arsenal created a slew of chances against second-tier Hull but was denied by a mixture of poor finishing and good goalkeeping from Eldin Jakupovic. Arsenal had 24 shots and Jakupovic saved 11 of them, including a tip onto the post from Joel Campbell’s shot.
It’s the third straight year Arsenal and Hull have met in the F.A. Cup. Arsenal won in the final in 2014 and in the third round last season on its way to winning the trophy for a record 12th time.
They’ll have to play each again now. When, though, is anyone’s guess, with the teams struggling to fit another game into their congested fixture schedules before the quarterfinals are played over the weekend of March 12-13.
Scrapping replays in the F.A. Cup is among measures being considered to trim the fixture list in English soccer.
“There is nobody more traditionalist than me when it comes to the F.A. Cup but why can’t we just go to penalties?” said Hull manager Steve Bruce.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has previously said he wants replays to stay.
“I like the English formula because it’s a little bit special,” Wenger said.
Arsenal is bidding to become the first team since Blackburn in 1886 to win the F.A. Cup three years in a row.
The post-match incident involving Brunt further soured a disappointing day for West Brom at Madejski Stadium, which looked to be going well when Darren Fletcher put the team in front in the 54th.
Reading, a beaten semifinalist last season, hit back through goals from Paul McShane, Michael Hector, and on-loan Chelsea forward Lucas Piazon.
Brunt went over to applaud the West Brom fans after the game and was hit by a coin. He went down clutching his face, and then confronted a group of supporters before being led away by stewards and a teammate.
Brunt later spoke to the BBC with a cut under his eye, saying: “They thought it was OK to throw a coin at their own players. I’m disgusted . . . they paid a lot of money to come, but a small minority spoilt it.”
Ross Barkley’s deflected shot and a close-range finish from Romelu Lukaku, both in the second half, earned Everton a 2-0 victory at Bournemouth. Watford advanced by beating second-tier Leeds 1-0, with Scott Wootton prodding the ball into his own net in the second half as he attempted to clear a cross.