Crawley Town shock Leeds United with dominant victory to reach FA Cup fourth round

Crawley Town stunned Leeds United with a dominant 3-0 win in West Sussex to reach the FA Cup fourth round. 

League Two Crawley took control of the match courtesy of two quick-fire goals in the opening minutes of the second half. Nick Tsaroulla escaped the attentions of four Leeds players to fire home his first career goal, before Ashley Nadesan struck a low shot under Leeds keeper Casilla to make it 2-0 just three minutes later.

Crawley looked to have put the result beyond doubt with 20 minutes to play as they stretched their advantage to 3-0. Jordan Tunnicliffe claimed the goal, forcing the ball into the roof of the net from close range after Leeds failed to clear a Sam Matthews free-kick.

Mark Wright, a star of TV show The Only Way Is Essex, got his first taste of first-team action for Crawley, coming on in the first minute of stoppage time for Tom Dallison as the League Two club booked their place in the FA Cup fourth round with a 3-0 victory.

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Victory for John Yems’ rampant hosts was their first over a top-flight team in this competition and arguably the most famous result in their history. Leeds created little on a bitterly cold afternoon as they endured another cup shock at the hands of lower-league opposition.

The illustrious Premier League visitors have made an unwelcome habit of exiting this competition in humiliating fashion, with this humbling loss added to recent upsets against Histon, Newport, Sutton and Rochdale. United manager Marcelo Bielsa named a relatively strong side showing seven changes from last weekend’s loss at Tottenham in a bid avoid a banana skin. But, despite dominating the opening period, they had no answer to quick-fire strikes from Tsaroulla and Nadesan immediately after the restart, before Tunnicliffe put the televised tie beyond doubt.

Boosted by the return of captain Liam Cooper from injury, Leeds had been the first to seriously threaten. Creative midfielder Ian Poveda played a one-two with Ezgjan Alioski on the left-hand side before his drilled effort from a tight angle was repelled by the legs of home goalkeeper Glenn Morris. The visitors were then perhaps unfortunate not to be awarded a 28th-minute penalty. Spain forward Rodrigo tumbled in the six-yard box after appearing to be pulled by Tony Craig but referee Peter Bankes was uninterested.

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While in-form Crawley suffered a 1-0 fifth-round defeat at Manchester United as a non-league side a decade ago, this was almost certainly the club’s biggest game on home soil. Coronavirus restrictions deprived them of a sell-out home support but they were boosted by 15-goal top scorer Max Watters returning to the bench, where he was joined by former reality television star Wright.

The hosts had to wait until four minutes before the break for their first real chance and could easily have gone into the dressing room ahead. Striker Tom Nichols, scorer of a hat-trick in the remarkable 6-5 first-round win at Torquay, powerfully met Jack Powell’s corner with his head, forcing back-up Leeds keeper Kiko Casilla into a diving save.

Undeterred by that missed opportunity, the hosts took control of the contest courtesy of two goals in the opening minutes of the second half. Former Tottenham youth player Tsaroulla, whose inclusion was Crawley’s only change from last weekend’s win at Bolton, escaped the attentions of four Leeds players as he drove into the box and drilled his first senior goal into the bottom right corner.

The home dugout had barely finished celebrating the opener when the advantage was swiftly doubled. Nadesan burst into the 18-yard area on the right and, with no support, opted to unleash a low drive which bobbled and beat former Real Madrid keeper Casilla at the near post.

Crawley, flying high in the fourth tier, were seeking to make it 10 games without defeat and put the result beyond doubt with 20 minutes to play. After Sam Matthews’ free-kick into the box, Nadesan’s effort was denied by Casilla, only for Tunicliffe to force the loose ball into the roof of the net.

There was never any threat of a Leeds comeback and substitute Watters could have added further gloss to the scoreline. He found his path to goal blocked after rounding Casilla, while manager Yems also used the comfortable situation to bring on former The Only Way is Essex star Wright for the final moments.

Bankes’ full-time whistle promoted celebratory scenes from the home side as they cruised into the fourth round for the first time since 2012.


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