Newcastle advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup on Tuesday, though coach Rafa Benitez doesn’t seem too keen on making a deep run in the competition.
By beating second-tier Blackburn 4-2 after extra time in a third-round replay, Newcastle earned only a fifth FA Cup victory in the past 11 seasons and set up a home match against fellow top-flight side Watford on Jan. 26.
Benitez might see that as more of a distraction than an opportunity, with Newcastle currently fighting a relegation battle in the Premier League. And he has suggested that, like in both games against Blackburn, he will play his reserves in the FA Cup going forward.
“We have a squad that is trying to get through,” Benitez said pointedly, “and if we can do it the same way in the next round we will be pleased with that.”
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Benitez has acknowledged the FA Cup is not a priority because he feels a heavyweight team with a deeper squad, like Manchester City, Chelsea or Manchester United, will win it. A run in the famous knockout competition clogs up the schedule, in Benitez’s opinion, and jeopardizes the top-flight status for a team like Newcastle.
So the sight of two defenders — Ciaran Clark and the player he replaced, Jamaal Lascelles — getting injured at Ewood Park will be a big concern for Benitez days before a much bigger game in his eyes, a home league match against fellow relegation contender Cardiff. Newcastle is in third-to-last place, one spot behind Cardiff.
Spanish forwards Joselu and Ayoze Perez scored extra-time goals to finally push Newcastle past Blackburn, which drew 1-1 at the start of the month to earn a replay.
The visitors had gone 2-0 ahead thanks to goals by 21-year-old local players, with Sean Longstaff scoring off a deflected shot inside the first minute and Callum Roberts adding a second in the 22nd. They were the players’ first goals for the club.
Blackburn went into halftime on level terms through goals by Adam Armstrong, a former Newcastle player, and Darragh Lenihan.
Newcastle will look to get beyond the fourth round for the first time since 2006, a year before divisive owner Mike Ashley bought the club.
The northeast team avoided becoming the fifth team — after Fulham, Leicester, Cardiff and Huddersfield — to lose to a side from a lower division in the third round.
In other replays Tuesday, third-tier Shrewsbury scored three goals from the 71st minute to rally to a 3-2 win over second-tier Stoke and set up a match against Wolverhampton Wanderers, the team that knocked out Liverpool.
Sheffield Wednesday won 1-0 at Luton and will next play titleholder Chelsea.
There is one more replay on Wednesday, with Southampton hosting second-tier Derby County.
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