LONDON (AP) — Aston Villa was dumped out of the FA Cup by third-tier side Sheffield United in the biggest shock of the third round on Saturday, while 10-man Manchester City was held by Blackburn.
Villa's humbling came days after manager Paul Lambert branded the cup as a "distraction," but rather than making wholesale changes, it was still a strong side that lost 2-1.
"It is just a bit sad that the FA Cup, such a wonderful competition, takes a back seat but that is the reality of it," Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough said.
Backing down from the earlier comment, Lambert tried to insist he wasn't decrying the world's oldest football cup competition that has lost some of its luster as Premier League riches have soared.
"I never demeaned the competition one bit," Lambert said. "I respect its history and I respect what the competition is about."
Blackburn earned a replay against City after goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon fumbled Rudy Gestede's header before Scott Dann rushed in to sweep the ball into the net to cancel out Alvaro Negredo's opener.
City was left hanging on to the 1-1 draw after Dedryck Boyata was sent off in the 85th minute when a foul on D.J. Campbell earned him a second yellow card.
"I'm not disappointed," City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. "Of course, everyone wants to win all of the games but we were playing against a very strong team at home."
Due to the replay, Abu Dhabi-owned City has cancelled a friendly in the Gulf nation on Jan. 14.
The standout pairing of the third round was a one-sided contest as Premier League leader Arsenal overpowered north London rival Tottenham with the 2-0 victory secured by Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky.