Not even an FA Cup match against fourth-tier opposition could provide any respite for Mark Hughes.
The beleaguered Stoke manager was condemned to one last humiliation, a 2-1 loss to Coventry in the third round of the world’s oldest knockout competition, before getting fired on Saturday.
Stoke dropped into the Premier League’s relegation zone this week after a run of just two wins in its last 12 matches. It was surprising that Hughes made it to the Coventry match, given the significance of a home loss at Newcastle in the league on Monday.
“I’m not naive,” Hughes said after the loss at the Ricoh Arena, “and I realize people will talk about my position.”
Three hours later, he was out.
Bournemouth avoided becoming another Premier League team to be eliminated by lower-league opposition, scoring an equalizer in the second minute of injury time to draw 2-2 at home to third-tier Wigan. Chelsea and Leicester were also taken to replays after drawing 0-0 at second-tier Norwich and third-tier Fleetwood, respectively.
Premier League leader Manchester City produced a stirring second-half fightback to beat Burnley 4-1, after going into halftime a goal down.
City is still on for a quadruple of trophies this season, as it leads the Premier League by 15 points, is into the semifinals of the League Cup, and has progressed to the last 16 of the Champions League.
Other Premier League teams to advance Saturday were Watford, Southampton, Huddersfield, West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle.
Manchester United and Liverpool progressed on Friday.
Here’s a look at some of the key matches on Saturday:
JOY FOR COVENTRY
Thirty-one years after winning the FA Cup, Coventry has once again made a splash in the famous competition.
At that time, the club from central England was an established presence in England’s top division, but it was relegated from the Premier League in 2001 and has declined in the past decade after being bought out in 2007 by a hedgefund group, Sisu. The club was placed in bankruptcy protection in 2013.
Coventry is currently playing in English soccer’s fourth tier for the first time in nearly 60 years, and back playing at its Ricoh Arena home after being forced to play temporarily at nearby Northampton for one season because of a dispute over stadium rent.
Despite Coventry’s current troubles, Stoke still couldn’t win and it proved to be the end for Hughes.
Jack Grimmer grabbed the winner in the 68th minute, after Charlie Adam’s penalty for Stoke canceled out Coventry’s opener by Jordan Willis.
Coventry is managed by Mark Robins, who scored a goal for Manchester United against Nottingham Forest in 1990 that is widely accepted to have saved Sir Alex Ferguson’s job at United. That team included Hughes.
MAN CITY MARCHES ON
It is now 26 matches unbeaten in domestic competition for City, whose brilliant second-half display was sparked by two goals from Sergio Aguero in a two-minute span.
Leroy Sane and substitute Bernardo Silva added more goals for City, with Pep Guardiola fielding a strong lineup despite being in the middle of a busy period of fixtures.
Guardiola’s side takes on Bristol City in the first leg of their League Cup semifinal on Tuesday.
CHELSEA’S FIXTURE CONGESTION
An FA Cup replay was the last thing Chelsea manager Antonio Conte wanted after a hectic schedule over the festive period and with a two-legged League Cup semifinal against Arsenal coming up.
Conte fielded largely a reserve team which included David Luiz on his return from injury. Chelsea struggled in the first half but improved after the break, with Willian and and Davide Zappacosta going close.
Bournemouth was rescued by Steve Cook, whose injury-time header earned a replay that manager Eddie Howe acknowleged was “not ideal” while the team fights against relegation from the Premier League.
Wigan, the unlikely 2013 FA Cup winner, led 2-0 after 29 minutes but conceded to Lys Mousset in the 55th as Bournemouth began its fightback.
In an injury-time scare for Leicester at Fleetwood, goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic saw a shot strike the post, rebound into his face, and hit the post again before a relieved Jakupovic got both hands on the ball.
Much of the build-up focused on the return of Leicester striker Jamie Vardy to the northern club where he played for nine months and which he helped to get promoted to the Football League in 2012. Vardy, however, missed the game through injury.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80