Lower league sides indulge in some FA Cup giant killing... NFL postseason opens with wildcard weekend... Socceroo shock in the UAE... Warriors and Kings put on three-point show... Swiss duo tighten grip on Hopman Cup ahead of Australian Open. This is your weekend sporting roundup.
Romance isn't dead in the FA Cup
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The "romance of the cup" is a well-worn FA Cup cliche, but fans of Barnet, Oldham Athletic and Newport County are feeling the love as the three lower-league sides overcame fancied opposition -- Sheffield United, Fulham and Leicester respectively -- to advance to the fourth round of the football's oldest cup competition.
Barnet -- currently languishing in 15th place in the National League, the fifth tier of English football -- provided arguably the shock of the day by beating Championship side United 1-0, courtesy of a Shaq Coulthirst penalty early in the first half.
For Oldham's caretaker manager, Pete Wild, it was a day to savor as his unfancied side rose to the occasion to put away Premier League Fulham 2-1, with the London side currently 59 places above the Latics in the league structure.
"It means a lot to me and my family. We're all Oldham people," he said after securing the win. "We're from a small town overshadowed by big neighbors and I'm so proud to give something back."
Newport manager Michael Flynn was equally ecstatic with his side's 2-1 win over the Foxes. "It's almost 'Roy of the Rovers' stuff, I can't believe it," he said, referencing the classic football comic. "It's the first time I've beaten a Premier League club as a manager so it's one I'll never forget. I'll have a few drinks with the wife tonight."
Elsewhere, Manchester United carried its newfound confidence under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a 2-0 win over Reading, while neighbors City equaled Spurs' 7-0 thumping of Tranmere, strolling to its own 7-0 win over Rotherham. Arsenal and Chelsea also progressed, 3-0 against Blackpool and 2-0 over Nottingham Forest, respectively.
Good weekend for the 'Cs': Cowboys, Colts, Chargers all progress
As the NFL season moves into the do-or-die stage in the run-up to the Super Bowl in Atlanta in February, Dallas, Indianapolis and Los Angeles laid down early markers. The Cowboys' Dak Prescott inspired his teammates, edging the Seahawks, 24-22, on Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
Prescott showed he can handle the spotlight with a big fourth quarter play for a 16-yard gain, before scoring the game-winning touchdown from the one-yard line. It was a stellar start to the postseason for the 25-year-old, who also completed 22 of 33 passes for 226 yards.
Meanwhile in Indianapolis, QB Andrew Luck also shone, throwing for two touchdowns for a 21-7 win over the Texans.
There won't be any joking around next weekend, though. Colts' wide receiver T.Y. Hilton said the clown mask he sported after the win in Houston -- a response to Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph calling him a clown for saying the team's NRG Stadium was his "second home" -- will be retired for Indianapolis' trip next weekend to Kansas.
Elsewhere in the wild card round, the Chargers beat the Ravens, keeping a lid on Baltimore's rookie QB phenom Lamar Jackson for a 23-17 win. LA sacked him seven times -- a playoff record for the Chargers -- as the team built up a 20-point lead and held on for the win to advance -- meeting the Pats next Sunday.
Bucking the trend of 'C' teams making it through, Philadelphia came back to defeat the Chicago Bears in a 16-15 thriller at Soldier Field after Cody Parkey failed to put a 43-yard field-goal through the uprights.
"I feel terrible," Parkey said after the game. "There's really no answer to it. I thought I hit a good ball."
Australia suffers disastrous Asian Cup opening
The Socceroos have a mountain to climb -- all the way from the bottom of the Asian Cup Group B -- after a terrible start defending their Asian Cup crown, going down 1-0 to Jordan in Al Ain.
The Australians took little time establishing themselves as one of the teams to beat since jumping ship from the Oceania conference to join the more competitive AFC, and as holders of the cup were expected once again to mount a serious challenge.
But Graham Arnold's men found themselves on the back foot early on in this year's edition of the competition when an unmarked Anas Bani Yaseen headed home midway through the first half. The Jordanians, unexpected victors after a poor run of form, now top Group B after the first round of matches.
In the weekend's other matchups, India thrashed Thailand 4-1 to top Group A, while the UAE played out a 1-1 draw with Bahrain and it was a goalless stalemate in the other Group B match between Palestine and Syria, with the Qasioun Eagles unable to break down 10-man Palestine.
It's raining 3's -- more than ever
The Warriors and Kings set a combined 3-point record in their Saturday night showdown at Golden 1 Center, cementing the trend of shooting from outside the paint around the league.
The Warriors sunk 21 of their 47 attempts while the Kings went 20-for-36 in the 127-123 hometown win, combining for a league-topping total of 41 3-pointers, the first time in NBA history that both teams have scored 60 or more points in a game.
Golden State's Stephen Curry -- one of the league's best-ever outside shooters -- scored 30 of his 42 points from downtown.
"It's right there for you to see, right?" the Warriors' coach Steve Kerr said of the offensive blitz, according to ESPN. "Everybody's shooting threes. That was just an incredible offensive display by both teams."
Calling it a "crazy game," Kings forward Justin Jackson, who hit 15 of his 28 points -- a career high -- from beyond the arc, said. "It felt every time we went down the court somebody hit a three."
Curry's teammate Kevin Durant said it's just part of the ebb and flow of the league's style of play, and said he expected a shift in tactics soon.
"It's fast," Durant said. "I'd rather play inside the three-point line, but you got to adapt. I think a lot of players have adapted their games and changed how they play. But I don't see this lasting too much longer."
But given the Warriors' dominance over the past half-decade, shooting more and more from distance, it's hard to see rivals not doing what they can to ape that success.
'Sick of' Federer? Not on this form
While all eyes were on that match in midweek, Swiss legend Roger Federer and partner Belinda Bencic made it look easy in a historic defense of the Hopman Cup, beating the German team of Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber 4-0 1-4 4-3 (5-4) in the deciding mixed doubles, a repeat of last year's final.
It was the prefect preparation for the upcoming Australian Open for the 37-year-old, 20-time grand slam champion, who first won the Cup in 2001 with then-partner Martina Hingis.
"What a thrill it was -- not just the match point, but also the whole match and the whole week," he said after his winner-takes-all final point at 4-4 in Saturday's final.
"It's great fun. I'm happy, I'm proud to represent my country. It's been a super pleasure teaming with Belinda."
The duo's German opponent, Zverev, joked that the tennis fraternity is "sick of" the Swiss powerhouses and their serial winning ways, "especially (Roger.)"
But on the basis of the superstar's form going into Melbourne next week, Zverev and co. may have to put up with Fed -- bidding for his seventh Australian Open title and third in a row -- and his winning ways for a little while longer.
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