Sheffield United booked their place in the FA Cup quarter finals as Billy Sharp’s second-half penalty edged them past Bristol City.
Chris Wilder’s side have now beaten Bristol Rovers, Plymouth Argyle and Bristol City in this year’s competition, with Sharp’s penalty in the 66th minute securing a place in the last eight.
Alfie Mawson was dismissed for handball in the awarding of the penalty, with Dean Holden’s men unable to work themselves back into the tie with a numerical disadvantage.
— AGB (@BurnsAlfie) February 10, 2021
There was little to report in the opening five minutes, but the quality of Sharp and David McGoldrick’s movement tested the Robins. The latter saw a shot deflected well over as a shooting chance presented itself.
Aaron Ramsdale was called into action moments later, parrying Tomas Kalas’ shot to safety after a free-kick found the defender at the far post.
However, the fluid nature of Wilder’s system meant that the Sheffield United wing-backs were causing all kinds of problems for the Championship side.
A clever ball from Jayden Bogle slipped Max Lowe into space in the area, but he could only lift his shot onto the top of Max O’Leary’s crossbar.
Bogle was on the end of a wonderful Ethan Ampadu cross on 28 minutes but, like the man on the opposite flank, failed to open the scoring and headed straight at O’Leary.
The Bristol City goalkeeper collected a hopeful effort from John Lundstram, with the visitors managing to frustrate the Premier League side and limit opportunities.
However, Famara Diedhiou and Nahki Wells were looking isolated figures in the Robins’ attack.
Bogle blazed over O’Leary’s crossbar on 40 minutes, leaving Sharp irritated after he’d pulled himself into a much more presentable shooting position.
After Bristol City finally built an attack down the right, Wells was off-target with a lazy volley, before Taylor Moore glanced a header harmlessly over Ramsdale’s crossbar as the game approached the break.
Holden will have been both delighted and frustrated with his side after half-time.
Really classy interplay set Wells racing through into the final third, but the striker opted to shoot at Ramsdale rather than pick out Jamie Paterson; selfish play but without an end product.
At the other end, Zak Vyner intervened as Rhian Brewster lurked on a cross from the left, with both sides bright in the second-half’s opening moments.
The impressive Bogle-Lowe link almost brought an opening on 52 minutes, but the latter’s teasing ball somehow evaded Sharp and Brewster. McGoldrick curled wide in the next phase of play, as the game stretched and both sides looked for an advantage.
And, as the game ticked beyond the hour, the Blades were piling on the pressure.
McGoldrick’s shot was deflected onto the crossbar by the hand of Mawson and, after a long VAR check, the home side were awarded a penalty.
As Mawson received his marching orders for the aforementioned offence, Sharp buried his penalty beyond O’Leary.
By now, McGoldrick was pulling the strings for Wilder and, shortly after the opening goal, he pushed a shot wide of O’Leary’s far post as the Blades searched for that killer blow.
That man McGoldrick was wayward with a shot on 75 minutes, before a flurry of substitutions gave Bristol City some fluidity in their play; Antoine Semenyo looking particularly confident.
Lowe and Oli Burke went close to wrapping up the tie, but Bristol City stood firm and kept themselves in contention for extra time.
However, the Premier League side used all their nous to squeeze the closing stages from the Robins, who now switch focus back to a surge for play-off football in the Championship.
For Sheffield United, their cup dream is still alive. That’s, no doubt, a welcome distraction given their precarious league position.
FT: Sheffield United 1-0 Bristol City.