Weekend Review: FA Cup flush for the punters as Superbowl match-up is confirmed

NFL veteran Tom Brady leads Tampa to showpiece final while Conor McGregor’s return falls flat

Punters welcomed the return of the FA Cup as the favourites eased past lower-league opposition across the board.

Chelsea, Manchester City, Leicester and West Ham all dispatched EFL opposition to make it to the fifth round.

Southampton knocked out FA Cup holders Arsenal, while Manchester United secured a 3-2 win over rivals Liverpool with a stunning Bruno Fernandes free-kick the difference between the two sides.

Kindred Group’s Ali Gill said the weekend belonged to the bettors.

“Punters edged ahead this weekend in the football, as results in the FA Cup on the whole went to the bigger teams. Contrasting form coming into the game meant Manchester United were the better backed of the two in the clash with Liverpool, and duly delivered.

“Southampton of course delivered the shock of the round, in a result which clawed a chunk back for us, but all told wins for Brighton, Sheffield United, West Ham, Manchester City, Chelsea, Leicester and Everton, all against lower league opposition, added up to a punter friendly weekend,” Gill added.

Betfred’s Alan Firkins noted: “Very few crumbs of comfort from the FA Cup, as fancied teams invariably held sway.

“Manchester United and Liverpool served up plenty of thrills, but a draw would have been a much kinder result for us. Not for the first time, Bruno Fernandes applied the very expensive coup de grace.”

Ladbrokes’ Alex Apati told EGR that handicap markets dominated the weekend.

Apati said: “Can’t complain at all with the start to the weekend as Wolves could only manage one goal against Chorley. Plenty backed the unlikely upset, while Wolves-backers were more interested in the handicap markets than the straight win.

“Arsenal’s exit was definitely helpful for us, as was the Luton goal and Werner penalty miss as Chelsea -3 was proving a popular pick with punters over the weekend.

“Similar situation in the Manchester City game, too, actually. In short, the handicaps have ended up favouring us over the weekend,” he added.

Elsewhere, in horseracing, Haydock and Ascot played host to upsets and domineering performances.

The largely unfancied First Flow caused an upset in the Grade 1 Clarence House at Ascot as he powered home ahead of 11/8 favourite Politologue, with the winner’s odds for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham having been slashed.

Gill said: “At Ascot in the Clarence House, 14/1 shot First Flow put in a fantastic performance, beating favourite Politologue and sending that race our way.”

“The ultra-game First Flow is now 8/1 from 50/1 for the Champion Chase,” Firkins added.

In the Peter Marsh at Haydock, Royale Pagaille continued his excellent season form with another easy win.

Firkins said: “Royale Pagaille, who won the Peter Marsh impressively, has been slashed into around 8/1 from 33’s for the Gold Cup.”

In the US, 43-year-old quarterback Tom Brady led his Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their first Superbowl in 18 years after defeating the Green Bay Packers 31-26.

Brady threw three touchdown passes to help set up a Superbowl bout against reigning champions Kansas City Chiefs on 7 February.

Gill said: “Tampa were well backed, and it went the way of the punters. As did the AFC Championship game, as Patrick Mahomes lead his Chiefs to their second successive Super Bowl in a game which, on the whole, gave punters exactly what they were after and left us in the red.”

Finally, in Abu Dhabi, Conor McGregor’s return to the UFC octagon didn’t go to plan with the Irishman being knocked out in the second round by American rival Dustin Poirier.

Betway’s Chad Yeomans said: “As ever, the UFC is growing in popularity and while most of the fights were punter friendly, Poirier’s knockout of McGregor was good result for our book.”

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