A second cup defeat in three days has ended any realistic hopes Arsenal had of ending their trophy drought before it reaches the seven year mark. Following hot on the heels of their midweek Champions League humiliation in Milan, Arsenal faced a tricky FA Cup tie at the Stadium of Light, scene of Thierry Henry’s late winner in the Premier League only seven days earlier. However, with the French striker heading back to America, there was no saviour this time around as Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland raced out of the blocks in search of revenge.
The Black Cats enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges and played with much more conviction than their opponents, whose injury crisis only deepened, with young Francis Coquelin forced off after only ten minutes, at the ground where they lost Per Mertesacker last weekend. Ramsey and Squillaci were also forced to leave the action prematurely soon after the interval, but by then the Gunners were already trailing to Keiran Richardson’s deflected shot in the 40th minute. Van Persie was perhaps unlucky to be denied a first half penalty, but Arsenal didn’t create many other openings and their fate was sealed in the 77th minute when a lightening break by Sessegnon and Larsson was rounded off by the unfortunate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who bundled the ball into his own net as it came back off a post.
England’s other Champions League representatives fared little better. Chelsea had to come from behind to earn a draw with Championship side Birmingham at Stamford Bridge, Davind Murphy having put the visitors ahead in the 20th minute, shortly before Juan Mata missed a penalty. Daniel Sturridge got the equaliser in the 62nd minute to force a replay.
In the other FA Cup Fifth Round ties there were wins for Everton, Leicester City and Bolton Wanderers against Blackpool, Norwich and Millwall respectively. The final three ties are being played on Sunday and see minnows Crawley Town and Stevenage take on Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur respectively whilst Liverpool host Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield.