Posts Tagged ‘FA Cup’
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.
Some people may continue to question the importance and value of the FA Cup to English football. Certain clubs have selected under-strength teams in the competition and maybe haven’t given it the respect it deserves. It is known as the ‘greatest cup competition in the world’ for a reason, and the beauty of the tournament has been there for everyone to see over the last few weeks.
Those teams who fielded under-strength sides will almost certainly look on with envy when they sit down and watch the final on May 15th. There is something special about the FA Cup final. The history, the tradition, the whole Wembley experience, and that doesn’t come around too often.
While a few teams have tried to undermine the FA Cup, matches in the last few weeks have gone to prove there is still something special about the competition. High levels of passion, commitment and desire have been shown both on the pitch and in the stands, with the Leeds v Tottenham fourth round replay being a perfect example. Both teams were desperate to win the game on the field whilst in the stands both sets of fans made so much noise and showed the watching world that this competition matters.
The FA Cup is famous for it’s ‘David v Goliath’ shock results, and this season there hasn’t been a shortage of those. Notts County beating Wigan Athletic, Leeds United winning at Old Trafford to defeat Manchester United, Reading overcoming first Liverpool and then Burnley. Results like these simply cannot be predicted and it is that unpredictability that keeps everybody on the edge of their seat and that’s what gives the FA Cup it’s magic.
The oldest cup competition in club football is alive and kicking, don’t let Sir Alex Ferguson or anyone else convince you otherwise.
Things have gone from bad to worse for Rafa Benitez as he saw his beleagered Liverpool side dumped out of the FA Cup by Championship Reading in front of a paltry 31,000 fans. To compound the situation, star players Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard both limped off with knee and hamstring injuries respectively.
Reading, who were the equal of their Premier League opposition in the first match, were not overawed by their trip to Anfield for the replay and gave as good as they got in the first half but went to the interval a goal down after good work from Gerrard caused Ryan Bertrand to deflect a cross into his own net in first half stoppage time. By then, Torres had already left the field and the Liverpool captain failed to re-emerge for the second period, which must have given the visitors renewed hope.
Reading were the better side for much of the second half but the equalising goal eluded them until deep into injury time when a rash trip from Benayoun on Long gifted them a penalty and Gylfi Sigurdsson held his nerve from the spot to force extra time. By then, the stands had already started to empty as fans headed for the warmth of their homes on a bitterly cold night.
Although Liverpool pushed forward for much of the extra half hour, it was Reading who made the breakthrough when substitute Shane Long headed the winner in the 100th minute. Benayoun and Ngog wasted chances to save the tie for Liverpool and the Royals held on for a famous victory, caretaker manager Brian McDermott’s first win in charge. A home game against Burnley awaits in the fourth round. Liverpool will hope that the injuries to Gerrard and Torres are only minor, as initial reports suggest, but the cup exit piles yet more pressure on the Benitez regime.
In Wednesday night’s other FA Cup tie, Newcastle United beat Plymouth Argyle 3-0 with a hattrick from Peter Lovenkrands. They face a trip to West Bromwich Albion in the next round.
Everton’s Phil Jageilka ended the extended FA cup semi final and with it United’s hopes of an unprecedented five trophies. He slotted in the final penalty of a gripping 4 – 2 shoot-out, in a semi – final to forget. Moyes was delighted, while Ferguson was left furious as a clear cut penalty was not given for United.
A nervous penalty shoot-out was not started well by Everton. Tim Cahill blasted over the bar but Manchester United failed to seize the initiative when Berbatov’s pathetic passed penalty was easily saved by Howard. Rio also missed for United while Neville, Baines and Vaughan all scored for Everton. Anderson and Vidic kept United in it by scoring good penalties but this set up Phil Jageilka with the chance to put the Toffees through the FA cup final. He calmly slotted the ball to the right of Foster and the blue side of Wembley, for the second day in a row, erupted.
Man United shocked both sets of supporters by making numerous changes to a weary team; Ronaldo, Rooney, Van de Sar and Carrick did not even travel to London. With an average age of 22, United had energy in abundance but with little experience to finish the game off. Scholes and Berbatov were brought on late in the game but failed to make big enough impact. Everton looked resilient at the back but uninspired upfront and after 90 minutes and extra time neither team scored.
Although, Ferguson seemed adamant that Wellbeck had a clear penalty appeal turned down, mid way through the second half. Wellbeck skipped past keeper Howard, but appeared to be just tripped by Jagielka well inside the box. Riley dismissed the penalty which left Everton relieved but Ferguson absolutely livid. Theories will surely be bantered about Manchester that Moyes’ mind games with referee Mike Riley appeared to have worked.
The first half of the game was quite uneventful, with no real penetration from either side. The second half had more verve and energy and Manchester United looked on top but failed to score. They seemed to miss the influential players Rooney and Ronaldo, which may raise doubts over Ferguson’s brave or arrogant decision to leave them out of the squad.
The game gained even more purpose and drive in extra-time and the combination of tired legs and a tense atmosphere lead to a more eventful match. Everton dominated the final few minutes with fresh, young substitutes Vaughan and Rodwell making an immediate impact. Vaughan miss hit a clever pass by Baines which could have finished United off with minutes to go. A silly back pass in the final seconds which made Foster give away a free kick away close to the corner flag summed up a nervous finish to the game for United.
Overall the dominant defence combinations of Vidic and Ferdinand and Lescott and Jageilka proved too impenetrable and a 0 – 0 draw had to be ended in the dreaded penalty shoot out.
Ferguson went on to complain about the penalty that never was and a bad pitch, but it’s maybe his weakened side selection that just did not have enough skill to beat a well organised Everton. Moyes, who looks like a possible successor for Ferguson, now celebrates the chance to face Chelsea on the 30th of May and lift his first major trophy with Everton.