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Underdogs upset the odds again
Luton hero - Scott Rendell
It really was a weekend for the smaller clubs to overcome all the odds to emerge triumphant and it’s great to see that this can still happen in the modern game, where the financial gap between Premier League clubs and lower league clubs is ever-increasing. But the FA Cup is a great leveller. It is, after all, eleven men against eleven men. Anything can happen. And in the FA Cup – it usually does!
It was Championship side Millwall who set the tone for a dramatic round of shocks and surprises as they overcame Premier League Aston Villa. This compounded the misery of earlier on in the week for Paul Lambert’s team, after their shocking League Cup semi-final exit at the hands of League Two side Bradford City. You could argue that Millwall’s victory was perhaps not such a shock really after the way Villa have been performing of late but it was still a great achievement for the Lions nonetheless.
Then there was a stellar display from Milton Keynes Dons as they went to Premier League outfit Queens Park Rangers and taught them a thing or two about how to apply yourselves for a fourth round FA Cup tie. MK Dons took an early lead when Rangers defender Armand Traore sliced the ball into his own net in the fourth minute and Ryan Lowe then doubled their lead before half time.
As amazing as this was, there was more to come in the second half. Goals from Ryan Lowe and Darren Potter gave the MK Dons an incredible four goal lead, before late strikes from Jay Bothroyd and Fabio made the score look slightly more respectable for Harry Redknapp’s side. This took nothing away from the magnitude of the achievement for MK Dons though. For a League One side to be 4-0 up away from home against a top division side is something unheard of in the modern era.
But perhaps what was all the more surprising was that this was not in fact, the standout result of the day. That honour was bestowed upon Blue Square Bet Premier side Luton Town, who manufactured one of the biggest cup upsets of all time. When they went to Carrow Road to face Premier League Norwich City, even the most affable of football fans wouldn’t have given them a prayer of emerging victorious. But Luton had other ideas and Scott Rendell’s 80th minute strike booked the Hatters a spot in the last 16 of the competition.
This was the first time ever that a Premier League club had been knocked out by non-league opposition. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 1989 to find the last time a top division side were ousted by a non-league club, when Sutton United beat Coventry City 2-1. You could argue that that was still not as great of an achievement as Luton’s though, as Luton’s triumph was away from home. It was a truly remarkable David versus Goliath moment that has cemented its place firmly in FA Cup history forever more.
There was also a plucky display from League Two side Aldershot Town, when they very nearly secured a replay against Championship giants Middlesbrough after Danny Hylton made it 1-1 with just a minute of the 90 left to play. Unfortunately for the Shots, Lukas Jutkiewicz struck in the sixth minute of stoppage time to end their cup dream with seconds to spare. It was a shame really, as taking the North-Easterners back to the Recreation Ground would have made for a tasty replay.
Brighton’s performance against the mighty Arsenal was another one deserving of a mention. Albion were more than a match for the slick movement of Arsenal’s attacking play and with five minutes left to play, it looked like the Seagulls might be earning themselves a replay at the Emirates. But Gunners substitute Theo Walcott crashed home a volley from the edge of the box to secure Arsenal a place in the hat for the fifth round. Walcott was one a few first teamers that Arsenal manager Arséne Wenger decided to leave on the bench and it was a testament to Brighton’s performance that Wenger had to call on the England international to secure their passage to the next round.
Then just when we thought we couldn’t take any more, Sunday brought a host of interesting predicaments to the table. First it was League One side Brentford who took centre stage against the holders of the FA Cup, and European Champions I might add, Chelsea. And once again, in true cup tradition, it was the underdogs who struck first, when Marcello Trotta blasted in from the rebound after Chelsea keeper Ross Turnbull could only parry a Harry Forrester shot.
In the second half, Chelsea stepped up the game and levelled through a brilliant piece of play from Brazilian talisman Oscar, side-stepping a defender before curling the ball beyond Brentford keeper Simon Moore. But the Bees weathered a flurry of Chelsea attacks in the aftermath and in the 73rd minute, substitute Tom Adeyemi raced through on goal only to be brought down by the onrushing Turnbull. Up stepped Forrester to give Brentford an incredible 2-1 lead with just 17 minutes remaining. Unfortunately, they were denied a monumental victory when the £50 million man Fernando Torres drove the ball past Moore after some determined work by substitute Demba Ba. Despite the late equaliser, the Bees have to be proud of their work, securing a replay against the FA Cup’s most successful team of late, which is no mean feat.
Championship side Leeds United then performed further heroics as they dumped out Premier League Tottenham Hotspur with a quite magnificent 2-1 victory. Then it was the turn of Oldham Athletic to cap off a marvellous weekend of classic cup upsets with a hard fought 3-2 win over Liverpool.
This game literally typified everything the FA Cup represents in a nutshell. As far as football clubs go, they don’t come much bigger than Liverpool. But Oldham were completely unfazed by the enormity of the task ahead, taking the lead in the third minute of play with a Matt Smith header. Luis Suarez did manage an equaliser 14 minutes later but Liverpool struggled to get to grips with the imperfect surface and were unable to impose their superiority on the game. Just before halftime, Smith tapped in from close range to restore Oldham’s advantage after Liverpool keeper Brad Jones failed to hold on to a Reece Wabara cross. Then Wabara himself headed home to give Oldham a 3-1 lead and an astonishing cup shock looked on the cards.
For the rest of the game, Liverpool piled on the pressure, trying everything they could to breach the Latics’ backline. But some desperate and heroic defending meant they just couldn’t seem to find a goal. Joe Allen struck brilliantly to give the Reds hope of a comeback with 10 minutes remaining, but the Oldham defence would not lie down and were determined to see out the tie. It was a proper old fashioned FA Cup tie, with the smaller club giving absolutely everything to stifle their technically superior opponents.
So a truly great day for Oldham rounded off a sensational weekend of FA Cup action. The giants of the Premier League often proved unable to make their higher levels of skill and class tell against plucky and more determined opposition. And it showed that football is as much about application and attitude as it is about technique and ability. On the day, it doesn’t matter whether the team cost £100 million or £1,000. It doesn’t matter whether the players earn £100k a week or £100 a week. It’s eleven men against eleven men and it’s about heart, spirit and determination to succeed, against all the odds. That is why we love the FA Cup so much.
Contributed by richbrawn1
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Underdogs upset the odds again
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