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Magic and Romance of the FA Cup
The English have always prided themselves on having the best domestic cup competition in the world but until this season there is very little evidence of that claim.
But this season alone we have seen a non-league team like Havant and Waterlooville go to Anfield and take the lead against mighty Liverpool before losing bravely 5-2 in the end.
Luton Town, a team on the brink of administration due to massive financial problems hold Liverpool to a home draw, Oldham win against Everton, Huddersfield on level terms with Chelsea at half-time at Stamford Bridge and Barnsley go to Anfield and won 2-1 with the winning goal right at the death.
This and other results meant that Manchester United and Chelsea were the clear favorites to win the FA Cup. By the quarter finals the tie was approaching with Manchester United at home to Portsmouth, Chelsea away to Barnsley, Middlesboro at home to Cardiff and West Brom at home to Bristol Rovers.
These meant 4 teams from the premier league, 3 from the championship and 1 from league one. You would have been very strange not to have 3 premier league teams in the semi-finals before the start of play but what happened was so astonishing that most people still can’t believe it.
On Saturday Portsmouth traveled to Manchester United hoping at most for a draw to take them back to Fratton Park but fate played a huge part. United missed many chances in both halves but perhaps the most striking incident was when goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Saar was ruled out for the second half due to a groin injury and his replacement Tomasz Kuszczak was sent off ‘the field for bringing Milan Baros down as he fell on goal.
There was no doubt that it was a penalty but the decision to send him off was very strict as the rule states that if you deliberately prevent a chance to score a goal then you must be sent off field but from replay it showed that Kuszczak brought Baros down accidentally. and he should have had a yellow card at most. Rio Ferdinand went in goal as there was no other goalkeeper on the bench but Sulley Muntari sent a penalty brilliantly to put the favorites out.
Another controversial point was that Wayne Rooney and Anderson were behind the goalkeeper so he was not the last man but Chris Kamara said on Sky’s Goals on Sunday that the rules have been changed and it doesn’t matter if you are the last man or not. but later that day I saw the Barcelona goalkeeper deliberately bring down Villareal’s Leo Franco preventing a goal scoring opportunity with defenders like Gaby Milito and Lilian Thuram around, but all he was shown was a yellow card.
The talking point was denying Cristiano Ronaldo a spot kick when Silvian Distin barged into him in the penalty box. Personally I thought it was a foul free kick but an indirect free kick in the penalty box as it was an obstruction and not a push. The game ended 1-0 to Portsmouth and Chelsea had a clear path to an FA Cup or two it seemed.
Chelsea started the evening against Barnsley confident of retaining their trophy but Barnsley had other plans and almost completely dominated the Premier League side before their striker Kayode Odejayi, who had not netted in 28 games, rose previously majestic to head home the winner to the utter amazement and delight of Barnsley fans and neutrals around the country.
If that wasn’t enough, on Sunday the Cardiff football team went to Middlesboro and completely defeated the Premier League side winning 2-0 with Guy Whittingham scoring the goal of the round to give his team the lead before Roger Johnson headed in the winning goal to make it. it’s 2 championship teams in the semi final.
West Brom then defeated Bristol Rovers 5-1 to make it a stunning 3 championship semi-finalists and 1 premiership team to bring the romance back to the FA Cup.
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