When thirty seven year old manager, Harry Redknapp’s Bournemouth team jogged out on to the ground to play Manchester United in the 3rd round FA Cup tie in 1984, spectators felt as if their fate had already been sealed. A third division side beating Manchester United? That was just not expected to happen. But it did. Harry Redknapp had thus announced his arrival to the world. He later went on to manage teams such as West Ham, Southampton, Tottenham and Queens Park Rangers. Such is the nature of the Football Association (Challenge) Cup, it can make teams and even break them.
The FA Cup is the most popular association football competition around the globe. Apart from being the oldest competition of its kind, it also has a knack for producing some of the greatest upsets the footballing world witnesses during any season of fast-paced English gameplay. The Cup has a history of pitting teams in classic David versus Goliath match-ups, with the underdog often coming out on top. The amount of ridicule Manchester City received after being knocked out by Wigan “last season” holds testament to how the FA Cup still carries the same charm it did more than a century ago.
Harry Redknapp during his days as Bournemouth’s manager.
There are a few matches which have left a special mark in the history of the FA Cup competition, which was introduced for the first time in 1871. Be it Wimbledon surprising every viewer to lift the cup in 1988 or Wrexham beating reigning league champions, Arsenal, in 1992, teams which were supposed to be a stroll in the park have turned out to be bad bargains.
The underdogs in FA Cup match ups have since long come to be known as ‘Giant-Killers’. And the Giant Killers were back with a bang on Saturday, 24th January 2015. The day saw the top 3 Premier League clubs being knocked out in the 4th round of the FA Cup, with the scorecards reading Chelsea 2-4 Bradford, Manchester City 0-2 Middlesbrough, and Southampton 2-3 Crystal Palace. Sixth place Tottenham also lost out 1-2 to Leicester City, who had previously defeated Manchester United 5-3 in the Premier League.
The Fault in (Resting) Their Stars?
Given the intensity of the modern game and the airtight fixture list Premier League teams have to combat, it comes as no surprise that top tier teams feel the need to rest some of their overworked legs when they play low-ranked clubs in cup ties. Time and again top stars are the most noticeable absentees from lineups that are usually star-studded. Unfortunately for teams, more often than not it is these managerial decisions that lead to the gigantic English clubs being knocked out by the minnows of English football.
Chelsea Succumb to a Lower Ranked Team… Again!
Chelsea has a long history of losing games to teams which are ranked below them. This was one of the major reasons for Chelsea failing to lift the trophy in the 2013 – 2014 season. Despite producing convincing performances against some of the best clubs, Chelsea regularly dropped points to teams from the bottom half of the league table.
When Chelsea played Bradford (also known as the Bantams) on Saturday, José Mourinho had decided to make a flabbergasting nine changes to his team. The only players who retained their positions in the squad after their last league appearance were midfielder John Obi Mikel and defender Gary Cahill. The match started off looking like a routine one for Chelsea, who took a 2-0 lead in the first 38 minutes of the game. Nothing about the game was routine after that. Bradford scored their first goal in the 41st minute and then there was no stopping them. Bradford showed some true grit and character to stay defensively organized, while also making the best of any loose balls and open spaces Chelsea had to offer to them.
With hopes of salvaging the game, Mourinho brought on the likes of Hazard, Willian and Fabregas. Sadly for the Blues, they failed to have too much of an impact on the proceedings as Bradford scored their 3rd soon after. To rub salt on the wounds, Yeates managed to score a 90th minute fourth goal for the Bantams, thus making Bradford the only team in history to ever score 4 goals in a single football match Mourinho’s Chelsea.
Petr Cech as Chelsea’s goalkeeper against Bradford City.
The Special One called his side’s performance an embarrassing one and said that the players should be ‘ashamed’ with their display on the pitch. He also took part of the blame upon himself. The players are sure to get an earful in the dressing room everyday from Mou till they strike top form again.
City’s Boro nightmare continues:
The Manchester City squad which played Middlesbrough on Saturday was nothing like the one which had been obliterated by the same club in 2008, when they lost by 8 goals to 1. This side was a much stronger one, which had since 2008 gone on to win two league titles. Donning the likes of Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, Manchester City were clear favorites to win the game. The home team was denied in front of goal time and again by goalkeeper Tomas Mejias. At the other end of the pitch Middlesbrough gradually increased their momentum, with a header by Lee Tomlin being disallowed due to offside, before they went on to score the opening goal early in the 2nd half of proceedings at the Etihad.
Jovetic rues as Mejias saves his shot on goal.
As if replicating Bradford’s last-minute antics against Chelsea, Middlesbrough also managed to extend their lead to two goals during the final minutes of the game. Chelsea and City meet each other on 31st January, with a hope to improve from their previous performances in their respective cup ties.
Saints Fail to Weave Second Half Magic:
Southampton managed to lose out to another Premier League club for the 17th time in their last 24 FA Cup appearances. The much-trolled Marouane Chamakh, who just returned from an injury, scored twice to lead Crystal Palace to victory in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Some experts might argue that Chamakh’s ridiculous hairstyle invoked a deep sense of fear among Southampton defenders and directly led to the goals. After 5 goals being scored between both sides within the first 40 minutes of the game, the Saints fought valiantly to try to make a comeback in the second half. Being on an eight game unbeaten run, they would have always fancied their chances of at least winning a replay. However, Crystal Palace managed to hang on to their lead and knock 3rd placed Premier League club, Southampton, out of the race of lifting the trophy at Wembley.
What’s Next in Store?
The likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool will be rejoicing at this string of results and will be hoping to make it through to the next round. Arsenal plays Brighton on Sunday, January 25th, whereas United and Liverpool will play their replay games after drawing with Cambridge United and Bolton Wanderers in their respective fourth round ties. If the Gunners manage to come out on top tonight, their fans will pray that the legendary Giant Killers come back to life on the 3rd of next month, when United and Liverpool take to the pitch in their respective replay games.
By Lakshaya Soin