It was a weekend of giant-killings in the FA Cup this weekend, with lower league sides taking major scalps from teams at the top of the Premier League. Chelsea and Manchester City suffered defeat this weekend, as the competition was thrown wide open.
Perhaps the biggest upset of the weekend came at Stamford Bridge, where Bradford City ran out 4-2 winners to the delight of their 6,000 travelling fans. Goals from Cahill and Ramires in the first half looked to have put the Blues firmly in control, but Bradford fought back to level the game with goals from Jon Stead and Filipe Morais. Most City fans probably would have settled for 2-2, but the Bantams battled on and scored two further goals to claim a famous victory at the home of the Premier League leaders. A muted Jose Mourinho commented how it was a ‘disgrace’ for big sides to be defeated by lower-league opposition, especially having once led by two.
Continuing the trend of ‘cupsets’, Middlesbrough ran riot at the Etihad on Saturday as City failed to capitalise on key opportunities in the first half. City dominated possession, but it was the visitors who showed more desire to stay in the game. City failed to deal with a Middlesbrough counter-attack as Patrick Bamford stole ahead to prod in; neither Kompany or Boyata could handle Boro’s direct style of play. The game was sealed by Garcia Martinez, coolly slotting home after Bamford surged forward yet again. Many commentators blamed the result on jet-lag, as City returned from Abu Dhabi the very night before the game. Boro fans won’t care, however; they can look forward to a tie against Arsenal in the next round.
Elsewhere, at White Hart Lane, Tottenham were on the receiving end of a defeat to Leicester who ran out 2-1 victors. Townsend put Spurs in front in the first half, but a late resurgence from Leicester saw Leonardo Ulloa equalise with just over five minutes to play. Late-on, as Leicester pushed for a winner, Spurs keeper Michel Vorm fumbled an effort from Jeffrey Schlupp, the ball trickling over the line to send the travelling Leicester fans into raptures. A famous win for the struggling Foxes. They face Aston Villa in the next round.
Crystal Palace’s win at Southampton continued their recent good-form under new boss Alan Pardew as they twice came from behind to claim victory at St Mary’s. Marouane Chamakh scored twice as Palace showed intent and desire to get back into the game, while Arsenal loanee Yaya Sanogo scored his first goal for the club. They will face Liverpool or Bolton in the next round. The recent appointment of Alan Pardew, a Palace legend, has seen the club’s form pick up – he remains unbeaten thus far, but many believe he has what it takes to steer The Eagles to safety in the Premier League, who were previously propping up the table under Neil Warnock.
Another side in inspired form of late are West Ham, who claimed victory at Bristol City on Sunday. Despite City’s aggressive start, the Hammers held firm to keep the Championship side out, the tie locked at 0-0 at half time. Their patience and defensive discipline would later reward them, Diafra Sakho nodding home Andy Carroll’s drilled cross with ten minutes left to play. They will face West Bromwich Albion in the next round.
Only seven Premier League sides confirmed their place in the fifth round. Sunderland, Liverpool and Manchester United were held by Fulham, Bolton and Cambridge United, respectively, their ties going to replays on 4 February. With plenty of lower-league sides left in the competition, the cup can still provide more surprises en-route to the final in May. The FA Cup has always been dominated by the top flight, but there is a big chance of non-Premier League sides reaching the semi-finals, if not the final. The last time that feat was achieved was in 2008 when Cardiff City lost to Portsmouth. West Ham United were the last side to lift the trophy as a side from outside the top division, back in 1980. While the statistics aren’t encouraging, one hopes the romance of the cup continues up until the final on 30 May.