Big guns shot down in FA Cup
English football’s big guns were shot down in flames on Saturday as Chelsea and Manchester United crashed out of the FA Cup quarterfinals in two of the famous old competition’s most remarkable upsets.
Between them Chelsea and United have won four of the last five Premier League titles, boast some of the world’s finest players and in midweek marched into the Champions League quarterfinals.
But even those resources weren’t enough to protect them from the FA Cup’s ability to throw up jaw-dropping results.
Chelsea were the more embarrassed as humble Championship club Barnsley knocked out the FA Cup holders 1-0 at Oakwell.
But United fared little better, with Portsmouth winning at Old Trafford for the first time in 51 years thanks to Sulley Muntari’s second-half penalty.
Chelsea could have few excuses as Barnsley had served notice of their giant-killing qualities by eliminating Liverpool in the previous round at Anfield.
But Avram Grant clearly wasn’t paying attention as he left out Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, only to see his gamble backfire in spectacular fashion.
Grant faces a fight to hold on to his job and he admitted the defeat was the worst of his Chelsea reign.
“It’s the worst since I came here,” he said. “I am very, very disappointed and sad about this. It’s an important competition.
“We had a chance to do something in this competition and we didn’t do it, so now we need to look forward for the league and Champions League.”
Barnsley’s hero was Kayode Odejayi.
The Nigerian striker’s last goal had come back in September, but he was in the right place to head past Carlo Cudicini in the 66th minute and send the Tykes into the semifinals for the first time since 1912.
It was a dream come true for Barnsley manager Simon Davey, who said: “I can’t believe it.
We went to Anfield and we put on a show and we came away with the result and everyone thought we couldn’t do it again.
“I believed from the start that we could, especially because we’ve only lost here twice this season.
“We had a game plan and it’s obviously worked. I’m speechless at the moment, I can’t believe we’ve really done it. We’re in the semifinals.
“I’ve never been to Wembley myself, there’s a lot of players in that dressing room who’ve never gone to Wembley and I just can’t wait now.”
While Grant was left to shift through the rubble, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson launched a typically furious tirade at the officials after referee Martin Atkinson’s controversial display.
Atkinson turned down United’s appeals for a spot-kick when Sylvain Distin shoulder-charged Cristiano Ronaldo, then rubbed salt into the wound by giving a penalty and sending off goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak for his foul on Milan Baros.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous. I cannot explain it. Managers get sacked because of things like that and he’s going to referee a game next week,” Ferguson said.
“Referees’ boss Keith Hackett is not doing his job properly and he needs to be assessed.
“I’m assessed as a manager, players are assessed, referees should be assessed properly by the right people. That performance today [Saturday] should not be accepted by our game.”
Pompey manager Harry Redknapp admitted his side rode their luck and said: “Of course we rode our luck. You know United are going to get chances as they are a fantastic team.
“It is marvellous for our supporters and the club we are going to Wembley for the semis. It will be their greatest day for years.”—Sapa-AFP