March 18, 2009
An non-call on offsides, a post-game spitting incident and a genuinely tense match characterized Arsenal‘s come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Hull City in the last quarterfinal of the FA Cup. Nicky Barmby gave Hull an early lead on a deflected shot, a lead that would last until the final fifteen minutes of the game. Robin van Persie drew the Gunners even in the 74th minute and William Gallas headed in from a very clearly offside position for the go-ahead goal in the 84th. Adding insult to injury, there are allegations that Cesc Fábregas, not playing due to injury, spit at a Hull assistant manager in the tunnel after the game.
While the wild match certainly carries headlines, it is relatively fair revenge for an Arsenal side who lost to Hull earlier this season at the Emirates. Arsenal were also able to rest at least some of their regulars, though the likes of Arshavin and van Persie did grace the pitch. Now the Gunners move on to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and will face Chelsea at Wembley. The winner of that match will face the winner of the Manchester United-Everton tie.
March 17, 2009
Arsenal and Hull City will play today to finally round out the semifinals of the FA Cup tournament. The big question though will be whether or not Arsenal play their regular players against a clearly inferior Hull side. After their dramatic 120-minute match with Roma in the Champions League last week and a rout against Blackburn on the weekend, the Gunners will be facing their third game in a week’s time. So will Arsene Wenger care enough about the FA Cup to jeopardize the club’s chances in the Champions League or in trying to keep in the final Champions League qualifying spot domestically?
The other interesting side note about this match is the fact that Hull defeated Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, where today’s match will be held, back in September. While Hull are no longer sailing among the Premiership’s elite clubs as they did for several months last fall, that match will surely be in the minds of both clubs. For Arsenal it will surely be a motivation, regardless of which players are sent out onto the pitch, but for Hull it will no doubt be a reminder that when all is going well they can play with anyone in England.
March 8, 2009
After giving up a header to David Wheater just before halftime, Everton earned a spot in the FA Cup semifinals behind two headers within six minutes in the early second half. Afro-sporting Marouane Fellaini (pictured) and Louis Saha notched goals via their heads in the 50th and 56th minutes to give Everton a 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough at Goodison Park. It will be Everton’s first trip to Wembley and the semifinals of the FA Cup since 1995.
I have to say that my FA Cup thoughts for this weekend were basically right on. I got all the games right and my scores weren’t off by too much. I nailed the Everton score exactly, though I did give Coventry and Burnley more credit than they probably deserved. Perhaps I didn’t account for the huge momentum swings in favor of Chelsea and Arsenal in the past few weeks.
With their victory, Everton will face Manchester United at Wembley in one semifinal. The winner of the Arsenal-Hull City quarterfinal will face Chelsea in the other semifinal. Both take place at Wembley and will be in about six weeks’ time, April 18 and 19.
March 8, 2009
Finally playing their Round 5 match in the FA Cup, Arsenal blew out Burnley at the Emirates Stadium, 3-0. Young Carlos Vela scored in the 25th minute, effectively the game-winning goal. Eduardo and Emmanuel Eboué each scored in the second half to pad the lead and prevent any miraculous comeback by the Championship side. While Burnley have had nice runs in both domestic tournaments this year, the Clarets were no match for an Arsenal side that is finally coming together and playing well. The Gunners advance to face Hull City in the fourth quarterfinal of the FA Cup, a match they should surely win.
It remains to be seen, however, if Arsène Wenger will play his full strength against Hull, as he did not today. Arsenal need every point they can muster in the Premier League and are still alive in the Champions League after their defeat of Roma two weeks ago. While the FA Cup is certainly an important competition, staying afloat domestically and perhaps advancing through the Champions League will likely be priorities.
March 7, 2009
There was no trouble for either of the favored clubs in today’s FA Cup quarterfinals. At Craven Cottage, Manchester United destroyed home-standing Fulham, 4-0. Carlos Tévez scored twice in the first half to put the game out of reach. Wayne Rooney and Ji-Sung Park added insult to injury for the Premier League-leading side with second half goals. United have to be the favorites going forward in this competition after this away rout.
Chelsea jumped out to an early advantage over Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena when Didier Drogba fired in another goal in the 15th minute. The Blues controlled the match and doubled their lead when Alex scored in the 72nd minute, providing the final margin. The Sky Blues simply could not compete, even at home, against the rejuvenated Chelsea side.
March 6, 2009
This weekend the FA Cup returns in earnest for its quarterfinal round, sort of. Arsenal and Burnley still have to play their Round 5 match which means the winner will eventually play in the fourth quarterfinal at some future date. (As an aside, can you imagine this scenario in America?)
So here are the matches and a few thoughts:
Chelsea @ Coventry City – Chelsea
Manchester United @ Fulham – United
Burnley @ Arsenal – Arsenal
Middlesbrough @ Everton – Everton
I would love to see Coventry take out Chelsea tomorrow morning but I just don’t think it’s going to happen. As clubs start to realize that the Carling Cup is already over and the chances of catching Man United in the Premiership have all but faded away, they’re bound to start focusing on the FA Cup as their last real hope of winning a major trophy this season. This is certainly the case with Chelsea, though they might still have a shot in the Champions League. Coventry have been a fine story so far, easily dispatching of Kidderminster Harriers and Torquay United before knocking out Blackburn Rovers in Round 5. But Chelsea are a different beast, even with the match at the Ricoh Arena.
Chelsea 2 – Coventry 1
It’s very difficult to imagine that Manchester United will not win their match with Fulham. Though United did finally concede a goal at Newcastle mid-week, they still have not lost in ages against domestic competition. Fulham are a solid side and hosting the game at Craven Cottage will be a huge advantage, but United are playing in a different stratosphere from other English clubs. Now with the Cup Winners Cup and the Carling Cup already in the bag, is there any reason for United not to try to destroy the record books by taking home the FA Cup along with their likely title in the Premier League? And that is to say nothing of the Champions League.
United 2 – Fulham 0
Burnley have been a true delight in their runs both in the Carling Cup and now the FA Cup. In the Carling Cup they took out Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal in succession before falling to Spurs in the semifinals. The FA Cup has been less spectacular but they did see off QPR and West Brom before lining up this rematch with Arsenal. The Gunners will be keen to enact some revenge on the Clarets for the humiliating loss in the Carling Cup. It will be helpful that Arsenal have found a nice run of form of late and the match will be held at the Emirates Stadium (though Burnley did win at Stamford Bridge). Either way, this is still a Round 5 match and the winner will face Hull City in the quarterfinals, after the Tigers defeated Sheffield United.
Arsenal 3 – Burnley 2
Finally, another all-Premier League match up between Middlesbrough and Everton. Boro were just annihilated by Tottenham mid-week and have to be feeling in a rut. They are in freefall toward the relegation zone and facing Everton will be no easy task. Still, the Toffees will be happy to have the match at home, one can never guarantee a victory at the Riverside. Everton are the classier side though and should not struggle to reach the semifinals.
Everton 2 – Middlesbrough 1
February 24, 2009
Fulham needed two goals in the final thirteen minutes to escape their 5th round replay with Swansea at Craven Cottage. Clint Dempsey (77th) and Bobby Zamora (81st) (both pictured) did the trick for the Cottagers, earning them a home game with Manchester United in the quarterfinal round. Jason Scotland, the first match’s hero for the Welsh side, opened the scoring in the 47th minute. But the Championship side’s dreams were dashed when Zamora headed in the winner just nine minutes from time.
The other 5th round replay today saw Coventry City advance to the quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers at the Ricoh Arena. Leon Best’s 59th minute goal was all Coventry needed to earn a home showing against Chelsea in the next round.
Additional 5th round replays will take place tomorrow and Thursday between West Ham and Middlesbrough on the one hand and Hull City and Sheffield United on the other.