Last weekend saw the FA Cup 4th Round take place. There were some great matches with plenty of action, as league standings went out of the window and the lower leagues got to mix it with the big boys. Plenty of upset as some big Premier League clubs crashed out, and cup romance survives for another round as we bring you news of a giant killing, of sorts.
We start on Friday night at Vicarage Road, where a spirited Watford performance wasn’t enough to stop Tottenham grinding out a 0-1 victory. Rafael van der Vaart with the goal for Spurs just before half-time, enough to see the Premier League high-fliers into the draw for Round 5. Also on Friday night, Everton defeated Fulham by two goals to one. It was the Cottagers who took the lead on 14 minutes through a Danny Murphy penalty, but the Toffees struck back on 27 minutes, Stracqualursi with his first goal for the club. Everton secured the tie with a goal thirteen minutes from time by Marouaine Fellaini, Fulham’s terrible away form continues.
Chelsea travelled to Q.P.R. on Saturday for an early kick-off. The meeting was the first between the two clubs since John Terry was caught on camera, allegedly, racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, an incident which Terry is to stand trial for. The question of whether the two would shake hands never arose, as the F.A. made the cowardly decision of announcing that the customary ritual would be left out of this tie.
The game itself produced little in the way of excitement, the two teams cancelling each other out, for the most part. However, the tie swung Chelsea’s way just before the hour, on the back of an incredibly soft penalty decision by referee Mike Dean; Clint Hill adjudged to have barged over Daniel Sturridge. Juan Mata scored from the spot and Chelsea held on to win 0-1. Liverpool defeated Manchester United at Anfield with goals from Daniel Agger and, a last minute winner from Dirk Kuyt, enough to gazump Park’s equaliser. A full match report has already been published on this site. https://itsallinthegameblog.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/united-dirked-kuyt-claims-cup-kudos/
Norwich City repeated their recent 1-2 league victory away at West Brom on Saturday. They took the lead ten minutes before the break through Grant Holt, Fortune levelled for Albion after 54 minutes, but Simeon Jackson scored five minutes from time to seal the Canaries’ victory. Birmingham’s away record continues to improve, as they put four past a Sheffield United side unbeaten in eight games going into the weekend.
Redmond opened the scoring for the Brummies, two from Rooney and one from Elliot completed their rout of the League one club. At Filbert Street, two goals from Jermaine Beckford were enough to see Leicester City send, Paolo di Canio’s, Swindon home empty handed. The League Two outfit can be proud of their contribution to this year’s competition, having seen off Wigan in Round 3. Meanwhile, Championship play-off hopefuls Hull were embarrassed at home by Crawley Town. The League Two club, famous for their giant-killing exploits in last year’s competition, are at it again; Matt Tubbs’ goal in the second half ensured their presence in the 5th Round draw.
Newcastle United suffered a shock exit, away at Brighton. The Geordies, doing so well in the Premier League this season, succumbed to Gus Poyet’s Championship side through an own goal by Andy Williamson in the 76th minute. Another own goal meant that the all League One clash between Stevenage and Notts County went with the form book. Stevenage came out on top 1-0, Stewart doing the damage, putting through his own net after just twelve minutes.
Stoke negotiated a tricky away tie at Pride Park by beating Derby County 0-2. An early goal from Cameron Jerome, and a late one from Robert Huth sealed victory and secured last year’s finalists a place in the next round. Bolton Wanderers made it two home wins on the spin by coming from behind to punish Swansea City. The much changed Swans took the lead a couple of minutes before the interval, Luke Moore with the finish. Bolton rallied quickly, however, and former Swansea player, Darren Pratley, equalised in first half stoppage-time. Bolton made sure of the win ten minutes into the second half when Chris Eagles score from close range after a mistake by Gerhard Tremmel.
Sunday’s game of the day, undoubtedly, came at The Emirates in the day’s late kick-off. Arsenal recently defeated Aston Villa on home soil in the league, and were looking to notch a quick double over the Villains. The Gunners dominated the first period, but found themselves 0-2 down at the end of it thanks to a Richard Dunne header, from a Robbie Keane cross after a well worked short corner routine, and a breakaway goal from Darren Bent. Arsenal had lost three in a row in the league, and Wenger and his men were booed off at half time.
Arsenal began the second half at a much higher tempo, and , in the first ten minutes, the pressure on the Villa back four gradually built, as the Gunners pressed to get a foothold in the game. What followed was nothing short of breathtaking! The Villa defence just disintegrated in front of our eyes, they shot themselves in both feet and allowed the Gunners to score three goals, including two penalties, in seven minutes.
Firstly, Richard Dunne came in with an utterly rash, and totally unnecessary, challenge on Aaron Ramsey, conceding the first spot kick, which van Persie buried. Next, Walcott was allowed to carry the ball all the way into the six yard box, without a challenge being made; once there, he simply played it across the area, where Alan Hutton, not the most assured of defenders, made an awful decision. Attempting to clear with his left foot, he smashed the ball against Walcott and into the Villa goal. Hutton could have allowed the ball to run across him and cleared it with his right, but he didn’t, and the result was a slapstick comedy of an equaliser.
Not two minutes later, just to wrap things up, Darren Bent made another dopey decision, lunging into a sliding challenge from behind, and conceding a second penalty. Van Persie duly obliged and Arsenal secured the win. A remarkable turnaround for Arsenal, but an embarrassing and spectacular collapse by Villa, who simply folded in on themselves like a house of cards, in a manner normally reserved for England’s batsmen.
There were three drawn games over 4th Round weekend. Millwall and Southampton drew 1-1 in an all Championship tie, Lambert put the Saints ahead in the first half, with Henderson squaring things up for the Lions late on. Blackpool left it late against League One’s Sheffield Wednesday, a 90th minute Kevin Philips penalty enough to cancel out Clinton Morrison’s 52nd minute finish. Finally, on Sunday, Sunderland had to come from a goal down against local rivals Middlesborough. Barry Robson gave Boro the lead just after the quarter hour, but Fraser Campbell evened things up for the Black Cats on the hour mark. These ties will be re-played to a finish on 7th/8th February.