Europe’s foremost domestic cup competition is nearing its climax for this season, the hallowed turf of Wembley awaits the final four teams, with a return visit for the two finalists on Saturday May 5th. Last weekend was F.A.Cup quarter-final weekend, as eight teams battled to make the draw for the semi-finals, and give their fans a day out that they’ll never forget.
Plenty of action to get through, but first we begin with some incredibly sad news. Fabrice Muamba, Bolton’s 23 year old midfielder, collapsed after 41 minutes of their F.A. Cup quarter-final match with Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Saturday. Muamba, who has a fiancée Shauna, and young son Joshua, suffered a cardiac arrest during the match, and attempts to revive him on the pitch, were unsuccessful. Muamba is in a stable but critical condition in hospital, and all of our thoughts are with him and his family, as we hope that he can pull through this desperate situation.
The game itself was all square at 1-1 at the time of the incident, and was abandoned immediately afterwards. Bolton’s Premier League match with Aston Villa on Tuesday has been postponed, and the date for the replay of their cup quarter-final with Tottenham will be arranged in the next week or so, should the club decide to continue in this year’s competition.
Earlier on Saturday, Sunderland travelled to Goodison Park to take on an Everton side, who, under David Moyes, have made the capture of the F.A. Cup their prime target for this season. Moyes rested key attacking talent, such as Cahill, Jelavic, Osman and Drenthe, for last Tuesay’s Premier League clash with arch rivals Liverpool, in order that they would be fresh for the visit of Martin O’Neill’s Black Cats.
Unfortunately for David Moyes, Everton, and the home support, the Toffees got off to the worst possible start, going a goal behind after just twelve minutes. Still fuming at the lack of a penalty decision from Andre Marriner, for Gardner’s fairly clear foul on Drenthe, Everton switched off from a free-kick, allowing Jack Colback to roll the ball to Phil Bardsley, and his powerful low drive screamed into the bottom right corner of the Everton goal, giving Tim Howard no chance.
Moyes’ men were on level terms just over ten minutes later. Leighton Baines picked out Jelavic with a cross, his header was going wide, however a timely intervention from Tim Cahill guided the the ball past Mignolet, and into the back of the net. Everton finished the half the stronger side, Cahill forced Mignolet into a good save, before Drenthe curled a powerful free-kick onto the angle of post and bar.
The home side came out after the break in a positive frame of mind, and began to take control of proceedings. Cahill forced another good save from the Belgian, and Jelavic came close on a couple of occasions, most notably when his powerful header flashed just over the bar. In the dying minutes Mignolet was forced into action again, this time at full stretch, he denied Johnny Heitinga with a strong right hand, before recovering instantly to deny Jelavic on the follow up.
Sunderland clung on for a replay which will take place on Tuesday 27th March, but they’ll need to up their game to deny Everton a semi-final match with, Merseyside rivals, Liverpool.
Chelsea made it four wins out of four for Roberto di Matteo, as they eventually ran out 5-2 winners against a spirited Leicester City side on Sunday. Without Drogba, Lampard or Terry, the Blues cruised into a 2-0 first-half lead, with goals from Cahill (12) and Kalou (17).
Fernando Torres’ well documented goal drought finally came to an end after almost 26 hours, when he netted in the 67th minute to put the Londoners 3-0 up. Jermaine Beckford pulled one back for the Foxes ten minutes later, he was quickest to the rebound after Danns’ effort came back off the post. Some sloppy defending by the visitors allowed Mereiles to pick out Torres with a near post corner, and the Spaniard glanced his header into the far corner (85).
The action didn’t stop there though, in the 88th minute Leicester substitute, Ben Marshall, picked up the ball in midfield, drove at the Chelsea back four, and unleashed a right-foot shot from almost thirty yards, which flew into the top corner, leaving Petr Cech a bemused spectator. Fernando Torres capped a man of the match performance by, unselfishly, setting up Mereiles to slot home Chelsea’s fifth, with a first-time finish in the final minute; the former Liverpool duo again combining well. 5-2 Chelsea, they’ll face either Tottenham or Bolton in the semi-final.
Liverpool made it two wins in a week as they put in a gritty performance to see off a dogged Stoke City side, 2-1, at Anfield on Sunday. Luis Suarez gave the hosts the lead in the 23rd minute, when, after playing a sharp one-two with Maxi Rodriguez, the Uruguayan bent a delightful low effort into the far corner of Sorensen’s goal, giving the Dane absolutely no chance.
Stoke, as is their trademark, battled away in the first-half, however produced relatively few moments that really troubled Reina. Their equaliser in the 26th minute owed more than a little to good fortune. Ryan Shawcross flicked-on a corner at the near post, which evaded everybody and was ushered behind by Skrtel. The officials made a mess of the call and awarded a corner when, clearly, a goal kick should have been the decision; from this corner , Ryan Shotton was quite obviously impeding Pepe Reina, by backing into the Liverpool goalkeeper and making no attempt to play the ball. This, coupled with Andy Carroll’s lapse in concentration, allowed Peter Crouch a free run at the ball, and the former Liverpool striker made no mistake against his former club, burying the header to level the score.
Liverpool emerged after the interval a more determined outfit, and Suarez and Gerrad tested Sorensen almost immediately, before the former glanced a header just wide, when he should really have scored. It was Stewart Downing, however, who would prove to be Liverpool’s match winner (57). Bursting in off the right-wing, Downing attempted to play a one-two with Gerrard, it worked out, but not as planned, with the ball actually rebounding off the skipper’s heels. The ball fell perfectly for Downing to take it in his stride, advance into the box, and hammer a left –footed stike into the bottom corner.
Despite the introduction of Cameron Jerome, Stoke posed little in the way of attacking threat in the second-half, Dirk Kuyt’s arrival for the home team shored things up in midfield, with the industrious Dutchman, not only working hard to snuff out any danger, but also involved at the other end, forcing Sorensen into a smart stop. The Reds saw the game out with little incident, sending Pulis’ men packing, and booking themselves a second trip of the season to Wembley in the process.
Provisional F.A. Cup Semi-Final Draw
Tottenham Hotspur/ Bolton Wanderers vs Chelsea
Liverpool vs Everton/Sunderland Athletic
Ties to be played the weekend of 14th/15thApril