Wow – just wow. January 24th will be documented as part of an incredible weekend of football, with giant killings and massive scorelines contributing to a momentous day of football.
So, let’s get down to reviewing Saturday’s major events.
Sunderland 0-0 Fulh-… just kidding!
Chelsea 2-4 Bradford City
This was the shock of all shocks over the weekend and I don’t think any one in their wildest dreams could have imagined the above scoreline actually becoming reality. Bradford came in to the game off the back of an impressive 4-0 replay against Championship side Millwall and to their credit, if they were beaten by Chelsea then at least they could claim to have put in a decent shift in this season’s competition. The odds were against them have been cruising, but in the FA Cup any league form goes out the window.
Not only did Bradford become the first side to win at Stamford Bridge all season, they grabbed victory having been 2-0 down after 40 minutes against a pretty respectable Chelsea side that featured the likes of Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Oscar, Ramires and Gary Cahill – it was certainly a team that suggested that Jose Mourinho has plenty of respect for the FA Cup.
The home side pulled ahead when Gary Cahill flicked home a delivery and Ramires capped off a typical, smooth Chelsea build-up, putting the Blues well on the way to an expected victory. If this was a league game, Chelsea would likely be celebrating three points, but the FA Cup’s magic stuck around for another season and Bradford hit back – Jon Stead hit a stinging shot in to the top-left corner that Petr Cech managed to get a hand on, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the goal; game on.
The second-half could not have arrived quicker with Bradford brimming with hope. Deep in to the second-half, Felipe Morais tapped home to send the travelling Bantams in to raptures. A potential replay – what an excellent result to conclude with. But that wasn’t enough for Bradford, however. Eight minutes from time, Andy Halliday curled a superb effort to the right of Cech, putting them ahead. Above and beyond all expectations, Bradford have pulled off the come-back of the season.
Mourinho and his men were shell-shocked and Hazard, Fabregas and Willian were thrown on to try to recover the tie – to no avail. Chelsea had to take a risk and this time, it didn’t pay off as Bradford composed themselves in the style of a Champions League side before Mark Yeates completed a beautiful move to confirm the impossible.
Mourinho clearly wasn’t impressed with what he had witnessed and said he was ‘ashamed’ by Chelsea’s performance and warned his players before the tie that it would be a disgrace to lose. He pulled no punches in his post-match interview. As well as a mountain of criticism for his side, he was also swift to praise the beauty of the cup, appreciate the surprises that it provides and congratulated Bradford.
The Blues boss stated, “By one side this is the beauty of football, the beauty of the FA Cup. It happens more in the FA Cup than any other country. By another side I feel ashamed and I think the players should feel exactly the same as I feel.”
Congratulations to Phil Parkinson and his team!
Manchester City 0-2 Middlesbrough
As we were all trying to take in what was happening at Stamford Bridge, a huge shock was occurring simultaneously further north at the Etihad, as high-flying Middlesbrough claimed a deserved win against a City side who, like Chelsea, fielded a side that strongly went against the suggestion that the FA Cup is a distraction to th bigger clubs. Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Jesus Navas all started in a defeat that added to doubts around Manchester and adds pressure in the build-up to their crunch tie at Chelsea this weekend.
Aside from Middlesbrough’s impressive forward play, praise must go to their defence who withstood a side that was far from weakened. City really needed a positive result to restore a high level of confidence going in to their vital clash this weekend and this defeat will do them no favours in a match where the underdogs thoroughly deserved their win. Despite ‘Boro resting first-team keeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos, former Real Madrid shot-stopper Tomas Mejias was the star man as he kept out Stevan Jovetic, James Milner and David Silva, who had City’s best chances. Mejias’ defence managed to throw themselves in front of anything City asked of them – there was nothing lucky about this clean sheet.
Middlesbrough’s defensive perseverance seemed to infect the forwards when on 53 minutes, Patrick Bamford chased down an effort that was closing in on an empty net and, despite Fernando’s best efforts to pull-off a goal line clearance, the on-loan Chelsea forward bundled home to give the Championship side a commendable lead. It was a shock wave of a goal and City needed to wake up and pull off a repeat of their third round antics against Sheffield Wednesday – when they were a goal down late in the second period – and the frame of the goal prevented substitute Frank Lampard from gaining an equaliser. Middlesbrough had lady luck on their side and they took advantage in the dying seconds when Spaniard Kike sealed a famous win for ‘Boro with a near-post effort.
Watford 7-2 Blackpool
There was a handful of other unlikely results in this weekend’s FA Cup, but before we turn our attention to those, it was yet another day to forget for Championship basement club Blackpool, who were embarrassed by inconsistent Watford despite leading 2-0 at the interval. Few people need to guess what Hornets boss Slavisa Jokanovic would have had to say at the break, as the evidence was laid bare on the pitch as seven goals in thirty-five minutes hammered home another nail in Blackpool’s coffin.
Blackpool began brightly, following Lee Clark’s repeated mention that he wanted far better from his side following their flat performance at Wolves. Andrea Orlandi took advantage of some indecisive Watford defending to smash home and send the lately deflated four-hundred travelling fans delirious. A clean sheet is tough to keep at Vicarage Road, yet one nil to the good set-up a potentially monumental victory – that pipeline win seemed to be solidified when Steven Davies scored a typical poachers goal to put the Seasiders on course for their first away win since April 2014.
However, being a Blackpool fan myself, the thought of the victory being seen out seemed highly unlikely, with some fans referring to Blackpool’s 2-2 draw at Fulham in November, when they let a two goal lead slip. Those fears ultimately became reality, and shipping two goals would seem like a victory now, with the score eventually becoming 7-2 to Watford, making it barely possible to salvage a case for Blackpool surviving the trap-door after this.
Watford hit back immediately, just two minutes into the second-half, when Odion Ighalo put away the first of his eventual four goals. Having been denied in the first-half, Troy Deeney made amends by equalising six minutes later. Ighalo got his brace and that was that for Blackpool. Matej Vydra, Gabriele Angella and two more from Nigerian International Ighalo sealed a second thrashing for Lee Clark during his Blackpool tenure and three altogether for him this season – his other at Birmingham against Bournemouth.
Watford rise to sixth and look set to finish in the top ten once again, if not push for a play-off spot. Blackpool remain with just three wins and Saturday’s defeat was their sixteenth of the season, as their misery on the pitch matched that off it as a protest has been organised for their home tie against recently in-form Brighton this weekend.
Liverpool 0-0 Bolton Wanderers
Bolton earned themselves a credible draw at Anfield as they held out for a replay against in-form Liverpool, who will rue this missed opportunity. To their credit Liverpool did ask plenty of questions of the Bolton defence, but their opponents stood strong and did the 6000 travelling fans, who supported their team well vocally, proud. Bolton, on the day, didn’t trouble the Reds defence too much and it’s clear Bolton boss Neil Lennon’s game-plan was to contain Liverpool and hit them on the break with a counter-attacking set-up. The home side pressed and asked questions and their Premier League quality showed, but on this occasion they couldn’t make it count and will now face a mid-week replay at the Macron – adding to an already large cluster of fixtures between now and April.
The first 15 minutes was an end-to-end display that had both sides showing attacking intent, but the deeper in to the half the game got, the more it became a display of Liverpool’s offensive dominance. The Reds created half-chances but Bolton’s compact defence forced them to take long-distance efforts, as Liverpool’s attempts to walk the ball home found Raheem Sterling outnumbered and his efforts blocked.
Aside from a couple of half-chances and attacking plays from Wanderers, Liverpool heavily dominated the second-half, but again were shut out and forced to distanced efforts. Liverpool didn’t make wholesale alterations following their 1-1 draw with Chelsea last Tuesday as Adam Lallana, Glen Johnson, Joe Allen and Javier Manquillo made rare starts. Jordan Henderson, who is due to be made captain following Steven Gerrard’s departure this summer, proved his credentials as a leader and kept some composure in Liverpool’s play in the midfield. However, this game could be compared to their previous tie at AFC Wimbledon, where they required Gerrard to see them over the line. They generally seemed to be missing that extra piece of experience to round off the game. Leaving Gerrard out of the squad still half-paid-off as Liverpool enter the fifth round draw and have a fully fit Gerrard prepared to face Chelsea in the League Cup semi-final second leg this Tuesday.
Bolton will be elated with their draw and will view the FA Cup as a potentially genuine priority as reaching the Championship play-offs appears a little out of reach, given the quality in the league this season. Relegation isn’t a fear for the Trotters and Neil Lennon will be satisfied with his first few months in Lancashire and the much-needed stability that’s been brought to the football club. Bolton still have plenty of off-the-field issues to contend, but some quality on the pitch has brought plenty of fans back to the Macron in recent weeks.
Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Leicester City
Nigel Pearson may have just put any potential sacking or resignation on hold after beating yet more Premier League opposition in the FA Cup, having scraped by Newcastle in the third round and now Tottenham at White Hart Lane in the fourth. Like Chelsea, Spurs took the lead, through another Andros Townsend penalty after the England International saw the North Londoners past Sheffield United thanks to a penalty last Wednesday in the League Cup.
Leicester have had, overall, a poor season, but always possess an attacking potency and Tottenham were unlikely to be safe at a goal up. Spurs were ultimately made to pay for not seeing the game out. £9 million signing Andrej Kramaric had a positive impact on the game and worked well with Leonardo Ulloa up front for Leicester and the Croatian looks set to be a key player in helping the Foxes to avoid an increasingly-possible relegation. Leicester could have easily had a penalty of their own when Michel Vorm looked to have brought down Kramaric, but the latter was cautioned for simulation and Leicester went in to the interval aggrieved.
The away side continued to press and were avidly awarded in the eighty-third minute when Argentinian Ulloa amended for an earlier missed free header by keeping his composure during a corner, turning and slotting home. However, despite drawing level, that wasn’t the conclusion as the Foxes snatched victory when Jeffrey Schlupp bundled home Danny Simpson’s cross under Michel Vorm, who should have done far better. You could call it ‘poetic justice’ – if you’re a Leicester supporter.
Today’s other results:
Blackburn Rovers 3-1 Swansea City
Birmingham City 1-2 West Bromwich Albion
Cardiff City 1-2 Reading
Derby County 2-0 Chesterfield
Preston North End 1-1 Sheffield United
Southampton 2-3 Crystal Palace
Sunderland 0-0 Fulham
Norwich City 1-2 Brentford
Wigan Athletic 0-1 Huddersfield Town
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-0 Charlton Athletic
Colchester United 2-0 Leyton Orient
Fleetwood Town 1-0 Crawley Town
Gillingham 3-2 Oldham Athletic
MK Dons 2-0 Barnsley
Notts County 1-2 Peterborough United
Port Vale 0-1 Crewe Alexandra
Yeovil Town 0-0 Coventry City
AFC Wimbledon 2-1 Accrington Stanley
Bury 2-1 Carlisle United
Cheltenham Town 1-1 Luton Town
Mansfield Town 0-0 Wycombe Wanderers
Northampton Town 3-0 Newport County
Oxford United 2-2 Exeter City
Plymouth Argyle 1-1 Morecambe
Portsmouth 1-2 Southend United
Shrewsbury Town 3-2 Stevenage
Tranmere Rovers 1-1 Hartlepool United
York City 1-1 Burton Albion