Saturday, April 14, 2007

Five FA Cup Semi-Finals

The MLS will have to wait. It's FA Cup Weekend again! You don't need me to tell you that at least one of this year's semi-finals is more or less a done deal. The FA Cup spoilt us last year, and this year it is applying its retribution through the medium of serving up Chelsea and Manchester United at Wembley next month. If they get through to the Champions League final, this year's FA Cup Final won't even be the most important match of the week for the two teams involved. Still, when they've all been taken over by billionaire uber-capitalists, maybe they'll leave the rest of us alone. We can but hope.

All of those debates are for another day, though. This weekend, Watford (with their reserve goalkeeper, most significant prior TV appearance was appearing on "Dragon's Den" last year, apparently) take on Manchester United at Villa Park, whilst Blackburn Rovers face Chelsea at Old Trafford. Neither match, by the way, is sold out. Chelsea supporters are unhappy at having to travel all that way for a mere FA Cup match, whilst Watford have failed to sell their allocation for the match at Villa Park as well. Blackburn Rovers, of course, don't even have 30,000 fans. But never mind. It's their loss. I've seen it noted elsewhere that FA Cup shocks are most likely when a big club is feeling complacent and a smaller club is up for it. There is no question in my mind that the "Big Two" are complacent, but the gap in quality is so great now that it's difficult to see where a shock is going to come from. The current Watford team had a great win against Portsmouth on Monday, but it's fair to say that they are no more than a mid-table Championship team playing in the Premiership, whilst Blackburn, who are plenty capable of giving Chelsea a game, capitulated feebly in their semi-final two years ago. Having said all of that, FA Cup semi-finals can be great matches, so here are five from the archives.

Liverpool vs Crystal Palace (1990)

Liverpool were well on the way to their 327th First Division championship trophy, and had beaten Palace 9-0 at Anfield the previous September. When they went a goal up, it looked as if it was all over, but Steve Coppell had ideas.

Manchester United vs Oldham Athletic (1990)

Meanwhile, at Maine Road, the Second Division leaders Oldham Athletic had a Manchester derby to play against Alex Ferguson's then under-achieving United. Ferguson had reportedly come within 90 minutes of the sack during the 1989/90 season. The FA Cup provided him with the get-out clause that kept him in a job.

Arsenal vs Sunderland (1973)

Arsenal had reached the previous two FA Cup finals, completing the double against Liverpool in 1971, and losing to Leeds United the following year. In 1973, they played Second Division Sunderland at Hillsbrough. A foregone conclusion, surely?

Chelsea vs Sheffield Wednesday (1966)

At a Villa Park still being re-built for the forthcoming World Cup, Chelsea play Sheffield Wednesday for the right to take on Everton at Wembley.

Liverpool vs Nottingham Forest (1989)

Lest we forget. Bill Shankly was wrong, you know. Football isn't more important than life or death.


Design by Dzelque Blogger Templates 2007-2008