The English have always prided themselves in having the best domestic cup competition in the world but until this season there has been very little evidence of that claim.
But this season alone we have seen a non-league side like Havant and Waterlooville go to Anfield and take the lead against the mighty Liverpool before eventually losing gallantly by 5-2.
Luton Town, a team about to go into administration because of immense money problems holding Liverpool to a home draw, Oldham winning at high-flying Everton, Huddersfield being on level terms with Chelsea at half-time at Stamford Bridge and Barnsley going to Anfield an winning by 2-1 with the winning goal right at the death.
This and other results made Manchester United and Chelsea the clear favourites to win the FA Cup. By the quarter-final stage the draw pitted Manchester United at home to Portsmouth, Chelsea away to Barnsley, Middlesboro at home to Cardiff and West Brom at home to Bristol Rovers.
These meant 4 teams from the premiership, 3 from the championship and 1 from league one. You would have got long odds in not having 3 premiership sides in the semi-finals before the start of play but what transpired was so astonishing that most people still cannot believe it.
On Saturday, Portsmouth travelled to Manchester United hoping at most for a draw to take them back to Fratton Park but fate was to play a huge part. United missed a lot of chances in both halves but perhaps the most telling event was when goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Saar was uneable to come out for the 2nd half due to a groin injury and his replacement Tomasz Kuszczak was sent off for bringing down Milan Baros as he bore down on goal.
There was no doubt it was a penalty but the decision to send him off was very harsh as the rule states that if you deliberately stop a goal scoring opportunity then you have to be sent off but from replays it did show that Kuszczak accidentally brought down Baros and should have got a yellow card at most. Rio Ferdinand went in goal as there was no other goalkeeper on the bench but Sulley Muntari dispatched the penalty brilliantly to put the favourites out.
Another point that was controversial was that Wayne Rooney and Anderson were behind the goalkeeper so he was not the last man but Chris Kamara on Sky’s Goals on Sunday stated that the rules have been changed and it does not matter if you are the last man or not but later that day I did see Barcelona goalkeeper deliberately bring down Villareal’s Leo Franco thereby stopping a goal scoring opportunity with defenders like Gaby Milito and Lilian Thuram about but all he was shown was a yellow card.
The talking point was Cristiano Ronaldo being denied a penalty when Silvian Distin clearly barged into him in the penalty box. Personally I thought it was a foul but an indirect free kick in the penalty box as it was an obstruction and not a push. The game ended 1-0 to Portsmouth and Chelsea had a clear way to the FA Cup or so it seemed.
Chelsea kicked off in the evening against Barnsley confident that they would retain their trophy but Barnsley had other plans and almost totally dominated the premiership side before their striker Kayode Odejayi, who had not netted in 28 games, previously rose majestically to head home the winner to the astonishment and sheer delight of the Barnsley supporters and neutrals around the country.
If those were not enough, on Sunday, Cardiff City went to Middlesboro and totally outplayed the premiership side winning by 2-0 with Guy Whittingham scoring the goal of the round to put his side in front before Roger Johnson headed in the winning goal to make it 2 championship sides in the semi-final.
West Brom then defeated Bristol Rovers 5-1 to make it an astonishing 3 championship sides in the semis and 1 premiership side to bring the romance back to the FA Cup.
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