FA Cup: 5th Round (Arsenal 1 – Sheffield United 1 and Newcastle 1 – Chelsea 0)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
February 20th, 2005 • 5:48 am

What a crazy week-end of FA Cup football!

First, there was the rather mysterious red card against Bergkamp at Highbury. Sure, Dennis gave the Sheffield United player a bit of a push on the chest — but a red card for this? It was a yellow card offense at worst. I don’t particularly enjoy these confrontations involving multiple players, and I think they happen way too often in today’s game. But Neale Barry got things completely wrong.

Things didn’t get much better when he disallowed what looked like a perfectly good Sheffield United goal. By the time he awarded that penalty in the 90th minute, most Arsenal supporters had probably given up on the idea of this game and the referee making any sense. Some would argue that Sheffield United “deserved” a draw (and a replay), but it’s not up to the referee to make sure that teams get what they allegedly “deserve”.

That being said, Arsène Wenger had to make do without key players such as Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole, and took a gamble when he chose to rest Vieira and Henry (and leave Pires on the bench). Bergkamp was effectively the only “senior” figure on the pitch — and his sending off after half an hour didn’t help.

Still, even the neutrals have to admit that Sheffield United played a rather ugly game, and there’s nothing very “deserving” in this kind of approach against a stylish team such as Arsenal. They got their replay at home — and Wenger will probably have to field a few additional “senior” players to make sure that his team will reach the quarter-finals of the competition.

It was probably not part of his plans, but he took a bit of a gamble, and got punished for it.

Speaking of gambles… Mourinho took an even bigger one, electing to rest such key figures as Damien Duff, and Frank Lampard. But no one could have predicted how much of a nightmare their Sunday FA Cup tie at Newcastle would turn out to be.

Let’s see…

  • Newcastle gets heavy overnight snowfalls and have to clear the pitch before the game, which still goes on as scheduled, in spite of the difficult conditions. (It’s still snowing.)
  • In anticipation of the Champions’ League game in mid-week at Barcelona, Mourinho rests Duff, Gudjohnsen and Lampard. Terry is suspended. Robben and Drogba are still off with serious injuries. The gamble doesn’t pay off, Newcastle have a deserved 1-0 lead at half-time, and Mourinho has to introduce Duff, Gudjohnsen, and Lampard. It’s another gamble, because it means that there’ll be no more substitutions for Chelsea.
  • Within 10 minutes in the second half, Wayne Bridge breaks his ankle and has to be carried off on a stretcher. Chelsea lose a defender, and cannot make any further substitutions! They have to play with 10 men for the rest of the game. The replays clearly show that Shearer went for the ball, and that the injury is mostly due to Bridge falling awkwardly. Bad luck, in other words.
  • Not much later in the second half, Damien Duff gets hurt himself. He stays on the pitch and tries to contribute, but is clearly struggling. Staying on the pitch is not necessarily a good idea, since it can aggravate an injury — and the last thing that Chelsea need is Duff missing for next week’s game in Barcelona.
  • A few minutes before the end, Ameobi, who came on for Shearer, is running towards the Chelsea goal. Cudicini runs out and brings him down illegally. He is the last defender and the referee has no choice. It’s a red card! Chelsea are down to 9 men, and have to put Glenn Johnson in goal!
  • Finally, one of the last images of the game is Gallas shown struggling with an injury himself!

Now, to Mourinho’s credit, he conceded defeat very gracefully and went to shake Graeme Souness’ hand even before the final whistle was blown. But there is no denying that this was a nightmarish afternoon for him. The only little bit of good news is that John Terry will be able to play in the Carling Cup final next week, since today’s game was not cancelled due to the heavy snow. But the dream of a “quadruple” (Premiership / FA Cup / Carling Cup / Champions’ League) is gone. Could this be the beginning of Chelsea’s unravelling? Several English teams and millions of fans worldwide are certainly hoping that the team will at least fall back to earth and face a real challenge in the remaining competitions.

That being said, I wouldn’t be too optimistic if I were a Newcastle fan. Even with all the misery piled on Chelsea and with a full-strength team themselves (with the exception of Bowyer), they were unable to take advantage and increase their lead. They were indeed quite poor and it’s only because Chelsea were unable to create much themselves that they were able to preserve their early lead and win the game. The only Newcastle player who was really impressive was Titus Bramble, of all people. He has had his fair share of problems on the pitch since joining Newcastle, but he was really quite good today, and helped foil Chelsea’s attempts.

Still, it was a famous win, and quite a dramatic afternoon. It certainly was a gripping show to watch!

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.