Lowly Luton Town, comprised of semi-professionals, knocked out the despairing Norwich. Oldham, struggling to avoid relegation in League 1, put “to bed” Liverpool’s aspiration in the FA Cup. Abramovich’s Chelsea against Brentford managed a late goal by Torres to live to play another day. Arsenal required a late goal from Theo Walcott to avoid a replay against Brighton. Manchester City edged Stoke City on the latter’s ground and Manchester United easily dispatched the ailing Fulham.
When the non-Premier League teams match up against the EPL giants, the teams in the Championship League, League 1 and below play beyond their ability and with tenacity that gets them surprising results. On those occasions when David squares off with Goliath, it clearly shows that winning is not just about assembling talent but about desire and true grit. Last weekend, one had to admire true grit with teams like LutonTown, Brentford, Oldham, Brighton, et al. It makes the FA cup very special. It provides the lower teams the opportunity that they can rise to the top.
In Cup games, top clubs often use the opportunity to rest their starters and to give bench players the chance to start and impress the coach. On this January weekend, the managers had to go to the well and bring out the stars to avoid being knocked out of the FA Cup.
Brandon Rodgers started his top players up front- Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling- but played some young grooms in the back. Facing defeat Rodgers brought in Steven Gerrard to rescue the Reds. Gerrard pulled out all stops, hitting the crossbar on one occasion but the hole that Liverpool created for themselves was too deep.
Chelsea fielded a fairly potent team but as they fell behind, Rafael Benitez had to call open playmaker Juan Mata to keep the Blues alive. The situation became that desperate that he also had to call on Demba Ba who was instrumental in setting up the Torres goal that became the temporary life-saving equalizer.
Arsenal started up impressively with Giroud scoring a spectacular goal which will give him confidence in the second half of the season. Wenger’s defense as usual was porous and previous in defending balls in the box. Brighton was on the verge of humiliating Arsenal. Wenger had to call upon Wilshire and Walcott to extrapolate the chestnuts out of the fire. Walcott scored from a melee to give Arsenal a 3-2 victory.
Manchester United did not have to insert Van Persie to easily dismiss Fulham. Hernandez, Rooney and others ran rings around Berbatov’s Fulham. Unfortunately, Fulham is still recovering from having lost Dempsey and Dembele. Manchester City ventured into Stoke City and dominated the game but didn’t get the breakthrough goal until deep in the second half. The Argentinean, Zabeleta, showed his worth in sealing the victory for Manchester City.
The survivors go to the next round. The non-Premier League teams are more competitive when they play at home in fields that are in a sorrow state. The advance constitutes a sorely needed influx of cash for those teams but after the next round they will go gently or kicking and screaming into that good night. The cream will rise to the top.