England is home to the oldest Football Association competition in the world, the FA Cup. This weekend saw the final 16 teams clash across eight matches that included some great football and will see three replays yet to come.
Chelsea and Birmingham City got the weekend off the mark with the early kick off on Saturday February 18th, 2012. Stamford Bridge was rocking but came to a swift silence as the Blues of Birmingham scored the opening goal to put the home side on their back foot.
Under fire manager Andre Villas-Boas or Chelsea looked destined to disappoint once again and threw on recently returned Didier Drogba in the second half as the expense of another disappointing figure in that of Fernando Torres.
Juan Mata failed to equalize for the home side from the spot when the Blues were awarded a penalty minutes after going behind in the first half. Luckily Daniel Sturridge was able to pull them level in the last thirty minutes of the match to ensure that there would be a replay back in Birmingham as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Norwich City and Leicester City played out the next match of the weekend with the Canaries unable to keep the Foxes at bay at Carrow Road.
Leicester went 1-0 up at the fifth minute thanks to Sean St. Ledger but gave up a penalty and a rebound goal to Wesley Hoolahan twenty minutes later.
The match was open but was locked up by Leicester City’s in-form attacker David Nuggent at the 71st minute when he gave the Championship side a 2-1 lead which sent them into the quarter finals.
Everton and Blackpool were the next two on the card as David Moyes and Ian Holloway faced off for the first time since the later was relegated back to the Championship at the end of last season.
The Toffees were forced to suffer the loss of on loan star Landon Donovan due to illness in what would have been his farewell to Goodison game for his second excellent loan spell on Merseyside.
However, the American was not needed as two goals in the opening six minutes from Royston Drenthe and Denis Stracqualursi shell shocked the Tangerines who failed to recover. A late 90th minute penalty miss from Kevin Phillips summed up the frustration of Blackpool on the day as they took their leave from the competition.
The New Den was host to the next match as Millwall FC took on Bolton Wanderers in front of the London crowd. Wanderers got off to a blistering start as Arsenal’s on-loan Japanese midfield starlet Ryo Miyaichi opened his account and the scoring in the 4th minute.
Millwall pushed to try and level but were pinned back even further when form Liverpool striker David N’Gog finished from outside the 18-yard box to make it 2-0 at the 59th minute.
It was a low level match as far as shots and finished with the English Premier League side way on top sending the Wanderers to the next round.
The first major upset of the round came with Sunderland’s 2-0 defeat of Arsenal at the Stadium of Light. With a light crowd you would have thought that the fans on Wearside had given up, but an emphatic performance from the Black Cats proved otherwise.
Martin O’Neal has perhaps the most inform side in the EPL at the moment and his charges proved it with a total all-around performance to beat the faltering Gunners who have had a terrible week they will be happy to get behind them.
Kieran Richardson had opened the scoring for the Black Cats with a great effort on the 40th minute before an unfortunate own goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made it 2-0 at the 78th minute.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was the brightest spark for Arsenal and his own goal came after having lost the ball and sprinted 80 yards beck down the pitch to try and defend but his momentum carried him into the net as he tried to clear off the line.
Ten man Stoke City saw off a charging Crawley Town FC for a hard fought 2-0 victory with the lower league team having the host of the chances but failed to convert as their Cinderella run came to a disappointing end.
Jonathan Walters converted a spot kick at the 42nd minute for the Potters as they punched the lower league side in the gut just before the half. Peter Crouch then scored less than 10 minutes after the half to secure the 2-0 lead that they club would see out to the end.
Another great match of the weekend was Npower League One side Stevenage FC hosting third place EPL side Tottenham Hotspur at Broadhall Way. The lower league side only recently announced the appointment of former Major League Soccer Colorado Rapids manager Gary Smith who is yet to lose a match at the helm.
His side once again were top drawer as they fought Tottenham back all game and exemplarily performances from players such as Luke Freeman and Lawrie Wilson showed the level of commitment that Boro had to make a game of it.
Louis Saha thought he had won the match for Spurs only to have it disallowed rightly for offsides as it deflected off of a clearly offside Scott Parker before going in.
The lower league side survived to force a replay back at White Hart Lane where Harry Redknapp will hope his side can get the job done and avoid an upset.
Anfield Road was the final home to the fifth round weekend as Liverpool hosted Brighton & Hove Albion in front of the famous Kop. The Reds eliminated the Seagulls from the Carling Cup in the third round of the League’s other cup competition earlier in the campaign and the lower side was hoping for some pay back.
However, that was not on the cards for the day as a rampant Liverpool side that included the triple threat of Andy Carroll, Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard for the first time together this campaign took the biggest victory of the weekend at 6-1.
Martin Skrtel opened the scoring for the Reds with a powerful header off a Gerrard corner but the visitors equalized from a blasted long range freekick courtesy of Kazenga Lualua at the 17th minute.
Despite a brief bit of respite following their goal it capitulated to being all Liverpool all night as the Reds forced the issue as they charged into the next round of the cup. Liam Birdcutt scored an unfortunate own goal at the 44th minute just before the half putting the Reds back in the lead.
Carroll opened the second half scoring with a thumping finish from 10-yards out to make it 3-1 before the wheels finally came off for Brighton. Birdcutt knocked in another own goal thanks to Gerrard using him to deflect it into the net at the 71st minute. Lewis Dunk then added another own goal at the 74th minute when he botched any effort to clear one off the six yard line and literally dribbled into his own net.
Luis Suarez was given a chance to take a penalty at the 81st minute which he missed, but he scored a brilliant effort thanks to Andy Carroll knocking a headed cross to him at the 85th as the Reds got set for their upcoming Carling Cup final next weekend with a confidence boosting FA Cup romp.
The replay schedule and the Quarter-Final round draw took place as well and will see the last four matches and replays as follows:
5th Round Replays
Tuesday March 6, 2012 – Birmingham City vs Chelsea
Wednesday March 7, 2012 – Tottenham vs Stevenage FC
Quarter Final Round
Chelsea/Birmingham vs Leicester City
Everton vs Sunderland
Liverpool vs Stoke City
Stevenage/Tottenham vs Bolton Wanderers
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