Monday, March 10, 2008

FA Cup Quarter-finals

Manchester United 0-1 Portsmouth
Well, bugger. Somehow you could just tell that this wasn't meant to go United's way. From that early penalty shout to the endless missed chances to their keeper being sent off, it was like they were jinxed.

The shove by Distin on Ronaldo was one of those incidents where, as everyone says, if it had been outside the box it would've been a free kick. In which case it should have been a penalty. I think, also, that if it had happened a bit later in the game, the referee might have given it, but because it was so early, he just didn't have the balls to make that call.

Getting that penalty and a goal might have helped United by forcing Portsmouth to come out and opening up the game, but regardless they still had more than enough chances to score and just couldn't put the ball in the net. Portsmouth had a few decent chances too, before their penalty, but overall United were thoroughly dominant and only denied by a combination of unfortunate finishing and some mind-boggling goal-line clearances.

The decisive moment came in the 77th minute, when Tomasz Kuszczak -- who'd replaced Edwin Van der Sar at half-time -- rushed off his line to take down Milan Baros. The red card may have been harsh, since there were two men back defending and they got the penalty anyway, but more than that I'd say it was a foolish challenge. I mean, come on, it's Baros: the odds are in your favour if you just let him take the shot.

Anyway, Rio Ferdinand went in goal to face the penalty, and he did guess the right direction but didn't get close to making the save. It was all over after that, try as United might. The FA Cup was admittedly their third priority this season, but it's still disappointing not to have a chance at that trophy -- or the treble -- anymore.

But at least they're in good company. Barnsley, this year's official giant-killers, followed up their defeat of Liverpool in the last round by knocking out Chelsea. Last year's winners, like United, put out a pretty solid team, but unlike United they simply didn't play well, and Barnsley outworked them to earn the win. In the other two matches, Cardiff eliminated the only other Premiership team, beating a thoroughly mediocre Middlesbrough, and West Brom defeated Bristol Rovers in the only game that wasn't an upset.

Actually, I think that United getting knocked out here wasn't such a bad thing, because if they'd lost to one of these other teams later on, everybody would have mocked them, and if they'd won the whole thing, everybody would have despised them (despised them more, I suppose). Getting rid of the big teams may be bad news for the clubs like Aston Villa that had been chasing the UEFA Cup spots -- because it's not spots, plural, anymore, it's just one spot -- but I think it's brilliant for the FA Cup as a competition. I will be cheering for Barnsley from this point on, if you're interested.

Other results
Barnsley 1-0 Chelsea
Bristol Rovers 1-5 West Brom
Middlesbrough 0-2 Cardiff

Portsmouth v West Brom
Cardiff v Barnsley

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