Chelsea, Manchester City, and Southampton have all had a disappointing weekend, as in a stunning round of FA Cup play, all three Premier League clubs have been chased from the competition. Not only was it three Premier League clubs, but the top three in the standings currently. For true fans of the FA Cup, however, it was a weekend that exemplified the spirit of the tournament. Two of the three fell to clubs who were not in the Premier League, showing that anyone can win on any given day.
For Chelsea, it was a day that saw the club have three goals scored against them at home for the first time this year. Manager Jose Mourinho said he was ashamed of the loss. It was a particularly ironic turn of events, as Mourinho had made comments prior to the match saying that it would be a “disgrace” if his club lost to Bradford, a club from League One. Chelsea began the day looking like they would have no problems. Before 40 minutes in, they had already pulled out into a two goal lead. That, however, did not last. Bradford turned it around in a big way, scoring the last of four goals in stoppage time to take Chelsea out of the running for the Cup.
Manchester City went out at the hands of Middlesbrough with a lackluster effort. Much has been said about the fact that the team arrived late Friday evening after a seven-hour flight from an event scheduled by the club owners with Hamburg. Manager Manuel Pellegrini did not mention any difficulties with rest or jet lag, but there is no denying that the players did look tired. That said, the Middlesbrough squad had played two other matches within a week, so they would have been able to claim fatigue as much as City. Instead, however, in the second half when the City squad started to fade, they came out and took advantage. This close to the top of the standings, but still needing to close on Chelsea, City might yet see a benefit from no longer having FA Cup matches on the schedule. Pellegrini may not see it that way, however, as the club has let a chance at more silverware slip through their fingers.
Despite the strong performance this season on the part of the Southampton squad, they found themselves unable to overcome a rebounding Crystal Palace side. Apparently rejuvenated by the arrival of Alan Pardew as manager, Crystal Palace looked like an entirely different club from the one that had been struggling so significantly for the first part of the season. Both clubs came out of the gate battling, trading goals back and forth up until halftime, when the score reached 3-2 in favor of Palace, where it stayed for the remainder of the match. While there were some nice offensive efforts on both sides, the real story of the match was a virtual dearth of defense. The goals provided excitement for the fans, but not a lot of confidence in the back lines of either club.
The FA Cup is the ultimate underdog contest, providing the opportunity for any club at any level to have a chance to prove they can compete with, and sometimes defeat, the best the country has to offer. The underdogs this weekend have had a field day. Chelsea, City, and Southampton have been served a piece of humble pie and an object lesson in the spirit of the Cup.
Commentary By Jim Malone
Image courtesy of In Mou We Trust- Flickr License