The FA Cup quarter-finals witnessed a couple of upsets last evening when holders, Chelsea crashed out at the hands of the Second Division side Barnsley, 1-0. Barnsley fresh from ousting yet another Premiership giant Liverpool in the 5th round a month ago, played dominating, aggressive and mature football when they faced the defending champions, Chelsea at home.
On the other hand, in Manchester, the Theatre of Dreams nightmarishly watched the home team being eliminated from the world’s oldest club competition at the hands of visitors Portsmouth. Portsmouth stunned the home crowd with a 1-0 victory to reach the semi-finals of the competition. Portsmouth now awaits the semi-finals at the new Wembley Stadium for the first time since losing to Liverpool, way back in 1992.The Red Devils dominated the game for long spells with Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo tormenting the defenders with his on-the-ball skills. However, Sylvain Distin seemingly stood as the only thing between Ronaldo and the back of the net. When Distin brought down Ronaldo in the box, the crowd fumed for a possible penalty only to be unheeded by the match referee. Another breath-taking moment was when Argentine forward Carlos Tevez witnessed his shot cleared off the line by full back Glen Johnson.In the second half, United put further pressure on the visitors, catching them on the counter-attack and controlling ball-possession, but nothing that the lack-lustred Ronaldo did could go past Pompey keeper David James. Brazilian midfielder Anderson came agonisingly close to giving the home team the lead when his shot from distance rattled the frame and carried back only to be shot wide on the rebound. Midfielder Michael Carrick rounded James round his legs but was prevented from tapping the ball into an open goal by Johnson who glided in to clear it out.Just when it seemed that United would eventually score, a quick long ball by James broke the Croatian Niko Kranjcar loose who dragged two United defenders wide before playing a through ball to the unmarked Czech striker Milan Baros, on-loan from Olympique Lyon, who was ferociously brought down by United’s Polish keeper Tomasz Kuszczak that immediately earned him a red card. Kuszczak had filled in for the injured goalie Edwin van der Sar at half time, which left defender Rio Ferdinand to wear his keeping gloves. Though Ferdinand dived in the right direction, he was powerless to block Ghanaian Suleh Muntari’s spot kick that found the bottom corner, twelve minutes from time. Thus, Portsmouth earned their first victory at United since 1957.The last Big Four team and perspective winners Chelsea had one hand on the trophy following United’s exit. But it was not to be so, thanks to Championship (Second Division) side Barnsley. Chelsea who played their full squad at Barnsley took nothing for granted for Barnsley had shown Chelsea’s rivals Liverpool the door. The stage was set for a David and Goliath encounter. These two teams in the same fixture was a mismatch and on paper, there was only one winner. But as well known, football is not played on paper.However, it is said that big things come in small packages and Chelsea is its greatest warrantor. The visitors were shocked when a header from Kayode Odejayi found the back of the net that sent the very vocal crowd into raptures. Chelsea knew that they had to win on the night as a draw would force a midweek-replay a couple of weeks later which would further worry a Chelsea squad that complained of fatigue. Chelsea pushed forward but found everything but the goal. Barnsley held on as the crowd sat on the edge of their seats. Chelsea could not keep up with a fit, young and talented squad. The final whistle sounded Chelsea’s death knell as they were shown the exit by a mere second division side.Elsewhere in the Premiership, Liverpool spanked Newcastle United 3-0 at the Anfield three days ahead of their Champions League fixture with Inter Milan. Jermaine Pennant scored what can only be described as a lucky goal to give Liverpool the lead in the first half. Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard found Spaniard Fernando Torres open and cleverly latched his low ball to him who put it past keeper Harper to make the score line read 2-0 and his season’s tally to 25 goals. In the second half El Niño repaid his captain by assisting Gerrard to chip a ball above the keeper to pile on another goal, making it 3-0. Liverpool strengthened their 4th position after Manchester City were beaten 2-0 by Reading at the Madjeski Stadium.Joydeep Roy
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