By Joe Behan
Last week "Soccer Scene" was out of sorts as Manchester United opened a gap of 13 points in the Premier. But the old FA Cup is a monster in football and it came alive over the weekend when West Ham United beat the Red Devils 1-nil in the fourth round at Old Trafford.
Paolo di Canio slotted the winner in the 75th minute from a Kanoute pass. Is this the way to beat Manchester, with a 4-5-1? Roy Keane did not have his way with the Hammers and gets knocked out of the Cup alongside fellow Irishman Denis Erwin.
Wycombe 2, Wolves 1
Wanderers of Wycombe beat First Division Wolves to make it into the fifth round of the Cup for the first time in the club’s history. Wycombe shocked Wolves with on loan Sam Parkin scoring a decisive winning header in the 85th minute. Although at home, Wycombe, the underdogs, packed Adams Park with a mere 9,617 but gave the crowd a gigantic win.
Tranmere 3, Everton 0
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Everton are now the sixth Premier team to get knocked out of the Cup by Tranmere and their head coach, ex-Irish international John Aldridge. Within two seasons, the popular manager, even though fighting relegation in Div. 1, has overcome West Ham, Sunderland, Coventry, Leeds and Middlesbrough. Tranmere are a real Cup story. where they are dogging it in the League but for some reason play out of their skins in the Cup. They cannot be written off.
The beaten finalists of the Worthington Cup last year were at it again in Goodison Park. Tranmere were so superior on the day that Evertonians left the ground just after the hour. Aldridge keeps the managerial flag flying for Irish interest, but the jury is out on Dave O’Leary and Leeds United.
Liverpool 2, Leeds United 0
The Elland Road faithful were stunned in the Cup by Liverpool. Robbie Keane and Mark Viduka missed good opportunities. Finishing has become the nightmare for Dave O’Leary’s side. Leeds have to go back a month, when they beat Lazio, to search for belief. Since then O’Leary has struggled and the FA Cup showed no mercy at the hands of a subpar Liverpool performance, and that’s the monster of cup games; getting wins seemingly against the run of play.
Charlton Ath., 1, D&R 0
The fairytale Cup story was not to be for Dagenham & Redbridge as they fell 1-0 to Charlton Athletic. It was a sad affair to see the brave Dags leave the field like dogs left out in the rain. The conference team put on a tremendous show and never really looked second best to Charlton. Shaun Newton scored in the first minute of extra time that served the blow to the part-timers in their heart-rending defeat.
Fabien Barthez, the erratic Frenchman, certainly lived up to his name during the match as he charged down the field leaving Old Trafford bewildered at his actions. Everton fans chanted to their team, Are you Chester in disguise? Leicester rocked David Ginola and John Gregory’s world as both men left before the end of Saturday’s defeat. Coventry got the kind of exposure nobody wants in the game, it wasn’t the one nil defeat by Manchester City, it was the violence at Main Road. Pity that! Trond Andersen headed the vital winner for Wimbledon at the end of extra time. County may have deserved a replay, but that’s the Cup for you.
The competition is wide open at the moment and it is now no surprise to see a fancied premier side getting dumped in the competition.
FA Cup teams to watch
West Ham, proud and charged up from their 1-0 victory over Premiership champions and leaders Manchester United, will have to beat top-flight opposition again if they are to progress to the FA Cup quarterfinals. After di Canio’s goal put the Hammers through to the last 16, they were drawn away to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland and Peter Reid’s Wearsiders are unbeaten at home this season and currently lie second in the Premiership table. The big Irish hope, Niall Quinn, may indeed remain a household name with the way he is playing.
Manchester City also drew a tough cup match when they were drawn away to Liverpool in the fifth round today. City should not be underestimated in the Cup, and the blues would be more than happy with a replay at Main Road.
In a draw that also paired Arsenal in a London derby at home to Chelsea, the leading Premiership sides could scarcely have picked a more difficult draw. But this is the kind of draw that the underdog needs.
The cup’s sole non-league survivors, Kingstonian, will at last have the prize of Premiership opposition if they can come through their home replay with Bristol City. Geoff Chapple’s Conference side are set to play away to Leicester, fourth-round conquerors of last season’s finalists Aston Villa.
Here is the draw for the fifth round of the English FA Cup made on Sunday:
Leicester City vs. Bristol City or Kingstonian (non-league). Wycombe vs. Middlesbrough or Wimbledon, Bolton vs. Blackburn or Derby County, Charlton Athletic or Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stockport, Liverpool vs. Manchester City, Arsenal vs. Chelsea, Southampton vs. Tranmere, Sunderland vs. West Ham United. The ties are to be played over weekend of Feb. 17 and 18.
Quote of the Week
The award has to go to Celtic’s manager Martin O’Neill, who said, "This talk of the treble is as big a nonsense as the Henrik Larsson for Manchester United story."