Saturday, March 8, 2008

Arsenal's Title Rivals Beaten In Two Shockers

Arsenal's two title rivals were both beaten in the FA Cup today in what turned out to be a shocking day of results.

Manchester United, who sit one point behind Arsenal in the Premier League, fell to Portsmouth after losing both of their goalkeepers. Edwin van der Sar was substituted out with an injury after halftime and his replacement, Tomasz Kuszczak was sent off after bringing down Milan Baros in the box. Rio Ferdinand took up the gloves between the United sticks, but was unable to stop Sulley Muntari's free-kick.

It was a huge loss for United who dominated in terms of possession and shots, but were wasteful in front of goal. To be fair, United should have been awarded a penalty of their own when Cristiano Ronaldo was taken down by Sylvain Distin in the first half.

Even more incredibly, Chelsea fell 1-0 to Championship side Barnsley. Barnsley, who are only four points above the relegation zone in England's second league, have proven to be the shock of the FA Cup after making Chelsea their second 'big four' conquest of the tournament (the Tykes also beat Liverpool in the same competition).

The normally lethal Nicolas Anelka missed chance after chance for Chelsea, and the Premiership boys seemed to have a difficult time playing on Barnsley's rough pitch. Goalscorer Kayode Odejayi jumped over Carlo Cudicini in the 66th minute to head home the only goal of the match.

Portsmouth and Middlesbrough are the only Premiership teams left in the FA Cup, with West Brom, Bristol Rovers, Cardiff, and of course Barnsley, the other competitors.

The losses will not be conductive to strong morale amongst the Premier League's second- and third-placed teams, and with Arsenal playing Wigan tomorrow the Gunners trophy aspirations look like they could be coming to fruition. United and Chelsea cannot slip up if Arsenal, as is to be expected, take three points from Wigan.