With such considerable revenues available for playing in the English Premier League, it is probably little surprise that it is considered a more important competition than the FA Cup despite the honour associated of winning the famous piece of silverware at Wembley Stadium. The prestige of the FA Cup may have dwindled in recent seasons with several teams opting to field weakened teams and some pundits arguing that interest in the tournament has declined. Yet the shock results of this weekend may have provided a real boost for the competition with some lower league teams refusing to be overawed by their richer Premier League equivalents.
A case in point was the 4-2 win by League One team Bradford at Chelsea. At one stage, the Blue were 2-0 ahead during the first half with several first team regulars consigned to the substitute’s bench or quite simply rested. As the interval approached, it was expected that Chelsea would add a few more goals in the second half to complete the expected comfortably victory.
Fortunately, the Bradford players did not read the script with Jon Stead scoring an unlikely equaliser just before the half-time break. The goal served to galvanise the League One team into believing that they could upset the Chelsea team by pursuing pressuring tactics, but scoring three goals during a remarkable second half was probably an act beyond their wildest dreams. Yet Bradford refused to be daunted by the reputations of Jose Mourinho’s team which should set an example for other Premier Leagues teams resigned to being beaten before they begin a match at Stamford Bridge.
It was a similar case at the Etihad Stadium where Championship team Middlesbrough defied the odds by beating reigning Premier League title holders Manchester City. During a goalless first half, the ‘Boro displayed the defensive qualities which have allowed the team to be considered as serious challengers for automatic promotion. Yet Middlesbrough have also proved capable of scoring goals when required and they reaped the benefit of lapses in the home defence to open the scoring during the second period via a Patrick Bamford goal.
Manchester City were unable to penetrate a well-organised defence with Middlesbrough adding a second goal near the final whistle. The Championship team had not allowed City to dictate play as they would have wished as they slumped to a second successive home defeat without scoring.
Elsewhere in the FA Cup, Blackburn also beat Premier League opposition while Fulham, Bolton and Cambridge all earned draws against their more illustrious opponents.
The FA Cup may have lost some appeal in recent seasons but the unexpected results this weekend have most certainly proved that the more powerful Premier League outfits can be beaten by teams with a degree of belief and nothing to lose, and that can only help towards arousing more interest and passion into the famous tournament.