The FA Cup lived up to its so-called “giant-killing” reputation Saturday when Chelsea and Manchester City were eliminated at home by lower-league opposition on a day of fourth-round shocks in the world’s oldest knockout competition.
Four of the English Premier League’s top six were ousted on a classic FA Cup day, with leader Chelsea squandering a two-goal lead to lose 4-2 to third-tier Bradford at Stamford Bridge in the biggest surprise of them all.
“It was a ‘Black Saturday’ for the Premier League teams,” Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech said. “Every year you can see this kind of result in the FA Cup. It’s just unfortunate that today, for the first time, I was on the wrong side of this miracle.”
A virtually full-strength Man City lost 2-0 to second-tier Middlesbrough at Etihad Stadium, raising questions about the wisdom of the English champions’ decision to travel to Abu Dhabi for a five-day warm-weather training camp in the build-up to the game. They only returned late on Friday and the team faded in the second half.
“It’s easy to have an excuse,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini said, “but I don’t think (tiredness) was the case.”
[tweet https://twitter.com/OptaJoe/status/559061882439733248 align=’center’]
Southampton, which is third in the Premier League, twice surrendered the lead to lose 3-2 at home to Crystal Palace, and Tottenham — sixth in the league — conceded an injury-time winner to lose 2-1 to Leicester. They were both all-Premier League games.
Swansea lost 3-1 at second-tier Blackburn in another fourth-round stunner, with the Welsh team finishing the game with nine men after getting players sent off in the early and late minutes. Liverpool was taken to a replay by Bolton after drawing 0-0 with the second-tier side.
The upsets began on Friday when star-studded Manchester United was embarrassingly held 0-0 by fourth-tier Cambridge.
As it stands, only three Premier League teams are assured of being in the fifth round — and none are in the top half of the standings. Arsenal and West Ham can change that when they play lower-league opponents on Sunday.
“This is the beauty of football, the beauty of the FA Cup,” Chelseae manager Jose Mourinho said. “It happens more in the FA Cup than any other country.”
Thumbnail photo via Tim Ireland/The Associated Press