Saturday, April 18, 2009

FA Cup Semifinal Weekend

Amongst the scheduled Premier League weekend matches, there is also the small matter of the FA Cup semifinal matches.
It's Arsenal vs. Chelsea and Manchester United vs. Everton. After last year's astonishing lack of interest from the Premier League clubs, at least this season's competition has reverted to the usual script and it's the big clubs who are fighting for the cup. This is another chance for Manchester United to put right their faltering defence before an important Premier League match so they will take this seriously. Arsenal will look to extend their 18-match unbeaten run by probably passing a tired Chelsea side into submission.
Curiously though, FA Cup semifinals for me, are more exciting and memorable to watch than most of the finals themselves. Probably due to the fact that a more adventurous game is needed to win and get to the coveted final. Whatever it is, here is the list of top 10 FA Cup Semifinal classics as described by Rory Smith of the Daily Telegraph.
Chesterfield 3-3 Middlesbrough, Old Trafford, 1997
Leading 2-0 against Bryan Robson's big-spending Premier League side, Chesterfield saw their Wembley dream obliterated by Fabrizio Ravanelli and Craig Hignett – as well as referee David Elleray, who ruled out Jonathan Howard's legitimate goal. A last-minute extra time equaliser secured the third division side a replay, which Middlesbrough won 3-0.

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal, Villa Park, 1999
Ryan Giggs's mazy, magical wonder goal provided what was almost the iconic moment of the treble winning season, beating most of the Arsenal side in the last ever semi-final replay to send Sir Alex Ferguson's side to the final.

Crystal Palace 4-3 Liverpool, Villa Park, 1990
Liverpool had beaten Palace 9-0 at Anfield in the league earlier in the season but the south London side got their revenge in style, Alan Pardew heading home an extra-time winner after the champions-elect had twice led in normal time.

Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Arsenal, Wembley, 1991
The first ever semi-final held at Wembley, the first north London derby at this stage of the competition and Gazza's proudest moment, his free kick leaving David Seaman stranded as Spurs marched to another FA Cup success in a year ending with one. Gazza scooted off to Lazio with an injured knee and never quite looked the same again.

Manchester United 3-3 Oldham, Maine Road, 1990
Mark Robins' winner at Nottingham Forest the previous year is often heralded as the moment that saved Fergie, but it was emerging unscathed from two epic semi-finals which built his empire. United led three times in the first game, pegged back each time, before Robins won the replay in extra time.

Brighton 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday, Highbury, 1983
Relegation-threatened Brighton somehow put their dreadful league form behind them to overcome heavily-fancied Wednesday, thanks to goals from Michael Robinson and a quite remarkable swerving free kick from the magnificent Jimmy Case.

Coventry City 3-2 Leeds United, Hillsborough, 1987
Keith Houchen's diving header to win that year's final for Coventry puts the drama of the semi-final in the shade, but this was one of the great see-saw semi finals. Leeds led until the introduction of Micky Gynn, fell behind, equalised in the last minute and the Dave Bennett sent John Sillett's side to Wembley.

Liverpool 2-0 Everton, Maine Road, 1950
Liverpool secured their first ever trip to Wembley thanks to goals from the legendary Billy Liddell and Bob Paisley, who was dropped for the final against Arsenal after the board of directors voted not to play him.

Leicester 2-0 Sheffield United, St Andrews, 1961
Matt Gillies' Leicester side, built around the talents of Frank McLintock, went on to become arguably the best Cup side never to win the trophy, reaching three finals in six years. It was a rough start – two 0-0 draws meant this went to a second replay, eventually won in extra time.

Everton 4-1 Tottenham, Elland Road, 1995
Everton's last visit to Wembley arrived in style, putting Gerry Francis's Tottenham – the favourites going into the game – to the sword in a swashbuckling display of attacking football, Nigerian international Daniel Amokachi coming off the bench to score twice and settle the tie.

Let's prepare for a rip-roaring semifinal weekend as the teams prepare for battle!

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