There was definitely an element of “Stuffing it.”
Both Liverpool and Chelsea played reasonably strong teams that, on any other day, would have rolled over Barnsley. Both teams were complacent, however, and didn’t take their chances.
This behaviour isn’t uncommon - and you can pretty much see it happen in at least a couple of games in the FA Cup every year, but what normally happens in this situation is that either:
The lower division side scores unexpectedly, giving the Premiership side a sudden wake-up call. They then switch-on mentally and bring their superior skill (and fitness training) into play resulting in the inevitable equaliser and winner(s). Liverpool’s game against Havant and Waterlooville this year was a classic example of this.*
The law of averages kicks in and, over the course of 90 minutes, there is at least one combination of skill/fitness/luck that results in the Permiership side grabbing a goal.
Twice this season, however, Barnsley have bucked that trend. In both games they’ve played with the passion, big-game mentality and sheer blood n’ guts that has allowed them to keep a clean sheet, and both times managed to grab a single goal at the other end late enough in the game to limit the chances of 1) happening.
In other words, both games were perfect examples of precisely why football can be outrageously entertaining and brilliant without high scores, and should certainly be remembered next time we have that argument on here.
Quite frankly, i think the Premiership teams have been incredibly bloody lucky not to get done this way more often in recent years - especially as the standard of fitness in the lower leagues has increased.
Carling Cup yes, FA Cup not so much - managers need silverware, and whilst the Champions League and Premiership are always the ultimate goals, they aren’t always the most realistic.
Both Avram “Uncle Fester” Grant (Chelsea) and Rafa the Gaffa (Liverpool) are seriously at risk of losing their jobs if they haven’t put some silverware in the trophy cabinet by the end of the season. In both case the Premiership isn’t a realistic target, and lets face it, the chances of a Champions League win are relatively slim. Quite frankly, both would have given their right arm for the FA Cup this season.
Now granted, Arsene (Arsenal) and Fergie (Man Utd) don’t have that problem, but both were on for “the Double” (winning both the FA Cup and the League in the same season) and whatever magic may have drained away from the Cup itself, the glory that comes with a Double is still most certainly there.
As a final point, I’ll also say this - if you look at the way the fixtures have played out, only two of this years semi-spots could ever have gone to the Big Four. Man Utd had already knocked out Arsenal whichwewillnotsayanymoreaboutthankyewverymuch before Portsmouth (who are far better than most people realise) out-fought them at Old Trafford and if Liverpool hadn’t played utterly shite and lost to Barnsley then you’d have had a Liverpool vs Chelsea quarter final.
So basically change the results of only two fixtures in this year’s cup (the Portsmouth win - which wasn’t that much of a shock really, and either one of Barnsley’s phenomenal results) and we’d have been heading for another Big Four Final.
But, of course, that didn’t happen - and that is why the FA Cup still has its magic
*Don’t know what the statistics on this are, but i can certainly say that i’ve made more money than i’ve lost over the years on “Lower league side X to score first, Premiership side Y to win game” bets than i’ve lost.