Football’s oldest trophy: a week of play in the FA Cup

In the absence of the usual Premier League competition this weekend, the fifth round of the 134th FA Cup took center stage. Each seeking a spot in the quarterfinals of football’s oldest competition, the remaining teams from all levels of the football ladder faced off, bringing a weekend of excitement and the giant-killing that has long been a trademark of the Cup.

The weekend began early Saturday with a Premier League clash between eighth-placed West Ham and 14th placed West Brom, each vying for a chance in the FA Cup quarterfinals. Despite the expectations of a fiercely competitive clash, West Brom displayed remarkable form early on, as forward Borwn Ideye scored 20 minutes in to put the Baggies up. 12 minutes later, his teammate James Morrison launched a 25-yard volley to make it 2-0, leaving West Ham in crisis before the half. Their troubles only continued, however, as Ideye would score again in the 57th minute, followed by a Saido Berahino goal from within the penalty area to make it 4-0. West Ham’s misery was only compounded by the fact that midfielder Morgan Amalfitano was dismissed 70 minutes in, cementing West Brom’s utter dominance of West Ham to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2008.

Saturday’s next match, featuring Championship side Blackburn against the Premier League’s Stoke, ushered in the first giant kill of the weekend. Having gone down 1-0 to a Peter Crouch tap 10 minutes in, Blackburn scored twice on either side of the half, with forward Josh King netting a hat trick and Rudy Gestede slotting a penalty to make it 4-0. The penalty was not the only insult to Stoke, as defender Geoff Cameron was sent off for a professional foul in the lead up, completing an exciting match and the weekend’s first upset.

The weekend’s third match, Derby at home to Reading, was equally enthralling, containing 3 goals and yet another red card. Hal Robson-Kanu scored in the 53rd minute for Reading before Derby forward Darren Bent scored his fifth goal in as many games eight minutes later to tie it. With a draw and replay looking likely, Reading forward Yakubu Aiyegbeni struck 82 minutes in, winning the match 2-1 for the Royals. The match also featured one of the most unfortunate debuts, as former Leeds captain Stephen Warnock was shown a second yellow only 37 minutes in, and promptly dismissed.

Saturday’s final match would see Crystal Palace lose to Liverpool at home, 2-1. Despite a strong early showing, with striker Fraiser Campbell scoring off the rebound only 15 minutes in, Liverpool proved stronger in the second half, with Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana scoring in the 49th and 58th minutes, respectively, to put Liverpool through the quarterfinals.

After Saturday’s excitement, Sunday’s matches would prove comparatively tame, although by no means unexciting. The day opened with Aston Villa at home to Leicester, a contest that stayed scoreless until the 68th minute when Leandro Bacuna netted in for Villa, followed by an 89th-minute goal from Scott Sinclair to make it 2-0. Leicester forward Andrej Kramaric managed to score a wonderful header in the 90th minute; however it did not prove enough, with the match ending 2-1 in Villa’s favor.

Sunday then saw its most exciting match, with League One side Bradford City overcoming the Prem’s Sunderland, 2-0. Playing on an atrocious pitch severely damaged by weather and ill-maintenance, Bradford put on a heroic display, with their pressure forcing an own goal by Sunderland defender John O’Shea in only the third minute. Their persistence would be rewarded again 61 minutes in, as on-loan forward John Stead struck to make it 2-0, the final score of the day. Having claimed another Premier League scalp, Bradford find themselves rapidly closing in on a match at Wembley in an FA Cup run that is nothing short of incredible.

Sunday would close out in a far more tame fashion, as Arsenal beat Middlesbrough at home. Forward Oliver Giroud scored two goals in as many minutes to put the Gunners ahead before the half, sealing the score at 2-0 and putting Arsenal in the quarterfinals.

The fifth round completes on Monday night as League One side Preston North End take on Manchester United at home. After a brilliant fifth round, all eyes now look towards the quarterfinals, as the final eight teams compete for the oldest trophy in football.

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