Liverpool, Spurs humbled in FA Cup, Chelsea escape
Agence France-Presse in London
Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur were both dumped out of the FA Cup by lower-league sides on Sunday, on a day of sensational fourth-round upsets that also saw Chelsea scrape a 2-2 draw at lowly Brentford.
The magnitude of the shocks seemed to increase as the day progressed, with Chelsea’s near miss followed by Spurs’ 2-1 loss at Championship side Leeds United before Liverpool went down 3-2 at third-tier Oldham Athletic.
Liverpool’s loss was the most remarkable, with 56 places in the English league pyramid having separated the sides prior to kick-off at a rain-soaked Boundary Park.
FA Cup semi-finalists in 1994, Oldham made an ideal start when Matt Smith headed them in front in the third minute from Youssouf M’Changama’s left-wing cross.
Liverpool replied in the 17th minute through stand-in captain Luis Suarez, only for Smith to restore the hosts’ lead in first-half injury time when he tapped in following a mistake by visiting goalkeeper Brad Jones.
A glorious Reece Wabara header further extended Oldham’s advantage early in the second period and Liverpool could find no way back despite the introduction of Steven Gerrard and a 79th-minute goal by Joe Allen.
Oldham’s reward was a fifth-round tie at home to Liverpool’s Merseyside rivals Everton.
“I am left speechless by the result. We went out there wanting to battle together,” said Latics hero Smith.
“We rallied and thoroughly deserved the win. We proved what we can do today and we will be looking to do the same against Everton.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said the changes he had made to his team could not mask an unacceptable performance.
“The FA Cup was a competition we wanted to have a go at and there is no excuse,” he said.
“We put out a strong team capable of winning the game, but we didn’t.”
Liverpool join Spurs, Aston Villa, Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers in being knocked out of the tournament by lower-league opposition this weekend.
Fallen giants Leeds followed up their shock 2010 elimination of Manchester United by sending Spurs out of the competition at Elland Road.
The three-time English champions took a 15th-minute lead when Luke Varney scampered down the inside-left channel before calmly beating goalkeeper Brad Friedel.
Ross McCormack made it 2-0 five minutes into the second half with a sweet left-foot shot following a lobbed pass from El-Hadji Diouf, before Spurs replied through a Clint Dempsey header in the 58th minute.
“It’s a fabulous performance,” Leeds manager Neil Warnock told ESPN.
“It’s a great day for us. The atmosphere was good, two cracking goals. There were a lot of heroes today. It was a typical FA Cup tie.”
Chelsea needed an 83rd-minute equaliser from Fernando Torres to rescue a 2-2 draw at third-tier Brentford as they narrowly avoided a humiliating exit.
A penalty from Brentford starlet Harry Forrester looked destined to send the European champions out of the competition, only for Torres to curl home a fine goal to deny his side’s west London neighbours a memorable upset.
“Brentford did well. We knew they would play with a high tempo and try to press,” said Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez.
“As a team they showed great character. You could see the manager (Uwe Rosler) on the touchline telling them what they needed to do, and they did it.”
The League One side enjoyed the better of the first half and went ahead three minutes before half-time, with Marcello Trotta arrowing home after Ross Turnbull parried a 25-yard curler from Forrester.
Chelsea introduced Juan Mata at half-time and within 10 minutes the visitors were level, as Oscar brought down a high ball and skipped past a couple of challenges before arcing a lovely shot into the top-left corner.
Forrester’s 73rd-minute penalty, after a foul on Tom Adeyemi by Turnbull, brought a huge upset into view, only for Torres to sweep home his late equaliser from the edge of the box and take the tie to a replay.
The fifth-round draw saw Manchester United paired with Reading, while Leeds face a trip to English champions Manchester City.
Meanwhile, non-league Luton Town’s reward for upsetting Norwich City was a home game with second-tier Millwall.