Heroes and Villains: FA Cup magic and Philippe Mexes madness
Cambridge United’s defence
Cambridge kicked off the FA Cup action in a rags versus riches clash against Manchester United, and arguably set the tone for the rest of the weekend’s thrills.
Keeper Chris Dunn donned his cape and pulled out a collection of sensational stops, most notably pushing Radamel Falcao’s effort over the crossbar and later denying Angel Di Maria in the closing stages despite a gaggle of players blocking his view.
Notable mentions should also go to the plucky centre half pairing of Josh Coulson and Michael Nelson who typified their team’s defiance.
Brilliant Bradford City and magnificent Middlesbrough
Everyone loves an underdog and the FA Cup once again made heroes from minnows with a string of extraordinary results to put a spring back into the step of even the most hardened of football cynics.
Arsenal and Tottenham are just two of the top clubs who have failed to penetrate fortress Stamford Bridge this season, so nobody believed League One club Bradford would be the side to sink Chelsea’s unbeaten home record and end their dreams of a quadruple.
The battling Bantams, however, found themselves challenging the established order as they clawed their way back from a 2-0 deficit to send Jose Mourinho’s Galacticos’ crashing out of the competition, in what must surely rank as one of the greatest FA Cup shocks of all time.
Aitor Karanka’s unlikely lads also warrant a mention, as Middlesbrough provided their best Robin Hood impression, delighting travelling fans by stealing jet-lagged and complacent Manchester City’s place in the fifth round.
Nearly man Schlupp always seems to be about to get his big break before something stops the versatile Foxes forward in his tracks. Whether it be a trial with Manchester United or the chance to represent Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations, Schlupp’s path to stardom never quite seems to pan out.
On the unpredictable stage of the FA Cup, however, Schlupp finally found his moment to shine, tormenting the Tottenham defence with a last-minute winner, after first instigating the havoc that lead to Leonardo Ulloa’s equaliser.
Hero or Villain?
Not known for being magnanimous in defeat or victory, usually sore loser Mourinho suffered a true FA Cup shock against Bradford but reacted with class.
Despite overseeing a performance the Portuguese coach himself called “disgraceful”, the ‘Special One’ did, however, find the time to shake hands with each Bantam player.
Perhaps realising that, for better or worse, he was living a moment of FA Cup history, Mourinho surprisingly stated: “I feel happy for Bradford. I can find space to feel happy for them. But on the other hand, I feel ashamed.”
Away from the crazy atmosphere of FA Cup magic, there was much madness going on elsewhere in the world of football.
The red midst certainly descended over fiery AC Milan centre back Mexes, who was sent for an early bath at the Stadio Olympico following his bar room-style brawl with Lazio skipper Stefano Mauri.
Mexes grabbed the Eagles’ captain by the throat before going back in for a second round, but has since tried to make amends, claiming: “I have children and this is not the sort of example that a father should set.”
Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo also engaged in a spot of on-field scrapping, needlessly receiving a red card with just seven minutes to go in Real Madrid’s duel with Cordoba.
The Portugal skipper showed little of his captain’s sense of responsibility as he was judged to have to kicked and backhand slapped defender Edimar, having already appeared to be involved in an earlier altercation with Jose Angel Crespo, who he seemed to swing for.