Lowly Barnsley pulled off its second straight massive upset victory in the FA Cup today, with a 1-0 win at home to Chelsea. In the last round, the south Yorkshire club, whose supporters used to sing “it’s just like watching Brazil,” took out Liverpool at Ansfield 2-1.
To say that Barnsley’s victory was down to unsung heroes is a truism — the Tykes (who sit 19th in England’s second level league) have no “sung” players. At Liverpool, the stars were Brian Howard (a Chelsea reject) and goalkeeper Luke Steele, who had just joined the team. Today the difference-makers were an obscure Nigerian forward named Odinjayi, who gave Chelsea’s world class defenders John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho fits even before scoring the games only goal, and journeymen muckers Rob Kuzlak and Bobby Hassell. Oh yes, Brazilian-born Dennis Souza was massive at the heart of the rock solid Barnsley defense.
With Manchester United also crashing out of the competition at home against Portsmouth, the competition is now wide open. There will be at least one other non-Premiership finalist (the winner of West Brom-Bristol Rovers), and the only two Premiership teams still in the running are both unfashionable — Portsmouth and Middlesbrough (who must get by second-tier Welsh side, Cardiff City).
This is as it should be. The FA Cup traditionally is a romantic affair in which the minnows get to make their mark. However, in the past decade it’s been dominated, like all other precincts of Engllish football, by the four giants (Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool). No club other than these four has won the competition since Everton did it in 1995.
But this year will be different, thanks in large measure to Barnsley.
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