Norwich, QPR humbled in FA Cup; Arsenal escapes
Norwich, QPR humbled in FA Cup; Arsenal escapes
Luton, of the fifth-tier Conference National, prevailed through an 80th-minute Scott Rendell goal at Carrow Road to become the first non-league team to eliminate top-flight opposition in 24 years.
League Cup winners in 1988 but relegated from the Football League after going into administration in 2009, Luton began the day 85 places below their opponents in the English league pyramid.
They will be only the seventh non-league team to compete in the fifth round since World War II.
QPR, the Premier League’s bottom club, can now focus all their efforts on avoiding relegation after a humiliating defeat at home to MK Dons of League One.
Although QPR manager Harry Redknapp made nine changes to his team, his starting XI still featured seven full internationals, but they fell behind in the fourth minute when Dean Lewington stabbed in at a corner.
Ryan Lowe made it 2-0 five minutes before half-time and then set up Ryan Harley early in the second half, before Darren Potter added a fourth in the 56th minute when QPR failed to clear a corner.
Jay Bothroyd and Fabio da Silva claimed a pair of consolation goals for QPR.
Arsenal overcame stubborn resistance from second-tier Brighton and Hove Albion, conquerors of Newcastle United in the previous round, to reach the fifth round with a 3-2 win.
Olivier Giroud found the top-left corner to put Arsenal ahead in the 16th minute but Brighton drew level in the 33rd minute when Ashley Barnes beat visiting goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to a right-wing corner.
Giroud restored Arsenal’s lead 11 minutes into the second half, bringing down Abou Diaby’s pass and finishing sharply, but again Brighton replied, with Argentine debutant Leonardo Ulloa stooping to head home Barnes’ sweeping cross.
Arsenal had the last word, however, with Theo Walcott netting in the 85th minute to spare Arsene Wenger’s men the inconvenience of a replay.
Everton, fifth in the Premier League, needed an injury-time winner from John Heitinga to prevail 2-1 at second-tier Bolton Wanderers.
South African midfielder Steven Pienaar had diverted a Victor Anichebe shot into the net to put the visitors ahead in the 18th minute, only for Marvin Sordell to equalize nine minutes later.
Luton’s fellow fifth-tier representatives Macclesfield Town were knocked out, going down 1-0 at home to Wigan Athletic courtesy of a seventh-minute Jordi Gomez penalty.
Earlier, a late goal by Pablo Zabaleta earned Manchester City a 1-0 win in an attritional tie at bogey team Stoke City.
The English champions had not won at Stoke in six previous visits and they lost captain and center-back Vincent Kompany to an ankle injury in the first half.
However, Zabaleta struck in the 85th minute to send Roberto Mancini’s men into round five, finishing deftly from Sergio Aguero’s low cross to complete a move that he had started.
“Today we were solid at the back, and up front we were very aggressive,” said Zabaleta, an FA Cup winner with City in 2011.
“The Stoke crowd push the team a lot and we knew it was going to be difficult for us. We want to win the FA Cup again.” Premier League leaders Manchester United are in action in the evening kick-off, with top-flight rivals Fulham the visitors to Old Trafford.
The fourth round began with an upset on Friday, when Aston Villa, beaten by fourth-tier Bradford City in the League Cup in mid-week, lost 2-1 at Championship club Millwall.
Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal
- The Frenchman revolutionised the game in England across all leagues, not just the Premier League.
- After initial success he found the going tough in the second half of his reign, but will still go down as an all-time great.
Over the past few seasons it has been fashionable to view Arsene Wenger as some sort of figure of fun — a man living in the past, left behind by the modern game, but too stubborn to realize it.
In time, though, even the most ardent, frothing-at-the-mouth #WengerOut believer would have to agree that the Frenchman will go down not just as one of the best managers Arsenal have had, but also among the greatest in English club football.
As with any caricature, there is a hint of truth in the picture created, crude as it sometimes is. Yes, Wenger’s past few years at the Emirates have been painful to watch. Yes, he was stubborn when it came to both activity in the transfer market and belief in his methods and tactics. Yes, it is fair to say he leaves the club, on the pitch at least, in a bit of a mess. And, yes, he should have left two or three years ago.
But if there is one thing that any sane fan should remember about Wenger’s 22 years as Arsenal boss, it is this: He was a game-changer, a manager who oversaw not only a revolution of the Gunners, but also of the English game.
As soon as Wenger landed in England in 1996, he banished Arsenal’s Tuesday drinking club and munching of Mars bars — in their place came stretching sessions and broccoli. Hardly profound or radical in today’s game, but this was the era when change in English football invariably meant no pies and pints on a Friday night.
The technical, passing, possession football that is now the norm for any side with ambitions to remain in the Premier League, let alone win it, and the idea that eating vegetables rather than a tub of lard would help player performance, were brought in by Wenger alone.
He won the double in his first full season in charge, signed unheralded foreign talent such as Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Viera — who went on to become world-class players — and created teams that were a joy to watch, culminating with “The Invincibles” of 2003-04, who won the Premier League without losing a match.
The irony is that the one-time revolutionary ended up being viewed as a throwback, a stuck-in-the-mud anachronism; a manager who harked back to a time when playing with the owner’s chequebook was not seen as the only path to success and when paragraphs were favored over 140 characters.
And that perhaps explains why so many Arsenal fans seemingly wanted him gone: Wenger is not of the Twitter generation, of instant opinions for the 24-hour news agenda and of hype over humility. The man who was once seen as the future stuck to principles that were deemed as belonging to the past.
It is clear there is a lot of bad blood at the club — a ridiculous Facebook post by an Arsenal fan claimed Wenger’s announcement he was leaving made it the “greatest day in Arsenal’s history.”
But for all the bluster and nonsense, Wenger’s legacy will be that of “The Invincibles” — one of the greatest club sides of modern times; of beautiful football played at pace and with artistry; of being a decent, yet flawed, man who was never anything but articulate and courteous.
Having been in charge of Arsenal for 22 years, he is undoubtedly the last of a kind, and in the era of trigger-happy owners, short-term fixes and sensationalism over stability, that is something everyone, even the #WengerOut brigade, should lament.