8 Great FA Cup Quarter-finals (and one that never happened)

8 Great FA Cup Quarter-finals (and one that never happened)

The world’s greatest cup competition has been as exciting as ever this year. Non-league sides Sutton and Lincoln shocking everyone, the latter reaching this weekend’s quarter-finals where they’ll face Arsenal. Here’s hoping that they win, just to see the reaction on ArsenalFanTV. Elsewhere goal-shy Middlesbrough host Manchester City, Jose Mourinho faces off with the Chelsea players who mutinied him and Spurs will be hoping the Millwall fans don’t destroy their away end too much. Hopefully no one else will be sacked for eating a pie, but will any of the ties measure up to these.

  1. Chelsea 3 Spurs 3 2006-7 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djgFiPmeSr8

We’ll start with the most recent (yes some of these are old), a breathless London derby between Chelsea and Tottenham 10 years ago. Chelsea were unbeaten at home under Jose Mourinho and were expected to progress against a mid-table Spurs side who’d struggled to a win in Braga 3 days before. However, it was the Blues defence who were asleep and trailed after 5 minutes. Aaron Lennon combined neatly with Jermaine Defoe to set up Dimitar Berbatov to slot home. Fortune though tended to favour Chelsea at this time and the reigning league champions equalised 15 minutes later when Frank Lampard diverted Michael Ballack’s mishit shot past Spurs reserve keeper, Radek Cerny. But Chelsea’s defence, without an injured John Terry, still hadn’t woken up. Lennon’s cross looked to be heading straight into the arms of Petr Cech before Michael Essien needlessly diverted it into his own net to put Tottenham back infront almost straight away. Then, 10 minutes later, Mourinho must have been tearing his hair out, Ashley Cole deflecting Hossam Ghaly’s stray ball straight back to the Egyptian, who controlled it well on his chest before smashing it past Cech for 3-1. It was the first time Mourinho’s side had ever conceded 3 goals at home and it should have been 4 early in the second-half, Cech producing a last-ditch save to deny Defoe at the far post. Spurs’ fatigue began to show and with 20 minutes to go they allowed the hosts back into the game, the ball falling to Lampard, completely unmarked from a corner, to grab his second of the game. The visitors couldn’t hold on and with four minutes to go they crumbled. Ricardo Gardner left Drogba unmarked on the edge of the penalty area and the striker knocked the ball down to his fellow Ivorian Soloman Kalou to volley into the net past a static Cerny. Still, there was time for Spurs to win it, but again Cech’s fingertips, along with the crossbar, denied Defoe a late winner. Chelsea would go on to win the replay 2-1 a week later, eventually lifting the trophy after a dull 1-0 extra-time win against Manchester United in the final.

  1. Nottingham Forest 3 Ipswich Town 3 1980-81 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpSqnzFuuYs

Another six-goal thriller, this time between two sides managed by two of the greatest managers of all time; Brian Clough and Bobby Robson. Though now the two sides languish in the championship, at the time Clough’s Forest were back to back European Cup winners and Robson’s Ipswich were top of the old First Division. The Tractor Boys boasted the best attack in the league and Forest a legendarily reliable defence with Peter Shilton in goal. But the Reds gifted Ipswich an early lead after 15 minutes, Viv Anderson’s atrocious back-pass allowed Paul Mariner an easy finish. Minutes later, Anderson’s afternoon got even worse, as he headed an Ipswich free-kick straight into his own net. The centre-back then dislocated his shoulder before half-time. Clough claimed that ‘castration would’ve been a kindness’ and when asked after the game if Anderson would be unfit for the replay, he replied ‘all being well, yes’. Anderson’s blushes were spared thanks largely to Trevor Francis. The £1million man volleyed Forest back into the game before his mazy run allowed Colin Walsh to tap in an equaliser right on the stroke of half-time. The Reds completed their turnaround 6 minutes into the second-half. John Wark’s handball gave away a penalty and John Robertson sent renowned penalty-saver Paul Cooper the wrong way to put Forest 3-2 up. Ipswich then battered Forest for half an hour trying to find a way through and final equalised with 5 minutes to play. Dutch international Franz Thijssen’s shot deflected past a despairing Shilton to set up a replay. Ipswich would win the replay at Portman Road 1-0 before falling to Manchester City in the semi-final and would also finish second in the league behind Aston Villa. Clough would never win the FA Cup, coming closest in 1991 where Forest lost to Spurs in the final.

  1. Leicester 1 Wycombe Wanderers 2 2000-01 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkvukmiH8QI&t=172s

As a Leicester fan I hate this game, but everyone remembers it, however painfully. Peter Taylor’s foxes had knocked out Villa in the 5th round and had just beaten Liverpool to go 4th in the Premiership. Taylor hadn’t yet completely destroyed Martin O’neill’s successful side and a Champions League place was a real possibility. In contrast, Wycombe, managed by FA Cup winner Lawrie Sanchez were struggling in the 2nd Division (League 1, kids) and were hit with an injury crisis leading to the Chairboys placing an advert on Ceefax (err basically Google/twitter, kids) looking for a striker. If only Roy Essandoh’s TV had been broken. Maybe Leicester would’ve won the cup, maybe Peter Taylor would still be manager! On second thoughts, maybe it was for the best. Wycombe actually almost signed Gianluca Vialli, but instead of a European Cup winner they plumped for a man who plied his trade in the Finnish league. Essandoh started on the bench and the visitors took the lead when defender Paul McCarthy headed home ten minutes into the second-half. But when Muzzy Izzet equalised, the whole of Filbert Street breathed a collective sigh of relief. They could have won it moments later, but the site of Ade Akinbiyi fluffing a one-on-one would soon become a common site for Leicester fans. In the dying minutes, Lawrie Sanchez was sent to the stand after a (fairly blatant) debatable handball by Stefan Oakes, who’d go on to play for Wycmobe, wasn’t given. He watched on a TV monitor as substitute Essandoh wrote himself into FA Cup folklore, heading into the top corner after some pinball in the box. Sanchez screamed in celebration as he watched on a small TV monitor and midfielder Steve Brown was shown a second-yellow card for removing his shirt, but Wycombe were through. They’d lose 2-1 to Liverpool at Villa Park in the semi-final. Leicester meanwhile completely collapsed, losing a club record 9 games in a row and falling from the top 4 into mid table. Taylor would be sacked and Leicester relegated the next season, after completely obliterating the most successful team in their history. The foxes would never again come close to reaching the Champions League…


  1. Wolves 3 Manchester United 5 1964-5 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsKgpXXqtbo

Manchester United are the most successful side in FA Cup history win 12 trophies and they served up a classic quarter final against Wolves in 1965. United has lost in the semis the season before and were chasing a league and cup double, whilst Wolves were stranded at the bottom of the First Division. But it was the hosts who raced into a 2-0 lead after fifteen minutes. Striker Hugh McImoyle smashing his first into the top corner after 3 minutes before bulldozing his way past Bill Foulkes to slot in his second. United though were used to Quarter-final comebacks (more on that later) and were back in the game just before half time, Denis Law heading home after a scrambled corner. Then the Reds silenced Molineux with 4 goals in the space of twenty second half minutes to seemingly put the game to bed. David Herd equalised early in the half, slotting home from John Conelly’s cross. Then Herd pulled the ball back for George Best to score, before winger Pat Crerand cut inside to find the bottom corner to make it 4-2. Law then completed the comeback he’d started, whipping a brilliant free-kick into the top corner. There was still time for Peter Knowles to add a consolation for Wolves with three minutes to play but United were easily through. They’d lose to Leeds United by a goal to nil in a semi-final replay, but would pip the Elland Roaders to the First Division title on goal average (goal difference, kids). Wolves meanwhile were relegated and Knowles eventually retired to become a Jehovah’s Witness in 1970, although Wolves would keep him under contract until 1982 hoping he’d return. That’s an article for another day.

  1. Manchester United 0 Portsmouth 1 2007-8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87ZEHYjOzrQ&t=221s

The FA Cup’s not all about goals, it’s about upsets. Yes it’s United again, but this time luck completely deserted them in a game that’s so entertaining to watch simply because it’s a miracle Portsmouth didn’t concede. Pompey held out at Old Trafford against the reigning and future league Champions, costing Alex Ferguson a shot at his second treble. An all-star side containing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney at his peak started dominantly and the latter set up Carlos Tevez in front of an open goal, but Glen Johnson got back to head off the line. Ronaldo also had a blatant penalty denied when he was barged over by Sylvain Distin, Martin Atkinson waving away the United protests. Then in the second-half, after Rooney also had a scrambled shot cleared off the line, Ronaldo whipped a low shot inches wide of the post. The Portugal international then played in Michael Carrick, who rounded David James but then lost his footing with the goal at his mercy, Distin somehow blocking the ball on the line again. United continued to batter the visitor’s defence, David James pulled off a word-class save to tip Patrice Evra’s volley onto the post and Sol Campbell somehow intercepted a cross which Ronaldo looked certain to convert. Then, after 78 minutes of solid United pressure, Portsmouth got their crucial goal. A long punt forward by James following a United free-kick caught the hosts short at the back. Niko Kranjcar played in former Liverpool striker Milan Baros, who was caught by United substitute goalkeeper Tomas Kusczack for a clear penalty. Kusczack was sent-off and with no other keeper on the bench, Rio Ferdinand took up responsibility between the sticks. The England international went the right way, but Sully Muntari tucked his penalty perfectly into the bottom left-hand corner to give Pompey the shock victory and end United’s treble dreams. The Red’s would be too short of silverware at the end of the season, winning the Premier League and Champions League. Portsmouth meanwhile would beat Cardiff in the final to win the trophy, before suffering the financial meltdown which has left them struggling in League 2 as of today.

  1. Manchester United vs Sunderland 3-3 & 2-2 1963-4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKvQYnPcWAI&t=12s

I’m cheating slightly here but both of these games were excellent. Manchester United were the defending FA Cup champions when they faced Sunderland at Old Trafford in the quarter-final of 1964. However, the Second Division side were not to be taken lightly. They’d just missed out on promotion the previous season and had knocked out First Division Champions Everton in the 5th round. A 64,000 sell-out Old Trafford were shocked as Sunderland raced into a 3-1 lead through goals from Johnnie Crossan and George Mullhall. United had pulled one back after an own goal but Sunderland looked to have pulled off the upset until it fell apart in the dying minutes. Goalkeeper Jimmy Montgomery was knocked unconscious diverting a Denis Law shot out for a corner but refused to leave the field. United immediately took advantage when Bobby Charlton headed past a groggy Montgomery to make it 3-2. Then, in the last minute, a 17 year old George Best netted the equaliser to set up a replay a few days later at an absolutely packed out Roker Park. Again, Sunderland led, Nicky Sharkey opening the scoring with a spectacular volley just before half-time, sparking a huge pitch invasion. United hit back in the second-half, Montgomery again at fault, his goal-kick went straight to Law who couldn’t miss, forcing the game into extra time. Luck seemed to finally favour Sunderland as almost immediately they retook the lead when United defender Maurice Setters interception flew past a helpless David Gaskell into his own net. But again they couldn’t hold in. There were seconds remaining when Bobby Charlton headed Best’s cross past a heartbroken Montgomery for 2-2. This year, after complaints about fixture congestion, the FA has axed quarter-final replays. But back in 1964, not only were replays in effect, there was no such thing as a penalty shootout. Teams would play each other again and again until there was a clear winner and United would go on to win the 2nd replay 5-1 in Huddersfield. They’d fail to defend their trophy though, losing 3-1 to West Ham in the semis. Sunderland would finally be promoted at the end of the season and Jim Montgomery’s man of the match performance would see the Black Cats win the cup 10 years later.

  1. Leicester 5 Shrewsbury Town 2 1981-2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9cXRFcIW0k

On paper this seems like an unremarkable tie, two Second Division teams and a bog of a Filbert Street pitch. However, there’s no Leicester bias in play here, this was a ridiculous game of football. It’s a good pub quiz question, which is the only game which finished 5-2 where two goalkeepers kept clean sheets? The foxes were the favourites and looked to prove that tag correct has Larry May eased them into the lead after six minutes from a corner. But the Shrews, who’d knocked out high-flying Ipswich in the previous round, bullied themselves back into the game. Literally. Forward Chic Bates clattered into City keeper Mark Wallington, knocking him out cold. Though he stayed on the pitch, Wallington was clearly in a bad way and Shrewsbury took advantage, Bates smashing a loose ball into the roof of the Leicester net. Then Wallington attempted to punch away Jack Keay’s lob, but completely missed it and the foxes trailed 2-1. Finally Wallington was taken off, with beefy striker (and future mad co-commentator) Alan Young taking his place between the sticks. But it was the Shrewsbury keeper Bob Wardle who quickly had egg on his face at the other end, beaten by a ridiculous back pass by defender Griffin. Then at the start of the second-half, lightning struck in the same place twice. Young collided with Bernard McNally and hit his head. This time Leicester manager Jock Wallace didn’t take any chances and brought Young off, with small winger Steve Lynex donning the green jersey. About 10 minutes later though, Young decided he was fine as resumed in goal, allowing Lynex to set up substitute Jim Melrose a few seconds later, to mercifully fire Leicester into the lead. There was still time for more though, some big-eared lad called Gary Lineker tapped in Leicester’s fourth to seal their passage through to the semi-final. Melrose added a fifth late on, heading home Lineker’s cross to put the cherry on the foxes’ cake. Leicester would ultimately lose convincingly to Spurs in the next round, but nevertheless, a crazy game.

  1. Nottingham Forest 3 Newcastle United 4 1973-4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHWoY-0SThs

Officially, Newcastle progressed to the semi-finals with a 1-0 win in a replay after a goalless draw in the first game. But the real first game was amazing, ridiculous and horrible all at the same time. Newcastle were dully mid-table in the First Division at the time and Forest were still a year or two away from the Brian Clough revolution. As a result, over 50,000 fans crammed into St James’s Park to witness what they hoped would be part of their clubs history. Well, it was, but for all the wrong reasons. Ian Bowyer silenced the Gallowgate with a header from Martin O’neill’s long ball, though this was only the start. Newcastle equalised, full-back David Craig blasting the ball into the visitors net, but Forest retook the lead just before half-time through Liam O’Kane’s scrambled shot. Early in the second-half, the game fell apart. Duncan McKenzie went over after being shoved in the back for a debateable, but probably correctly awarded penalty. Newcastle defender Pat Howard had too strong a word with the referee and was sent-off, with George Lyall converting the penalty to put Forest 3-1 up against 10 men. The Reds surely thought they were through, but they hadn’t considered the angry Newcastle fans. Hundreds invaded the pitch, rushing towards the away end and injuring two of the Forest players. In all, 103 people were injured during the debacle, with the referee Gordon Kew stopping the game for 10 minutes whilst the fans were cleared. When play resumed, Forest fell to pieces and Newcastle, roared on by the partisan crowd got back into the game. Terry McDermott’s penalty made it 3-2 with twenty minutes to go before a superb diving header by John Tudor levelled the scores at three each. There was still time for another and when Malcolm McDonald headed down for an offside Bobby Moncur, the linesman, fearing he’d be lynched if he raised his flag, allowed the goal and Newcastle thought they were through. Eventually they were, but it would take another two games and many more meetings to decide that fact. Forest complained to the FA, whos secretary Ted Croker declared they had no power to order a replay and that Newcastle should be disqualified from the competition. As in turned out, the FA could organise a replay and after a 0-0 draw at Goodison Park, Malcolm McDonald finally put Newcastle into the semi-finals, however deservedly. The Magpies would be easily dismantled by Liverpool in the final, still the closest they’ve come in the last 40 years to winning a major trophy.


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