Minnows bite back as Liverpool and Tottenham go out while Chelsea are held
SOCCER:The FA Cup fourth round weekend closed in a state of shock. Oldham Athletic, hovering one point above the relegation zone in League One, followed Leeds United’s victory over Tottenham Hotspur by humiliating last season’s beaten finalists Liverpool at Boundary Park.
It was their finest FA Cup moment since Joe Royle led the club to the semi-finals almost 20 years ago. But it still may not be enough to keep manager Paul Dickov in a job.
While Brendan Rodgers departed with an angry rebuke for the young Liverpool players who contributed to a feeble performance and deserved defeat, his Oldham counterpart had post-match celebrations punctured by questions over his future. Dickov was rumoured to be on the brink regardless of the outcome against Liverpool. His chairman, Simon Corney, offered no assurances that the 3-2 triumph will save the Scot from the sack.
“It’s very awkward,” said the New York-based businessman, naturally alarmed by a league sequence of seven defeats and one draw in eight games since December 8th. “We will have to chat about it tomorrow. Paul has his own decision to make. Days like this are great but the biggest thing is about staying in this division.”
Reward was largely absent from the draw for the fifth round. Oldham will host more Merseyside opposition, David Moyes’ Everton, while Luton Town were handed a home tie with Millwall following their victory over Norwich City.
Leeds landed a daunting away trip to Manchester City after a 2-1 win over Spurs and QPR’s conquerors, MK Dons, will meet Barnsley at home.
Neil Warnock, the Leeds manager, said: “It’s a great day for us. There were a lot of heroes today. I’ll probably open a bottle of champagne tonight and have a few little tipples. I might even treat myself to a bag of crisps.”
Andre Villas-Boas defended Tottenham’s recruitment programme after they had been added to the list of Premier League casualties and insisted he was comfortable with their attacking options despite going into the tie at Leeds without a recognised senior striker.
Jermain Defoe has battled the pain of a niggling pelvic problem in recent weeks, which has required at least one injection and may yet need surgery to cure properly, and he was stood down. With Emmanuel Adebayor absent on Africa Cup of Nations duty with Togo, Villas-Boas was left to start two attacking midfielders, Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson, as centre-forwards. “It is risk we were willing to take. We are comfortable with the situation. We are happy with the squad. This defeat is not going to alert us to anything. Unfortunately we missed Defoe, who gives us options, but we have him back for Norwich and still have Ade to return so we have strength in depth,” said Villas-Boas.
Rodgers celebrated his 40th birthday on Saturday but was forlorn on Sunday. “We’re bitterly disappointed,” said the Liverpool manager. “We started and finished the first half poorly and started the second half poorly and got punished.
“Our mentality was poor and it cost us. I was really disappointed with our young players. We’re trying to give them experience and let them see what it’s like to play for Liverpool. If you are going to win trophies and go far then you need to come to places like Oldham and win.”
Two goals from the Oldham centre-forward Matt Smith and a header from on-loan Manchester City defender Reece Wabara gave the League One club a 3-1 lead, with Luis Suarez replying for Liverpool.
Rodgers, who selected a strong side, said: “I can’t rely on Steven for 70 games. He’s been incredible and you’ve seen his impact when he came on. He shouldn’t be expected to have to win games on his own. It’s great to put young players in but you have to have personality. Today our young players disappointed me.”
Brentford almost made it a hat-trick of Premier League casualties when they held Champions League holders Chelsea to a 2-2 draw.
FA Cup Fifth Round draw
Huddersfield or Leicester v Wigan
MK Dons v Barnsley
Oldham v Everton
Luton v Millwall
Arsenal v Blackburn
Manchester City v Leeds United
Manchester United v Reading
Middlesbrough v Brentford or Chelsea
Ties to be played on the weekend of February 16th and 17th.