Magic of the FA Cup alive and well

Millwall's Murray Wallace scoring the winner past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in their 3-2 victory over Everton in the FA Cup fourth round at The Den on Saturday.
Millwall's Murray Wallace scoring the winner past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in their 3-2 victory over Everton in the FA Cup fourth round at The Den on Saturday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Premier League teams West Ham, Everton shocked by struggling Wimbledon, Millwall

LONDON • Whoever said the magic of the FA Cup was dead should have paid a visit to Kingsmeadow, The Den and the New Meadow on Saturday.

While the competition has taken a backseat to the Premier League and the Champions League in recent years, it still represents the perfect opportunity for English football's lesser lights to have their day in the sun.

And shine they did as AFC Wimbledon and Millwall humbled their top-tier opponents in the fourth round of the FA Cup in raucous post-game scenes at their respective home grounds.

Wimbledon revived memories of their "Crazy Gang" heyday in the late 80s, knocking West Ham out with a 4-2 win at Kingsmeadow.

The shock loss to Wimbledon, who are rock-bottom in League One, left Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini "ashamed" of his players.

He told reporters after his side went 3-0 down before the break: "Was I angry at half-time? Yes of course.

"I didn't expect it, the attitude, playing against a team that sits two divisions below us but, in football, you can lose in two or three balls.

"They started the way we needed to start and, when you have such high pace with the quality of the players... We didn't have the same level."

Wimbledon defender Toby Sibbick, who was born 11 years after the club won the 1988 FA Cup, their only major silverware - told BT Sport scoring the fourth goal had been "one of the highlights for me".

He added: "I thought the boys were excellent. It's a great win, look at the fans, this is what it's about."

Everton were also stunned by Championship strugglers Millwall 3-2 but, unlike Pellegrini, Marco Silva sought to deflect blame by pinning the defeat on the lack of a Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

The Toffees felt aggrieved as their opponents' second goal appeared to go in off the arm of Jake Cooper.

To make matters worse, the strike was shown on a big screen in the stadium immediately afterwards, with the handball obvious to everyone watching at The Den.

Premier League grounds hosting FA Cup ties are using VAR this season but the technology was not installed at Millwall - a situation the Everton manager said was unfair.

Claiming "it does not make sense", the Portuguese bemoaned: "If we are to be fair with all the clubs, you have to be fair with the competition and you also have to do it for all the games.

"Now we go home with big frustration. I am not here just to be angry with the referee but it is true.

"It was a clear handball in the moment. The players, they saw and went to speak with the assistant and thousands of people saw (it) on the big screen."

Shrewsbury Town nearly made it a trio of upsets on a day of surprises and it took an added-time equaliser from Wolves' Matt Doherty to deny them a place in the fifth round.

The League One outfit were leading 2-0 after 70 minutes at New Meadow and Shrewsbury manager Sam Ricketts admitted to "real mixed emotions" after Nuno Espirito Santo's men forced a replay.

He told the BBC: "I base myself on performances and that was very, very good, but I am disappointed not to win the game."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2019, with the headline 'Magic of the FA Cup alive and well'. Print Edition | Subscribe