|photo by Thirteen Of Clubs||via PhotoRee|
If ever one needed proof that the English require marketing lessons on instilling some drama in their sporting events, look no further than the FA Cup:
Is there anyone out there that would rather see Manchester United and Manchester City playing for the FA Cup Semi-final, rather than in the ultimate game itself? I know, I know, the draw is held at "random." But somehow I have to feel there might be a way of making this appealing match up happen the way we would all want to see it rather than the way it turned out.
Compounding the issue, the FA -- in its infinite wisdom -- has decided to stage the semis at Wembley itself, not saving that venue for the final. Kinda takes the magic out of singing "We're going to Wembley" when four sides can sing the same tune....
And I'm certain you're all -- like me -- chuffed to bits over the Stoke - Bolton Semi-final blockbuster. Uncertain if I'd watch this one in the League, let alone in the Cup. I'll have to make a snap decision, depending on how full my laundry bag is looking at gametime.... If Bolton didn't have avid tweeters (and USMNT star) @stuholden and @kevindaviesbwfc (and his wonderful donkeys) I'm pretty damn certain I wouldn't watch at all....
And again, why does the FA hold the draw before all four teams are announced? If you want to see a proper sports draw, take a look at the one held last night by the NCAA. That's how it's done, Mr. FA.
And herewith, some further thoughts on the weekend's Cup matches:
- Birmingham City vs. Bolton, showcasing the Magic of the Cup? More likely showcasing a second rate team vs. a mid-table club. Someone hand me the No-Doze.... In actuality, the game on Saturday sprung to life in the second half, and Bolton's win continued Brum's season-long woes, which were only momentarily interrupted by the minor matter of a League Cup win.
- Chalk up another goal from a throw in for Stoke and Rory Delap. These guys rarely score from open play, but they're deadly on set pieces. Sure, the West Ham marking on the goal was shambolic -- it's extremely hard to lose a big man like Robert Huth, but West Ham managed it anyway -- but give Stoke it's due: they know what they're good at and they do it pretty well.
- Frederic Piquionne's equalizer came with an assist from the hand of God. Channeling his inner Madonna, Piquiounne brought down a laser-like, half-pitch Hitzlsperger pass, and tied the game up. Stoke 'keeper Thomas Sorenson would have done better to defend the goal than signal for a handball call which never came.
- Danny Higginbotham's winner for Stoke looked like so many free kicks I've seen this season. Slipped right through the spot in the wall formerly occupied by his teammates, Higginbotham's worm-burner of a free kick was perfectly placed and gave Robert Green almost no chance.
- Manchester City looked as if they were sleepwalking through the first half of Sunday's FA Cup matchup with Reading. Silva, Tevez and Toure repeatedly missed touch after touch, and it appeared as if the Citizens had actually flown in from Kiev via the cargo compartment that same morning for their own home game.
- Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy had a helluva game in goal before finally getting beat after 70 minutes by a thumping Micah Richards header. McCarthy continually bailed his team out as they absorbed wave after wave of City attacks before finally succumbing in the end to a ball that he had little chance of stopping.
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