The FA Cup final kicks off on Saturday, giving two London giants the opportunity to get their hands on the famous trophy. Chelsea are going for the double after being crowned Premier League champions earlier this month, whilst Arsenal are gunning for a record-breaking 13th cup victory. Anyone could win it, and it ought to be an engrossing game, but even if the final does fail to live up to the billing, the crazy drama, thrills and spills that we witnessed during the journey to this point will never be forgotten. Here, we look back at some of the best and worst moments of the 2016/17 FA Cup.
There’s always one side that punches above their weight and gets further in the cup than they have the “right” to. But National League table-toppers Lincoln City took the term “giant killers” to incredible new levels this season. The Imps knocked out Altrincham, Oldham, Ipswich, Brighton and Burnley en route to the quarter finals, creating feverish delirium on the east side of the country, which reignited the magical feeling of the FA Cup some thought had petered out long ago. Danny Cowley’s bookie beaters were eventually bested by Arsenal, but their famous run will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time.
This ought to have been ranked among the very best moments of the FA Cup all season. But the crazy fallout ultimately turned Piegate into something so farcical it can only be described as an embarrassing blemish on the tournament. Wayne Shaw, the Sutton United goalkeeper – who bore more of a physical resemblance to a pub landlord than a football player – was captured by the cameras scoffing some pastry during his team’s fixture with Arsenal back in February. It was a mercifully comedic moment in what can often be a very serious business. A few weeks later though, an investigation were launched into the incident. Shaw was accused of purposely gobbling the pie after he’d spotted a bookmaker offering 8/1 that the “roly-poly goalie” would consume food during the match. Shaw lost his job at Sutton, and some argue that the sport lost some of its credibility in the process.
For all the controversy stirred up by Piegate, we can’t forget the wonderful contribution that fifth-tier side Sutton United made to the FA Cup this season. The tiny South London club triumphed 6-3 at Dartford at the first official hurdle, before proceeding to stun Cheltenham, AFC Wimbledon, and Leeds United in the subsequent rounds, eventually drawing Premier League giants Arsenal at home. Goals from Lucas Perez and Theo Walcott spared Arsène Wenger’s blushes and protected the Gunners from an ignominious exit, but Sutton’s run in this year’s tournament is guaranteed to live long in the memory.
The Pulsating Semi-Final
What a game. There have been some corkers in FA Cup history, but the semi-final between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Wembley in April was something else. It was one of those classic see-saw clashes that had absolutely everything including some marvellous goals, and the result hung in the balance right up until Nemanja Matic rattled home a jaw-dropping strike ten minutes from the final whistle. Chelsea emerged 4-2 victors on the day, devastating Spurs supporters but keeping the Stamford Bridge faithful dreaming of a wonderful double.
The Impossible Own Goal
One of the most bizarre moments of this year’s FA Cup came courtesy of Darren Bent – a striker who’s well-known for hitting the back of the net at the right end of the pitch, not the wrong end. However, the Derby player experienced a moment of madness (or comedy, depending on who you were supporting) in Round Four, inexplicably slicing the ball into his own goal, despite being under no pressure from any players on the field. What’s even more embarrassing for Bent is that the gaffe happened against Derby’s East Midlands rivals Leicester City. No wonder he looked like he wanted the ground to open and swallow him up.
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