Oh When the League Is Upside Down
by Brian Phillips · February 16, 2008
FA CUP 5th-ROUND ACTION: Barnsley have stunned Liverpool at Anfield, winning 2-1 on Brian Howard’s 93nd-minute goal. It was a wild, inspired performance from Barnsley, who scored the 1-1 equalizer in the 59th minute and spent most of the rest of the match pinned in their own six-yard box, flinging themselves into the flight path of Liverpool shots. I absolutely love games like this, in which the weaker team (Barnsley are 29 places below Liverpool in the pyramid) find a kind of last-ditch brilliance in the act of being battered and save themselves time and again. It was France-Scotland, only if Scotland had scored the winner in stoppage time. Just a great thing to have witnessed, and Barnsley’s beautiful desperation was once again a reminder that style in football isn’t directly a function of whether a team is “attacking” or not.
HISTORY TIME: It may be going too far to say, as the announcers immediately started doing, that this was “one of the greatest upsets in the history of the Cup.” Barnsley are a Championship team who have spent a season in the Premiership (albeit a decade ago); this wasn’t Wrexham-Arsenal in 1992 (Wrexham were the last-placed team in the entire Football League and won 2-1), or the Ronnie Radford game, or even Shrewsbury-Everton five years ago. But then again, this match was at Anfield, and the manner in which the game was won—the stunning performance from Barnsley goalkeeper Luke Steele, the thrill of the last-second goal—will certainly help make it memorable. Only time will tell. Either way, Tommy Taylor is pumping his fists in heaven.
Check out the video Dave links to in the comments to see the winning goal.
FA CUP 5th-ROUND “ACTION”: I’d planned to write something about Man Utd-Arsenal and use the match as a jumping-off point for a comparison of the teams’ styles and an assessment of who’s stronger right now. But the shine sort of fell off the idea after Barnsley’s heroics, and the game was so one-sided—4-0 Man Utd—that the only way it could go would be to contrast Nani’s six-stage aerial goal celebration with the way Jens Lehmann’s bones look like they were borrowed from an arthritic Budweiser Clydesdale. I’m going to watch the second half of Juventus-Roma, and skip it.
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