Birmingham, Stoke, Everton, Manchester United, Bolton and Manchester City all won their games and progressed to the next round. Leyton Orient and Crawley performed heroically as well.
Sticking with the Premier League, my vote goes to Everton. It was pretty much season over for them if they had lost the game and however poor Chelsea are at the moment, they are still a formidableside to take on at Stamford Bridge. Everton showed great spirit and character and deserved their place in the next round.
Most of the teams who lost were playing against higher league opposition and therefore can’t be counted as being ‘Not Hot’. That leaves Chelsea and Fulham who got knocked out and Arsenal, who were held by League one Leyton Orient.
I wrote last week about how crucial the FA Cup had become to Chelsea as their league prospects look bleak. Frank Lampard was public in saying that it was a must win game against Everton. They didn’t win and for a team of their obvious talent, they are simply doing well enough. That makes them the ‘Not Hot’ team.
Everton’s Tim Howard has been consistently good this season in a side that has needed their keeper to be at his best. He was excellent at Chelsea on Saturday and played a huge part in taking his side through to the next round. Chelsea had thirteen attempts on target in the game and only hit the net once. That speaks for itself.
I had forgotten why it was reported earlier in the season that Arsenal had a goalkeeping crisis. Such is the impact that young Wojciech Szczesny has had in his few appearances that the nightmares of the past seem a long time ago.
Then on Sunday we saw the return of Manuel Almunia and everything became very clear again.
Everton skipper Phil Neville is still going strong and the fact that Tottenham wanted to sign him in January at the age of thirty-four, shows how highly he is still rated. He was faultless at Chelsea on Saturday and then had the nerve to step up and despatch the winning penalty. Top player.
It was a dreadful penalty by Ashley Cole. For that reason I’m giving him this award. It isn’t fair, but I really don’t like the Chelsea and England full back and I have always wanted to give this to him and have never been able to. Now I have an excuse, however weak, so Ashley Cole is the ‘Not Hot’ defender!
I’m going to pick a player who only played twenty-six minutes. Birmingham’s Alexander Hleb has always been a player of the highest ability and class. His career has hit something of a brick wall in recent seasons however, and he hasn’t looked happy or good since his arrival at St Andrews.
On Saturday he started the game against Sheffield Wednesday looking like his old self. He created two goals and looked to be the classiest player on the pitch by a country mile. Unfortunately he was then clattered by the opposition who could notcope with him and had to leave the field. I hope he is fit for next week’s Carling Cup final, because on this form, he is good enough to cause anyone a problem.
I’m torn between Manchester United’s Tiago Bebe and Gabriel Obertan. After the game against Crawley Sir Alex Ferguson said that some players had not ‘done themselves justice’. I have no doubt he was referring in particular to these two.
They were so poor that I doubt if Crawley would take them on loan if Fergie offered them to the Conference club.
I’ll give Bebe the benefit of the doubt as he is new to England and has made a huge leap in his career. Therefore Obertan gets the award. His days at United must surely be numbered.
I’m not sure that one player can really make a team but Carlos Tevez at Manchester City comes about as close as I have seen.
He came on with half an hour left against Notts County with his side 2-0 up but looking anything but impressive. In a second he had flashed the ball just wide with a snap shot and by the end of the game he had scored one, made one and helped his team to a 5-0 win.
In the Champions League final a couple of seasons ago Nicolas Anelka took a two pace run up and hit a poor penalty to the keeper’s right at a great height for the keeper and Manchester United were the champions. Surely he would not do the same again in another penalty shoot-out.
Tim Howard thought he might and to the astonishment of everyone, he did.
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