Arsenal was booed off the pitch after a second humiliation in two months against lower league opponents when visitors Blackburn Rovers triumphed 1-0 in the FA Cup fifth round with a late Colin Kazim-Richards goal on Saturday.
Manager Arsene Wenger’s gamble of leaving out a batch of first-team regulars against the Championship (second tier) side backfired as Arsenal fan Kazim-Richards struck a 72nd minute winner to send Rovers into the quarterfinals.
A long punt found Martin Olsson in space, and when his fierce shot was only parried by Wojciech Szczesny, London-born Kazim-Richards on loan from Turkish club Galatasaray scuffed the ball into the ground and watched it bounce in off the post.
“It was not the sweetest of strikes,” said Rovers manager Michael Appleton, with his third club in this season’s FA Cup having started at Portsmouth before a brief stint at Blackpool. “In fairness, he tried to keep the ball down because it could have ended up in Row Z, and he got the luck he deserved.”
Arsenal’s Czech Republic midfielder Tomas Rosicky had come closest to breaking the deadlock with a thumping shot against the bar, and Rovers had to survive furious pressure as the hosts belatedly showed some urgency, but it was too little, too late.
“It’s painful and disappointing to lose,” Wenger, whose side fell to fourth-tier Bradford City on penalties in the League Cup quarterfinals, told reporters after another low point in what has become one of his most difficult seasons at the club. “We lacked ruthlessness and calm in front of goal, and didn’t make enough of our corners. In the end we were vulnerable to one mistake. We weren’t good enough to win the game today.”
Unusually, no top-flight club is definitely yet through to the FA Cup quarterfinals, in what is becoming a vintage year for less-fancied sides after Everton was held 2-2 having conceded a last-gasp goal at lowly third-tier club Oldham Athletic.
After eliminating Liverpool in the previous round, Oldham’s luck seemed to have run out as strikes from Victor Anichebe and Phil Jagielka put Everton 2-1 ahead. However, Matt Smith’s stoppage-time header sparked wild celebrations at Boundary Park.
Three Championship sides are through after Millwall ended Luton Town’s hopes of becoming the first minor league club to reach the quarterfinals for 99 years with a 3-0 victory, while Barnsley enjoyed a comfortable 3-1 win at MK Dons.
Manchester City welcomes Leeds United and holder Chelsea has a fourth round replay with visitor Brentford on Sunday, while Premier League leader Manchester United plays Reading at Old Trafford on Monday.
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