Relief for Van Gaal, misery for Wenger in Cup dramas

By Reuters March 14, 2016 09:15

Relief for Van Gaal, misery for Wenger in Cup dramas

The heat on Arsene Wenger intensified but Louis van Gaal could breathe a sigh of relief after a weekend of high drama in the FA Cup quarter-finals piled more pressure on the Premier League’s two most high-profile managers.

Arsenal boss Wenger now faces a season without silverware and a growing crescendo of discontent at the Emirates Stadium after his Cup holders surrendered their grip on the trophy with a 2-1 home defeat by Watford on Sunday.

Just a couple of hours later, his Manchester United counterpart Van Gaal looked to be facing a similar crisis with his side a goal down to West Ham United but Anthony Martial’s 83rd minute equaliser breathed new life into their season.

So United and West Ham are still in the hat for Monday’s semi-final draw along with Watford, Crystal Palace and Everton.

Watford’s victory, carved out by a well-taken goal by Odion Ighalo and a quite brilliant strike from Adlene Guedioura before Danny Welbeck set up a frantic finish with a late goal for the home side, was the weekend’s most romantic tale.

Watford have never won the Cup, having lost the 1984 final to Everton, and Palace, who won 2-0 at second-tier Reading on Friday, are also hoping for a maiden triumph by going one better than their 1990 final replay loss to Manchester United.

The stand-out sixth-round performance, though, came from Everton’s Romelu Lukaku who made Chelsea rue the day they let him go, with the 28 million pounds ($40.26 million) discard scoring twice in five minutes on Saturday to knock his old team out 2-0.

His first goal was a stupendous effort, as he muscled in between two defenders from an unpromising position on the left flank before bamboozling Gary Cahill and firing home a superb left-foot shot.

It was, his manager Roberto Martinez said, “one of the great FA Cup goals”.

Chelsea’s Spain striker Diego Costa was then sent off after a second yellow card for a nose-to-nose confrontation with Gareth Barry, who later got a red card himself for another poor challenge on fellow midfielder Cesc Fabregas.

The contretemps led to fevered discussion on social media about whether Costa had actually bitten Barry on the neck but both players later denied any such thing had happened.

For Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink, the defeat finally ended his chance of repeating his trick of 2009 when he also came to Chelsea as a caretaker manager mid-season and won the Cup, beating Everton in the final.

But at least Hiddink has no pressure on him before he leaves at the end of the season.

For Wenger, though, it could prove a very difficult few weeks if Arsenal, as expected, go out of the Champions League to Barcelona this week and fail to launch a convincing late charge at the Premier League title.

“Our long run in the FA Cup has come to an end in a very sad way,” said Wenger, who was looking to become the first manager to win the Cup three times in a row in the modern era.

“You are always in the middle of a drama,” he told reporters on Sunday. “It is becoming a farce. We have lost a game. We are sad and we want to focus on the next game.

“Arsenal have lost games before in history and we will lose again in the future. We will stick together and cope with it.”

As for Van Gaal, who admitted his delight after United’s Martial answered Dimitri Payet’s wonderful curling free kick, peril still lies ahead with a replay at an emotion-filled Boleyn Ground in the last Cup tie ever to be staged there.

It was, smiled Hammers’ boss Slaven Bilic, going to be like something out of a Spielberg movie with the club hoping for a happy ending before moving to the Olympic Stadium next season.



By Reuters March 14, 2016 09:15


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