When the FA Cup started this season, before the "Proper" rounds of late, there were hundreds of teams competing the preliminary rounds. A long was still to go before the quarterfinals, this weekend's third round proper - the moment where Premier League and League Championship sides enter the fray - was full of what soccer fans: controversy, late goals, upsets and Arsene Wenger walking off the pitch with his arms crossed in hilarious and delicious disappointment.
I... did not do so great.
- My Prediction: Crystal Palace 2, Stoke 1. Real score: Palace 0, Stoke 0. Gross. I held out hope for Crystal Palace at home, especially since their form has been pretty great this season, but the most they could manage was a draw and a forced replay at The Britannia. Hilariously, this Stoke squad included the return of Michael Owen which only makes me hate the Potters even more and is not assuaged by the inclusion of American Geoff Cameron. Fuck Stoke. They will now certainly win in their home replay and the world will get a little bit worse.
- My Prediction: Swansea 1, Arsenal 0. Real score: Swansea 2, Arsenal 2. Another disappointing draw for the stronger side away from home, though the fact that this one came from a late Swans' equalizer and force Arsene Wenger into yet another sad night spent dreaming of his forgotten career as a candlestick maker.
- My prediction: West Ham 2, Man Utd 3. Real score: West Ham 2, Man Utd 2. This one was better than expected though it means Man U gets the home replay. I was actually spot-on with predicting a late RVP sub and score (though I depressingly predicted him with a hat trick), as Van Persie scored the 90th minute equalizer. He is annoying and very good at the kicking of the ball.
- My prediction: Leeds 3, Birmingham 1. Real score: Leeds 1, Birmingham 1. Well, I'm not really good at this, you see. I guess that happens when you base a prediction on your love of a movie about a Leeds manager from the 70s. Go figure.
- My prediction: Southend 3, Brentford 2. Real score: Southend 2, Brentford 2. I am currently 0 for 5, though I still feel like the failed Man United prediction is a win for me and the rest of the good guys. Adorably, this match was played in front of about 5,000 fans. Good job good effort.
- My prediction: Southampton 1, Chelsea 5. Real score: Southampton 1, CHELSEA 5!!!! Fuck yes! Victory! Demba Ba, angering Newcastle United fans everywhere, scores a double in first game for the Blues and Fernando Torres doesn't see the pitch. Tremendous.
- My prediction: Fulham 2, Blackpool 2. Real score: Fulham 1, Blackpool 1. I'm heating up, folks. ESPN has the attendance of this one at a full 10,000 under the 25,000 capacity at Craven Cottage. I suppose that might dig into the home field advantage even when you're playing a scrub side from several hours north. Fulham steal the draw and force a replay with an equalizer in the 80th minute.
- My prediction: Wigan 1, AFC Bournemouth 4. Real score: Wigan 1, AFC Bournemouth 1. I confess that this was an outrageous prediction but fuck it. But fact is that Wigan couldn't win at home against a League One (third tier of England, for the ignorant) side and that's an embarrassment. I hope Bournemouth bitch smacks them across their uneerachieving faces in the replay.
- My prediction: Crawley Town 5, Reading 2. Real score: Crawley Town 1, Reading 3. Fuck. Well, there's that. After getting the early lead in the FIRST MINUTE, Crawley crumbled under the pressure of Readi... why am I even writing this sentence Reading blows dammit. Funnily enough, Crawley's director of football had been the boss at Reading when they first got into the Premier League. The upset was not to be, most likely because I predicted it and my typing fingers happen to channel all the sports sadness in the world just so you're aware.
- My prediction: Mansfield Town 3, LFC 0. Real score: Mansfield Town 1, LFC 2. Jesus that was too close. A lot has been made about the uncalled handball on Luis Suarez, which lead to him pushing LFC's lead to 2 early in the second half, but a lot is often made of monumentally stupid things and opinions. This was nowhere close to his handball against Ghana in the 2010 World Cup, except it simply wasn't called and Liverpool was permitted to reap unmitigated benefits, perhaps unfairly. Whatever. One of the linesman reported that he thought it inadvertent and that's why he didn't call it, but that's arguably beside the point since plenty of inadvertent handballs in the box are called all the time. Unlike always, Suarez was on the right side of a wrong call, so you won't find me apologizing for the dumb luck of it all after watching his winner at Everton, for instance, called back without merit. In the end, the real story of Liverpool's difficulties against a Conference National side (i.e. the fifth division in England) is forgotten in the fiction of the "Suarez stole the match" narrative. The English press remains as a lazy as ever. Good to see it's not just limited to ESPN.
Everton still plays today at League Two side Cheltenham. It should be an easy game for the Merseysiders but then again Merseyside is a place of immense sadness and disappiointment so who knows.
The next round of the FA Cup resumes in a couple weeks and it looks like Liverpool drew Oldham Athletic away, a team they smoked 5-1 at Anfield during last year's FA Cup. After last year's tough Fourth Round match against Man United, I'm pretty happy to have another quite winnable game for the Reds.
Other matchups that look promising for a good game are either Crystal Palace or Stoke (reply pending) hosting Manchester City, the possibility of West Ham hosting Fulham (two replays pending) in a London Derby, and Brighton Hove Albion, fresh off their convincing win over Newcastle, hosting the winner of Swansea/Arsenal with the hopes to take down another top tier squad.
Predictions to come next week and in the meantime I leave you with some Homeboy Sandman.