Jolt for Arsenal

"ROONEY (in action in the FA Cup Fourth round match) is such a genius that he can play anywhere," says Sir Alex Ferguson.-"ROONEY (in action in the FA Cup Fourth round match) is such a genius that he can play anywhere," says Sir Alex Ferguson.

The DEFENDING CHAMPIONS, who are having a horror season in English competitions, fell to the masterplan of Bolton manager Sam Allardyce, a contender for the England post.

The magic of the FA Cup might have faded for a lot of big clubs, which are driven only by money. For the small ones in the lower echelons of the pyramid league, `The Cup' is the only chance to test their skills against the Premiership teams. The number of upsets over the last decade is illustration that `The Cup' is the tournament that gives the smallest of the small a chance to overturn the powerful. Nondescript second division club Brentford kept the script going, upsetting Premiership team Sunderland 2-1. The club's striker Dudley Campbell, who was an amateur till the beginning of this season, scored twice to unseat modest Premiership players who are earning upwards of GBP25,000 a week. Ah, the magic of `The Cup'.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger clearly does not share the romanticism. Even during the last few years, when his team has dominated the competition including the title win over Manchester United in the tie-breaker last season, he has whined about scheduling `The Cup' at a time when the big guns are busy fighting it out for the largesse that comes along with the Premiership and the Champions League. This feeling of unease, multiplied by the problems posed by Bolton Wanderers in recent times at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton, ensured that the defending champions were bundled out in the fourth round. The aesthetes of the Premiership had no answers to the scrappy, physical, flexible tactics of Bolton manager Sam Allardyce, who is one of the contenders for the England post to be vacated by Eriksson. Greek midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos' late strike sealed the fate of the defending champions.

A late strike by Chelsea's Frank Lampard at Everton's home ground enabled the Premiership champions to a draw against the fighting home team. The match will now be replayed at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool, thanks largely to a wonderful performance by Steven Gerrard, put it past Portsmouth.

One of the surprises of the fourth round came in Manchester United's match against Wolverhampton Wanderers. The result was expected, but not the roles played by Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney. The mercurial England striker was deployed in the central midfield, where he partnered the central defender. "He is such a genius that he can play anywhere," Sir Alex Ferguson gave the thumbs up to Rooney after the game.

Fourth round results: Bolton 1 bt. Arsenal 0, Brentford 2 bt. Sunderland 1, Wolverhampton 0 lost to Man Utd. 3, Portsmouth 1 lost to Liverpool 2, Cheltenham 0 lost to Newcastle 2, Charlton 2 (Fortune, Bothroyd) bt. Leyton Orient 1, West Ham 4 bt. Blackburn 2, Aston Villa 3 bt. Port Vale 1, Manchester City 1 bt. Wigan 0, Leicester 0 lost to Southampton 1, Stoke City 2 bt. Walsall 1, Colchester 3 bt. Derby 1, Everton 1 drew with Chelsea 1 (to be replayed), Coventry 1 drew with Middlesbrough 1 (to be replayed), Preston 1 drew with Crystal Palace 1 (to be replayed), Reading 1 drew with Birmingham 1 (to be replayed).

Compiled by N. U. Abilash