FA Cup – Brilliant Barnsley topple Chelsea
Kayode Odejayi’s first goal since September was enough to see off the holders and add to a remarkable run that saw the Championship side knock out Liverpool in the fifth round.
Earlier on Saturday, Manchester United lost 1-0 at home to Portsmouth to leave the Cup with none of the so-called ‘Big Four’ left to take part in the Wembley semi-finals.
Odejayi headed home from close range on 66 minutes to cap off a superb individual performance and an inspirational team effort.
Chelsea were extremely poor, and produced few genuine chances, even in a tense final 10 minutes.
The Israeli manager’s future at the club will come under increased scrutiny after another humiliating cup defeat – following the Carling Cup final defeat to Tottenham – but this was all about Barnsley.
Few thought they could better their heroics against Liverpool, but where that result was reliant on a brilliant goalkeeping performance from Luke Steele, this was thoroughly deserved and about as emphatic as giant-killing gets.
Barnsley were simply the better side and started the sharper, with Jamal Campbell-Ryce cutting inside from the right and finding Brian Howard 10 yards from goal.
But the scorer of the winner at Anfield last month could not repeat the trick, as Essien deflected the ball for a corner.
Odejayi proved a constant thorn in Chelsea’s side, giving Ricardo Carvalho a torrid time in the air and proving a lynchpin for the hosts’ direct style.
The striker got in goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini‘s face, charging down an attempted clearance on 21 minutes but seeing the ball squirt agonisingly wide.
Istvan Ferenczi went even closer 10 minutes before half-time, latching onto a long ball forward and volleying against the outside of the post.
Odejayi was at it again seconds later, racing through the right channel and testing Cudicini with a low shot.
Grant’s half-time team talk had little discernible effect, with the Yorkshire side continuing to dominate proceedings.
The telling moment came from a Martin Devaney cross from the right. Odejayi escaped Carvalho and outjumped Cudicini to nod into the empty net. A Barnsley dream; a Chelsea horror show.
Wright-Phillips, Florent Malouda, Michael Ballack and Nicolas Anelka were among the players who shied away from the fight and allowed the pulsating atmosphere to turn them from supposed world-beaters into timid, clueless also-rans.
The final whistle brought jubilant scenes and a mass pitch invasion – some fans jumping the gun during injury time. They thought it was all over, and soon it was.
It may not have been directly comparable to the 1966 World Cup final but, for Barnsley, life simply does not get any better than this.
Their only problem? There are no more giants left to kill.