Belfast Telegraph

Drama is alive and well in FA Cup

By Billy Weir

Romance, drama, magic, fairytale, pluck any of those words out of the air and you are well on the way to forging an FA Cup story, and so it came to pass on Saturday as minnows Arsenal romantically defeated Chelsea in a magical and dramatic way to complete a fairytale win for Arsene Wenger.

This resulted in much dancing on the streets of north London, mainly from Spurs fans overjoyed that Wenger has been given a new two-year deal, while in west London, Chelsea, a club with all the romance of a wet weekend in Larne, couldn't really give a monkey's as they had won the Premier League.

It wasn't just a parochial battle between warring factions, but also a tale of a once great institution hampered by myopic management up against the new money and brashness of some uppity upstarts keen to muscle in on the action. No, not Arsenal and Chelsea, but the BBC and BT Sport.

Both were there in force to show the match, eventually, for, as is the way these days, we have to have a big build-up to the Cup final which, loosely translated, meant the Beeb showed a repeat of a special football edition of Pointless and an unfunny show with funny man Omid Djalili, before an FA Cup build-up programme which finished just in time to build up to the final ahead of the quite frankly ridiculous 5.30pm kick-off.

Things started strangely, a look into the future as to what could happen to the hero of the day, thus we had suggestions such as the Emirates being renamed Sanchez Stadium, N'Golo becoming the most popular name for new-born baby boys and a Victor Moses-inspired cologne called Triumph. In reality it should be called Cheat, only lasts for just over an hour and stinks.

"Slightly over the top maybe but it is certainly a day to make your name," began Gary Lineker in the Beeb's lovely studio commanding wonderful views of Wembley.

Over on BT Sport, things were much simpler - re-runs of past finals and then, controversially, only one build-up programme and Jake Humphrey deep in the bowels of the stadium being viewed suspiciously by on-lookers.

"Don't feel the need to run away, you are all very beautiful people," he told the on-lookers who had that 'who is this tube?' look about them but he was then off down the tunnel to "meet the men we're going to be enjoying the day with", only they had scarpered and we were left with Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and Robbie Savage.

Strangely, they only had a combined total of two FA Cup winners' medals between them, both for Stevie G, and it was a point he was keen to make.

"It makes a change, I'm usually standing here with Rio and he's basking in the Premier League, this time it's my turn to rub it in," he said as Ferdinand clinked by his side with his six Premier League medals around his neck.

It was the same story over on the Beeb, Alan Shearer the butt of the 'no medals' joke as Lineker opened up with "we've got seven FA Cup winners' medals in the studio".

"What was that, three seconds?" yelped Shearer as Ian Wright and Frank Lampard joined in on the rib-tickling, thigh-slapping japes and then we were off; the Beeb taking us to David Luiz's house and to Kante and Mesut Ozil's hometowns, while BT Sport were going nowhere.

That wasn't strictly true, the team had moved upwards, not into a studio but a small perch in the stands, with a real carnival atmosphere going on and Humphrey asking Savage "how much does all this razzmatazz bother you in the dressing room?"

"I don't know, Jake, I didn't play in an FA Cup final," he retorted, getting his defence in first, but then he admitted "I was superstitious, I didn't talk to anyone" and how we all must pray that razzmatazz follows him wherever he goes.

"This is a moment when you just sit down on your sofa at home and enjoy a special cup moment here at Wembley in the sunshine, Abide With Me," added Humphrey but, let's face it, most of us nip off to the loo at this point. However, the Beeb were keeping it biblical too as Wrighty told us it was a "David and Goliath experience" although I've checked, no one was singing Abide With Me when the wee lad was chucking stones.

Finally, it was time for the final, and we handed over to our respective commentary teams of Guy Mowbray and Danny Murphy for the Beeb and Martin Keown and Glenn Hoddle joining Ian Darke in the BT Sport booth, a whopping 5-1 win for BT in medal terms.

It was a dead heat in opening gambits for the commentators, though, both plumping for a bit of history - slightly more up to date than David and Goliath - with mention of the first final back in 1872 when Wanderers defeated Royal Engineers, although Mowbray did reveal that both sides played in a 2-2-6 formation and the question needs to be asked then as to how it ended up 1-0?

Soon it was 1-0 to the Arsenal - or was it? - Alexis Emirates scoring but was it offside, a handball or both?

"Whether he (the referee) gives it or not, it's a goal," argued Murphy, while unsurprisingly former Gunner Keown argued that "I believe the goal should stand" and Hoddle grumpily pointed out that Aaron Ramsay was "interfering with play" unlike most of the Chelsea players, but Shearer cleared things up at the break.

"Chelsea look like they've been partying for the last 10 days and constantly drinking because they haven't started, they've been terrible," he hinted and bad was to go even badder later on when Moses sinned.

Breaking the first commandment of football - 'thou shalt not dive at Wembley (unless it is for England and we'll turn a blind eye to it)' - Moses tried to part a red sea of Arsenal defenders but clearly a strap broke on his sandals and he went down in the box.

"I don't know what he's doing," moaned Murphy, Mowbray helpfully pointing out "cheating" while Darke was in the dark as he wondered "oh, was that a penalty?" while everyone else on the planet could see it was dive.

"Massive, absolutely massive decision," confirmed Keown as a red card was issued and Moses set off on a long walk to ignominy and the makers of Triumph looked for a new hero. They would have to wait as Diego Costa equalised and then wait 25 seconds more as Aaron Ramsey scored the winner to clinch a record-breaking 13th FA Cup for Arsenal and seven of them under Wenger, but it wasn't the only one according to Lineker.

"Ian Wright has broken a record tonight, 15 minutes with a smile on his face", he said, while Humphrey suggested that for Wenger this was "possibly his finest moment as an Arsenal manager" forgetting that Premier League crown where they went unbeaten for the season.

But that didn't have romance, drama, magic or a fairytale - that was just ruthlessly brilliant - and it was hard not to be pleased for Wenger, for as Stevie G (G not for grammar) pointed out, "the stick that man has took" was terrible but Keown told us not to worry.

"It's crocodile skin he has, he doesn't feel that pressure, of course he does, he's human," he said, leaving us all a little confused as the camera panned in on John Terry, looking forlorn, trying on a shirt with Mertesacker written on it and asking the way to the trophy.

But this time he couldn't steal the limelight, this was Arsenal and Arsene's day, FA Cup final day, and it's still special.

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good: There have been countless Lions-themed shows on Sky as the countdown is almost over for the tour to New Zealand to get under way but if you get the chance, and it is bound to be on again, have a watch of The Invincible Lions, the story of that tour to South Africa in 1974. A great watch and worth it just to see the state of former Secretary of State Peter Hain’s hair.

The bad: It speaks volumes for the decline of British rowing that in this week’s European Championships, shown on the Beeb, they were only ninth in the medals table behind the likes of Italy, Germany and, err, Skibbereen. The Cork town accounted for all three of Ireland’s medals but at least it means Coleraine’s dominance is at an end.

The ugly: There were many good and bad bits of Sebastian Vettel’s victory at the Monaco Grand Prix at the weekend but surely the most shocking, even allowing for Nico Rosberg’s Don Johnson impression, was Eddie Irvine’s hair as he refused to talk to David Coulthard and Mark Webber on their manic grid walk.

Belfast Telegraph

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