Holders Chelsea were dumped out of the FA Cup by Everton on Saturday as Manchester United ended non-league Crawley Town’s fairytale run with a lackluster 1-0 victory at Old Trafford.
Everton captain Phil Neville scored the winning spot-kick at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea crashed out in a dramatic fourth-round replay that went to penalties after the game finished 1-1 following extra-time.
Chelsea had looked to be on course for a fifth-round meeting with Reading when Frank Lampard fired them 1-0 up in the 104th minute, but a sensational last-gasp equalizer from Leighton Baines, the Everton leftback curling in a free-kick from 25m, took the game to penalties.
Chelsea then saw Nicolas Anelka and Ashley Cole miss vital penalties, before Neville stepped up to shatter the Londoners’ dreams of a third straight FA Cup success following their wins last year and in 2009.
“I knew I was going to score, I knew where the ball was going to go — and that’s half the battle,” former England international Neville told BBC radio. “We’ve been practicing penalties all week. The manager just told us to hit them as hard as possible.”
Victory was especially sweet for Everton, who had been beaten by Chelsea in the 2009 final, but the defeat leaves Chelsea’s domestic season in tatters. They trail Premier League leaders Manchester United by 12 points and their only realistic chance of silverware lies in the Champions League.
Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti insisted the club’s season could be salvaged with victory in Europe.
“I think it could be a very good season for us because we are staying in competition in the Champions League and want to win it,” Ancelotti said. “It was fantastic last year to win the double. This year we haven’t reached our best, but we have to do better in the next few months.”
In the late kick-off, an under-strength Manchester United advanced to the quarter-finals after Wes Brown headed in the winner on 28 minutes, but Crawley, who had beaten Swindon Town, Derby County and Torquay United en route to the last 16, did not disgrace themselves and might have snatched a draw in stoppage-time when a Richard Brodie header hit the bar.
In other FA Cup matches on Saturday, Premier League side Stoke City booked their place in the quarter-finals after cruising to a 3-0 victory over League One leaders Brighton and Hove Albion at the Britannia Stadium.
Stoke had effectively wrapped up victory in the opening 45 minutes, surging into a 3-0 lead at the break courtesy of goals from John Carew, Jon Walters and Ryan Shawcross.
Birmingham City, meanwhile, had a similarly straightforward task in their tie with League One strugglers Sheffield Wednesday, winning 3-0 at St Andrew’s.
Birmingham were 2-0 up after only 17 minutes, Jean Beausejour and Obafemi Martins opening the scoring for the Blues. David Murphy made it 3-0 early in the second half to snuff out any chance of a Wednesday fightback.