Episode 8 - Major Upset
LEAGUE One outfit MK Dons' win over Chelsea has been described as "one of the greatest FA Cup upsets ever" by many a footballing pundit.
The third tier table-toppers earned the trip to Stamford Bridge following two inseperable games against Championship side Birmigham City, with the tie eventually being won on penalties thanks to goalkeeper David Martin's heroics.
But, even after an unexpected result in the previous round, a strong XI sent out by José Mourinho were still expected to crush the Dons', and their fans', dreams, with the general acceptance being that they were just there to enjoy the hospitality and see international stars "do their thing".
And, in fairness to the bookmakers, whose pre-match predictions had placed obnoxious odds on the away side to win, Chelsea started off much the stronger team. Lars Bender was first to come close for the home side but his pile-driver from distance crashed against the bar before visiting 'keeper Martin denied Demba Ba a tap-in from point blank range.
Ba came close again shortly after, but his audacious leap to reach an Eden Hazard cross wasn't enough to direct the ball into the goal from a tight angle. But then MK Dons were given a glimmer of hope. Danny Handling's neat play found Giorgio Rasulo, but the Italian U21 international was not yet able to celebrate his first professional contract with a goal, instead stinging the palms of Petr Cech.
However, just as the Dons began to battle themselves back into the tie, the Premier League leaders delivered a sucker punch as Ba glanced home a header from close range, agonisingly close to a spectating David Martin. Then, with just over half an hour on the clock, the attacking-minded Cesar Azpilicueta surged forward against a hapless Dons defence before laying a pass towards Bender, whose clever trickery seemingly allowed in Hazard for number two - only for the assistant referee to narrowly disallow the goal.
If anyone had thought that decision may dishearten Chelsea then they were quickly proved wrong, Ba should have done better when one-on-one with the goalkeeper but Martin did well to turn it round the post. But then, the unexpected happened. The excellent Rasulo broke the Chelsea offside trap thanks to a pin-point through ball from Ben Reeves, and was not to be denied his goal on this occasion, firing the ball ferociously low and true at Cech, whose late touch was not enough to keep the shot out. It was a shocking twist in the game, but still Chelsea - who had only really rested a few big names - were expected to push on and score again.
The Dons held on until half time and were nearly rewarded for their superb defending when a horrible defensive mistake allowed in Handling, but he probably wasn't aware just how much time he had to compose himself, as he turned and quickly fired a shot wide of the goal when clean through.
You would have been forgiven for assuming that the Dons had blown their chance to go in front, but moments later their big moment arrived again. Samir Carruthers was given acres of space out on the left, and though his original attempt to supply a goal to a teammate was felled, his second attempt from a seemingly impossible angle found the net thanks to a combination of Cech and the woodwork. It was scrappy, but none of the few thousand travelling fans cared any less.
The lead had come early in the second half however, and there was still more than a third of the game for the Blues to come roaring back. Young Marco Pugliese soon tested Martin, and from the resulting corner Lee Hodson had to be alert to deny Ba his second of the evening. Milton Keynes were widely expected to borrow the famed Chelsea bus from this moment on, but a quick counter from another Chelsea corner - from which the away side's defending was magnificent all night - saw substitute Daniel Powell denied by a dubious tackle. The players protested but referee Howard Webb could only award a corner for their troubles.
It had been a mad few minutes but it was not about to end yet, as just moments after Chelsea had threatened with the Pugliese chance, MK Dons had already had several clear cut goalscoring opportunities. Kiernan's header from the corner was beaten away from Cech before the Czech international produced a breathtaking save to deny Carruthers another.
Andre Schurrle was next to blow his chance as an onrushing Martin saved spectacularly from his effort. Surprisingly however, that was to be the home side's last chance to spare themselves from one of the most embarassing results in the club's history. The experienced Dean Lewington came on for Gedeon Okito and contributed greatly to an outstanding effort which kept the Europa League champions at bay for the final twenty minutes or so. MK Dons shock the Special One to advance to the next round, where they will play Milwall or Bradford, yet again away from home to the disbelief of Karl Robinson.
Sky Bet League 1
0 - 0
1 - 3
Matt Tootle 55
- Danny Handling 43, Ryan Hall (pen) 49, (pen) 74
1 - 0
Rob Kiernan 17
0 - 2
Danny Handling 2, 36
FA Cup, 3rd Round
1 - 1
Federico Macheda 55
- Josh Falkingham 41
FA Cup, 3rd Round Replay
1 - 1
Danny Handling 42Chris Burke 33
MK Dons win 4-1 on penalties
FA Cup, 4th Round
1 - 2
Demba Ba 24
- Giorgio Rasulo 38, Samir Carruthers 54
A truly outstanding run which even I never expected, although I can almost guarantee that we will fall at a lower ranked opposition than Chelsea!
Player of the Episode
Name: Rob Kiernan
Date of Birth: 13 January 1991
Previous Clubs: Watford, Wigan (Permanent), Kilmarnock, Wycombe, Bradford, Yeovil, Accrington Stanley, Burton, Brentford, Southend (All loans, seriously)
Danny Handling finally got back to goalscoring form once and for all this month and finishes a close second but it is defender Kiernan who has stood out the most for me this episode. He was initially quite shaky after returning from a long-term injury crisis but he's really proven to me this month that he can become a quality Championship defender...oh, and did I mention his performance at the Bridge was world class?
As per usual, thank you all so much for reading and commenting. I know it's been a while since my last update but I just haven't felt like playing much FM recently. Whether I'll go back to more regular updates I'm not yet sure.
And as some of you have been enquiring about my tactics, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to show you them too!
"There were two female physios at the club. I was like a dog with two dicks. I spent a lot of time on the treatment table"
- Former Liverpool and England striker Stan Collymore on a spell at Fulham.