Despite being the dominant side for much of the game, West Brom needed a 92nd minute equalizer from Carlos Vela to take a share of the points against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the lone Premier League game of the weekend, one with huge implications on the ever-tighter relegation battle. The draw kept West Brom in 17th and Wolves at the bottom and the result did little to relieve nearly every club in the lower half of the table, as clubs 10-16 are all well within one poorly time run of bad form away from finding themselves in the thick of the scrap.
The salvaged point was surely a massive relief for new Baggies manager Roy Hodgson as a home Black Country derby loss to a close relegation foe would have been a poor way to begin his tenure to say the least. Still, West Brom will likely see the game as something of a lost opportunity as they were by far the better side for the majority of the game. Wolves keeper Wayne Hennessey put in a massive effort on the day, making ten saves before Vela's late effort found a way past. In total West Brom managed 19 shots with 11 coming on target and were awarded 12 corners for good measure. Wolves were far less a threat in the attack but managed to make one of their two shots on target count, a curling first-time effort from outside the box by Jamie O'Hara 39 minutes in.
Despite West Brom's dominance both on the stat sheet and on the pitch, it looked for all the world that a gutsy effort from Wolves' defense would allow them to escape with all three points. For so many reason then Vela's goal was a crushing blow; away wins are a massive prize in and of themselves in this derby, called by some the fiercest rivalry in English football, and the implications on Wolves now narrowing chances to avoid the drop would have been massive. A win would have brought the Wolves off bottom and into the position currently occupied by their rivals; instead, the last-breath goal keeps them at the very bottom on goal difference. The full-time whistle was accompanied by some unrest, and the FA is currently investigating the charge that a smoke bomb was lobbed from the Wolverhampton supporters section towards a group of West Brom fans in the East Stand.
The big shock in the FA Cup came in the way of Everton's defeat of Chelsea on penalties Saturday afternoon's replay of their fourth-round tie. While the run of play was largely dominated by Chelsea, the two sides went to extra time equal at 0-0. Chelsea appeared to have booked their trip to the Round of 16 when Frank Lampard put the Blues ahead in the 104th minute, but Leighton Baines stunned the Stamford Bridge crowd in the 119th when his curled free kick into the top left corner of the net from outside the area. That left the winner to be decided on penalties, and though Chelsea were able to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the shootout, two Tim Howard saves and an Ashley Cole miss were punished by Phil Neville and Everton emerged victorious from the shootout in stunning fashion, 4-3.
Continuing with the theme of late equalizers, Leyton Orient's Johnathan Tehoue scored an 89th minute goal that erased Tomas Rosicky's earlier effort and earned Orient a lucrative replay at the Emirates. As is often the case in these close Cup matches, the Premier League side were clearly superior in terms of talent but unable to make said separation count thanks to a tremendous effort from the League One side. The Gunners will be beyond disappointed with the outcome, as a redundant fixture will not likely be welcome with their involvement in the title race, Champions League and League Cup Final. The winner of the replay will face Macnhester United who looked somewhat unconvincing against a determined Crawley Town side but in the end emerged victorious from Old Trafford with their passage booked to the next round.
In the only other weekend FA Cup meeting of Premier League clubs aside from the clash between Chelsea and Everton, a 12th minute goal from Ivan Klasnic was all Bolton would need to see off Fulham in a rather drab affair at Craven Cottage. The Wanderers will face Birmingham City, who advanced to the quarter-finals by defeating League One Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 at St. Andrews. Also through to the final eight is Stoke, who had little trouble with the club currently at the top of the League One standings, beating Brighton 3-0. Manchester City thrashed Notts County 5-0 in their fourth-round replay at the Eastlands, setting up a Round of 16 matchup against Aston Villa. Rounding out the weekend, West Ham look determined to make yet another deep cup run this season, dismantling Championship side Burnley 5-1 and earning a trip to Stoke for the quarter finals.
Things return largely to normal next weekend, with a somewhat less than enthralling slate of games highlighted by the Carling Cup final between Birmingham City and Arsenal on Sunday. While the matchup certainly favors the Gunners, Birmingham City will relish to opportunity to win their first major trophy since 1963 and qualify for Europe in the process. On the other side, while the League Cup is not necessarily the level of competition the Gunners have been striving for in the past, there remains the growing discontent amongst Arsenal fans at their club's much shorter sliverware drought (dating back to the long, long ago days of 2005's FA Cup win. Those two story lines should make what is normally a less than heavily promoted affair (despite the affection that some of use have for the competition) a bit more talked about than usual. Well, one of those story lines at least. I'll let you have a guess at which one.