Most Memorable Moments of the FA Cup Past and Present

FA Cup

FA Cup Memorable Moments

The FA Cup is a longstanding competition that has captivated fans around the world as it pits the big beasts of the footballing jungle against tiny sides. Naturally, this can produce some astonishing shocks, and here are some of the most memorable moments in recent history.

Stunning Sutton Shock Coventry in 1989

In 1987 the FA Cup was won by Coventry City, who beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-2. Come 1989, the side were looking to reclaim the trophy. One small obstacle lay in the way of the top-flight team, and this was Sutton United (from the Conference, the fifth tier of English football). It was only the third round, and while Sutton had home advantage, this would be a formality for the 1987 winners.

Except that it wasn’t. The FA Cup is so beloved of British and overseas fans precisely because it puts together minnows with the big fish such as Yeovil Town and Bournemouth in 2022 with the potential for tremendous upsets. Coventry were red hot favourites and could have taken the lead with an early header, but Brian Kilcline nodded it right at the Sutton keeper, who duly caught it. With only a few minutes until the halftime whistle, Tony Rains volleyed in the ball to make it 1-0 to Sutton United, to the chagrin of Coventry. David Phillips levelled the scoreline after the break, but another volley, this time courtesy of Matthew Hanlan, put the home side ahead and there they stayed. Coventry were out, beaten by Sutton United in the third round.

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Mighty Liverpool Felled by Wimbledon in 1988

In the 1980s, Liverpool were the kings of English football, winning more than half the First Division titles that decade, alongside two FA Cups and a pair of European Cups. Unsurprisingly, Liverpool was in the FA Cup Final of 1988 (having just secured another domestic title).  There they faced Wimbledon, who finished 33 points behind their opponents in the league table. The match that was to unfold saw not one but two of the most memorable moments in FA Cup history.

The pundits gave Wimbledon little chance of success, but what actually happened showed just how much sports commentators know. Against all the odds (quite literally), Wimbledon scored first, just before halftime. Lawrie Sanchez headed in a free kick from Dennis Wise and David had one over on Goliath. But Liverpool had plenty of time to peg things back and restore the natural order of the universe. Didn’t they?

Well, they had their chance. An hour into the game Liverpool was awarded a penalty thanks to a Clive Goodyear foul. John Aldridge was both the foul’s victim and the man who took the penalty that would surely put Liverpool on even terms. After all, no keeper had ever saved a penalty at Wembley in an FA Cup Final, and Aldridge would never miss. He did not miss the target, but Wimbledon’s keeper, Dave Beasant, made history and saved the penalty, breaking Liverpool hearts and sealing a historic, astonishing victory for Wimbledon. Liverpool applied all the pressure they could, but there was no breaking Wimbledon, who won the 1988 FA Cup Final 1-0.

Sunderland’s Heroic Keeper Defies Leeds

Leeds United has had more ups and downs than a pogo stick, but the 1970s was a purple patch for the side. During this decade they won the First Division and the FA Cup (1971-72) and were runners up in the European Cup. They were the title holders when they reached the FA Cup Final in 1973, and faced Sunderland, of the Second Division.

Thirty-two minutes into the match, Sunderland’s Ian Porterfield shot and scored to put the rank outsiders ahead of the fancied favourites. After this, Leeds gritted their teeth and set about Sunderland, ratcheting up the pressure and putting in shot after shot. But Sunderland keeper Jimmy Montgomery had the match of his life, saving the bacon of his team. The most notable incident was a double save that prevented first Trevor Cherry’s header and then the rebound attempt by Peter Lorimer from putting Leeds back into contention. No more goals were scored that match, and Sunderland, thanks to both Porterfield’s goal and Montgomery’s determination, became the first second-tier side to take the FA Cup since 1931.

While it isn’t incredible for a second-tier side to beat a top-flight team in the FA Cup (as happened with Nottingham Forest and Arsenal) losing out on the trophy itself was a weak point for Leeds during one of their most successful eras.

Chorley put out Derby in 2021

The shocks have not stopped in recent competitions, and one of the biggest came in 2021. Derby County, of the Championship, were facing non-league side Chorley. The difficulty bigger sides can often face is complacency in the face of small time opposition, but the likes of Chorley have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Chorley, who play in the National League North, scored twice to put down the former winners Derby in the third round. While Chorley didn’t get much further, beaten by Wolves in the fourth round, it was a historic and convincing win.

The FA Cup has been providing memorable moments and shocking results for years, and will surely serve up some more in the future.

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