Saturday, May 17, 2008

Portsmouth Wins FA Cup

Nwankwo Kanu tapped home a cross parried away by Cardiff goalkeeper Peter Enckelman in the 37th minute, the Bluebirds' Glenn Loovens had a goal taken away for a handball right before the first half ended, and Portsmouth was able to hang on for a 1-0 victory today in the FA Cup final in front of a crowd of 89,874 at Wembley.

The win ensures that Portsmouth will be playing in the UEFA Cup next season, as they'll join Everton, Manchester City, and possibly Aston Villa if the Birmingham-based club makes it out of this summer's Intertoto Cup. Harry Redknapp, who did a great job this year on the South Coast, won his first real trophy in the top flight. He had Portsmouth on track to qualify automatically for the UEFA Cup for a large part of the season, but after his team reached the final of this competition, they took their foot off the pedal in the league and played solely to win this game.

The win also gives Portsmouth a chance to win another trophy next season. They'll meet Manchester United, the Premiership champions, in the Community Shield on August 10, a week before the 2008-2009 league season officially kicks off. Remember, Portsmouth knocked United out of the FA Cup this year at Old Trafford and held them to a draw at Fratton Park as well, so you can bet that there will be no fear from 'Arry's boys.

It was great to see two teams from outside the "Big Four" contest this game for a meaningful trophy. Cardiff is a Coca-Cola Championship side who was playing with house money for a UEFA Cup spot, and Portsmouth had to have this game to play in Europe next year. Both squads battled it out for 90 minutes and left it all on the field, and I don't think we would've seen that if two "Big Four" teams had reached the final. They don't care much about the cup competitions anymore, but everyone else does because they know it's their only real chance to win something.

Interestingly enough, though, I think because no "Big Four" teams were involved, the build-up and pomp surrounding this game from a national perspective wasn't there like it usually is. I just got a sense that this was sort of a throwaway game for the national media, and if that's the case, it obviously doesn't do justice to Portsmouth and Cardiff and that's a shame. It seems like there is always talk about how we don't want the "Big Four" to win everything, but when non-"Big Four" teams aren't playing, we seem to not care.

Don't take anything away from Portsmouth, and even Cardiff, for doing what they did. Just because neither team has an international reputation doesn't make their respective accomplishments any less significant. As I already said, Portsmouth knocked out the league champions at their place in their run the final and Cardiff are a Welsh-based team playing in England's second tier. Full credit to both teams, and particularly Portsmouth, for an entertaining match today.

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