Article by Giorgio Pirelli
Three of the four soccer uniforms on display at Wembley Stadium for the F.A Cup semi-finals were decided over the weekend. Chelsea, Portsmouth and Aston Villa are sure to be there while Tottenham and Fulham will fight it out for the last place in a replay after drawing 0-0 in their quarter-final.
Both Chelsea and Fulham had comfortable 2-0 wins over Stoke City and Birmingham City respectively but the match of the round was Aston Villa’s come from behind 4-2 victory away at Reading who had previously knocked Liverpool out of the F.A. Cup.Reading went into the half-time break with a deserved 2-0 lead but after a blast from manager Martin O’Neill during the break, Villa knocked in four second half goals including a hat-trick from Norwegian international striker John Carew.”We were struggling in the first half and the gaffer told us some serious words at the break,” said the Norwegian. “I won’t go into what he said but you can see on the pitch what happened.”Villa scored three goals in the opening ten minutes of the second-half, the first from England international Ashley Young within ninety seconds that deflated Reading and provided Aston Villa with some much needed confidence and momentum.Carew’s star performance came after the disappointment of having been left out of the starting line-up for the previous week’s 1-2 defeat at the hands of Manchester United in the Carling Cup final. He clearly had a point to prove and his three match-winning goals did just that.Not surprisingly, Martin O’Neill was full of praise for the character his side showed in the second half to take victory and set up a semi-final with cup favorites Chelsea.”I think after all the effort that we had put not only into the Carling Cup but also to get to this stage [of the FA Cup], to go out as meekly as we might have done after the first-half performance would have been really disappointing,” said Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill.”Reading played very well in the first half. They kept turning us around and picked up the second ball. They got the second goal and I’ve got to tell you, I was quite pleased to go in at half-time just two-nil down.”It might have been a bit of [a hangover from last week],” he said. “But there is no excuse. It’s the quarter-final of the FA Cup and we’re playing away from home and we’re right up for the game [beforehand]. I just felt that it took us time before we treated it like a FA Cup quarter-final.”Sometimes it’s nothing to do with pretty football. Sometimes it’s to do with character, determination and the ability to fight and I think we had lost that there in the first half. It came back to us in the second half in great abundance.”Their match-up with Chelsea will be a tough one but Chelsea insist that they won’t be taking Aston Villa lightly.Chelsea’s assistant manager, Ray Wilkins, said: “When you get to this stage of the competition the opposition is always going to be tough, and Aston Villa will be a tough game for us.”The semi-finals will take place on the weekend of 10 and 11 April at Wembley Stadium in London.
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