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Pitch imperfect

Robbo Robson | 12:29 UK time, Monday, 20 April 2009

Here's the latest Excuse For Not Winning An Important Game Of Football. The pitch was terrible.

Somewhat typically Fergie and Wenger have blamed the turf for their defeats in the semi-finals. In fact Sir Alex has said the pitch picked his team for him... which rather suggests there was a miserable sod in charge on Sunday.

To be fair, the pitch is bloody awful. They've tarmacked over this surface for a rally event, they've churned it up with the studs of 20-stone North American hulks, they've re-laid it five times in two years and it still looks like the Horse of the Year Show has been cantering all over it after 10 minutes.

I mean seriously is this the National Football Stadium or just a very large Middlesbrough Rock Garden where they allow kickabouts from time to time?! Maybe we should be grateful they can fit these games in around the gridiron and Oasis and Take Blinking That!

I just hope Bono doesn't pull out because of the state of the goalmouths, eh? (And if you have got tickets to see U2, I ask you the question that dogs most right-minded people - why? If Bono still hasn't found what he's looking for, then I suggest he goes and searches for it in a very deep hole in the ground).

Of course they could save the great green pudding of a pitch by not playing the flippin' semi-finals on it! I've got no idea why, aside from raking in the cash, the FA have deemed it necessary to have these matches played at the same ground as the final. It pulls the rug from under the occasion that is the final almost as effectively as the pitch itself.

They used to say nothing prepares you for that first walk out on to the pitch in your Cup final day suit. Well, apart from the semi-final that is. It's nonsense! It's like spending the night before your wedding heavy petting in the aisle. Get them semis out of there and back into places like Villa Park - I mean how else are the people of Birmingham going to witness first hand a last-four match in the FA Cup?
Sir Alex Ferguson at Wembley
Despite the fact that it looks like it's been turfed over by a bunch of drunken groundsmen using a hand-held roller and some gaffa tape, the fact remains that Wenger and Ferguson's excuses have one flaw. Both teams have to play on it.

There may come a time in their somewhat neurotic minds when they swear they saw the pitch being swapped over at half-time, but for now, slippery shambles or not, it's a surface that both teams must cope with, and unsurprisingly Guus Hiddink didn't seem too bothered by it.

The fact that the first semi-final was tedious, and the second was about as exciting as a soft furnishings warehouse open day, might have had something to do with the dodgy pitch. But to me it had more to do with the fact that Everton got fazed by Ferguson's selection.

The mindset must've changed from 'If we play at our best we can really give these a good game' to 'Hellfire if we lose to this lot it'll be like when they have them specky little spods on Countdown and they turn the grown-ups over'. Seriously, how long have the two full-backs been out of the womb? Phil Neville said they'd beaten the best team in the world when they hadn't even beaten the best team at Man United.

Everton were abject going forward. Most of the time it looked like the forwards in blue were playing Pong with Nemanja Vidic. In it went, Bop! Out it came.

Fellaini continues to look like he's continually shaking an uncomfortable blazer off his shoulders every time he goes up for a header. Cahill was anonymous and the languid Saha's lack of fitness made Berbatov look positively animated when he came on.

Moyes's masterstroke came before the match when he referred to Old Mother Riley's supposed affiliations.

I'm sure there'll be the Bluenose defence, but that penalty was as plain as the nose on Mike Riley's face - and thankfully he didn't give it. Fergie's rage, which appeared to turn both his nose and the lining of his jacket blood-red, was the most vivid moment of the whole 120 minutes.

Still, I'm pleased for the Toffees. They have beaten three of the Big Four - United, Liverpool, and the Boro - not to mention Villa - to get there, so you can't say it's not deserved. The Nuts of Steel Award goes to Jagielka 'n' all, for stepping up to take the last kick.

Whether my lack of enjoyment of Saturday's semi-final had owt to do with how miserable we felt after watching the beloved Boro hardly get a whiff of Fulham's penalty box is hard to tell.

Like any North-Easterner we spent that game doing the Premier League maths - and basically Hull City are going to save either Boro or the Geordie bottlers. Blackburn aren't going down (and it's no good complaining about a lack of strikers, Mr Allardyce - if you find one send him up to our place). Blunderland have a game v West Brom, so that's them on at least 38 points. So it's all down to 11 May at St. James'.

Currently Newcastle's management are changing their minds more times in 90 minutes than my missus in a hat shop. There was a moment when Dowie and Shearer were re-jigging things when it looked like a huddle in one of them snooty estate agencies you get down in London.

(You know the ones, where Tarquin, Felix and Jemima are busy lining their portfolios before taking a year out in Malaysia and Oz. If there's an upside to the house price crash it's looking at the maudlin expressions on their faces right now.)

So forget your Chumps League frivolity - 11 May.. it's the Big One!


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