Yet another FA Cup upset was caused by League One’s Bradford City, this time against Sunderland, as Phil Parkinson’s men dispatched of Premier League opposition for the second time this year.
Here are some of the main talking points from today’s fifth round tie.
5. The pitch
The surface today at Valley Parade certainly wasn’t conducive to attractive football. Sunderland struggled to deal with the poor surface while Bradford played the type of game that suited the pitch.
The surface was to have a bearing on the first goal as John O’Shea misinterpreted the bounce of the ball in a muddy penalty area, subsequently having Billy Clarke’s strike cannon off his leg and into the back of the net.
It didn’t define the match, but it effected the visitor’s passing game at times, and made it much easier for the Bantams to capitalise on loose first touches.
4. Bradford City’s pressing
Bradford boss Phil Parkinson deserves huge credit for the way in which he set his team up today against Sunderland.
From first minute to last they pressed and pressed the Black Cats into conceding possession. With the game finely poised at 1-0 in the first half, this writer doubted whether or not the Bantams could keep up this level of pressure.
Keep it up they did and the last 20 minutes or so was a almost a non-event with Sunderland failing to seriously test Ben Williams in the Bradford goal.
The pressure the Bantams put on the ball, combined with the difficult surface meant that Bradford were able to effectively dismantle a large portion of Sunderland’s attacks.
3. Sunderland lacked a plan B
We know by now that Gus Poyet sides will play a possession-based game but they failed to deal with the aforementioned pressure the Bantams put on the ball, particularly in the middle, with Sebastian Larsson and Liam Bridcutt being completely outfought and outthought.
Although not attractive, the conditions and the fact that Bradford were pressing so much in midfield, meant that a few passes in over the Bantams midfield, or defence, from the back wouldn’t have done any harm.
Instead of changing tack, Sunderland now find themselves firmly focused on a relegation battle and with every avenue back to Wembley, for a second year running, closed off.
2. Leagues apart? Not in this case
One would be forgiven for thinking that today’s clash was not between two sides from different worlds when it comes to football leagues.
Ninth place in League One; Bradford didn’t look as though they were playing a side from the Premier League. Sunderland’s dip in performance and the Bantams rising to the challenge both combined to make it a more even-looking affair.
This would be discrediting how well Bradford played however. They were fully deserving of their victory. The irony of today’s clash is that both sides could potentially end up in the same league next season with Bradford just two points off the play-off positions and the Black Cats hovering above the Premier League’s relegation zone.
1. Bradford’s momentum continues
After stunning English football in the 2012/13 season by reaching the League Cup final, Bradford are without doubt a side everyone left in the FA Cup will dread having to play.
Both Millwall and Chelsea have felt the wrath of the Bantams already this year and Parkinson’s men will fear no-one as they await the quarter-final draw tomorrow night.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
Featured image by By David Ingham (originally posted to Flickr as P2094590) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons