LONDON, (Reuters) – Arsenal’s miserable week got worse yesterday when they were knocked out of the FA Cup in a 2-0 fifth round defeat at Sunderland while beleaguered Chelsea fared only slightly better by scraping a 1-1 draw against second tier Birmingham City.
Three days after a 4-0 Champions League defeat at AC Milan that manager Arsene Wenger branded their “worst performance in Europe”, Arsenal’s sloppiness was back as Kieran Richardson’s strike and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s own goal sealed their fate.
Sunderland were joined in the quarter-finals by Everton and Bolton Wanderers who recorded 2-0 wins over Championship (second division) Blackpool and Millwall respectively, while Norwich City were upset 2-1 at home by second tier Leicester City.
Chelsea needed Daniel Sturridge’s equaliser to force a replay with Birmingham after a draw at Stamford Bridge that did nothing to alleviate the pressure on manager Andre Villas-Boas.
While Chelsea at least stayed in the competition, London rivals Arsenal seem certain to finish without a trophy for the seventh year in a row as their last realistic chance of silverware this season turned to dust against hard-working Sunderland.
Arsenal’s day at the Stadium of Light started badly when they lost Francis Coquelin to a hamstring injury with less than 10 minutes gone.
Lacking any sort of attacking spark while looking vulnerable at the back, with Johan Djourou and substitute Sebastien Squillaci short of confidence, Arsenal went behind five minutes before halftime after giving away a free kick.
Djourou had pulled back Craig Gardner needlessly to concede the kick, which Seb Larsson delivered only for Arsenal to half clear straight into the path of Richardson who blasted the ball into the back of the net thanks to a deflection off Squillaci.
Wenger’s side, who last weekend came from behind to beat the same opponents 2-1 in the Premier League, allowed their hosts to go further ahead in the 78th minute when Oxlade-Chamberlain sent the ball into his own net after Larsson had hit the post.
“We have to take the critics on board and stay together and face the critics. There is only one response in our job at the club — to stay united and fight and focus on the next game,” Wenger told a news conference.