09282022

Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford: Conor Wickham heads the Eagles into their first FA Cup final since 1990

With one giant leap and one towering text-book header from the days of yore, Connor Wickham turned back the clock to the days when Kylie Minogue was at No 1 and Margaret Thatcher was in No 10.

Wickham’s winning goal, early in the second half, sends Crystal Palace into the FA Cup final for the first time since 1990.

They will face Manchester United at Wembley, just as they did 26 years ago, with Louis van Gaal hoping the competition will secure his future as it did for Sir Alex Ferguson. 

Connor Wickham of Crystal Palace celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal with a header during the Emirates FA Cup semi-final

Pape Souare took the ball on the left and crossed for Wickham to rise high and power a header past Watford goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon

The goal secured a 2-1 semi-final victory over Watford at Wembley and ending the Eagles' 26-year wait for an FA Cup final in the process

The goal secured a 2-1 semi-final victory over Watford at Wembley and ending the Eagles’ 26-year wait for an FA Cup final in the process

Crystal Palace winger Bakary Sako enjoyed the moment with his team-mates in the dressing room after the side reached the FA Cup final

Crystal Palace winger Bakary Sako enjoyed the moment with his team-mates in the dressing room after the side reached the FA Cup final

MATCH FACTS 

Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Hennessey 6; Ward 6, Dann 6.5, Delaney 7, Souare 7; Zaha 7, Jedinak 6.5, Cabaye 6, Puncheon 6 (Sako 81 mins); Bolasie 7 (McArthur 74), Wickham 7.5 (Adebayor 86)

Subs not used: Speroni, Kelly, Ledley, Gayle

Booked: Dann

Goals: Bolasie 6, Wickham 61 

Manager: Alan Pardew 7

Watford (4-4-2): Pantilimon 6; Nyom 6 (Anya 83), Cathcart 6, Britos 6, Ake 5; Abdi 5 (Guedioura 56, 6), Capoue 6.5 (Suarez 32, 6), Watson 6, Jurado 5; Deeney 6.5, Ighalo 5

Subs not used: Gomes, Prodl, Behrami, Berguis

Booked: Jurado, Suarez, Deeney

Goal: Deeney 55 

Manager: Quique Sanchez Flores 6

Man of the match: Connor Wickham

Referee: Craig Pawson 6

Attendance: 79,110

Watford were exhausted and dejected. For Quique Sanchez Flores and his team, a campaign which promised so much has fizzled out. 

They were never at their best and Palace were worth the victory.

Alan Pardew’s team took the lead in the sixth minute through Yannick Bolasie, with the first of three headers.

Troy Deeney equalised early in the second half but Wickham decided it with a brilliant goal to cap a superb display from him up front.

Watford froze when beaten by Palace the 2013 play-off final at Wembley, and they started poorly again, behind from the sixth minute when they failed to defend a near-post corner routine.

Yohan Cabaye’s kick was flicked on by Damien Delaney and Bolasie was up early at the back-post to nod it over the line, as Deeney and goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon launched into flying karate kicks in an attempt to make the block.

With the corner, the flick and the scramble, there were echoes of Pardew’s famous extra-time winner against Liverpool in the 1990 FA Cup semi-final.

That was the final act of a classic. This early goal had the strange effect of stifling the first-half. 

Palace closed ranks and sought to do further damage on the counter-attack while Watford took few risks and created very little. 

Up front, Deeney and Odio Ighalo, prolific earlier in the season, were subdued.

The closest they came in the first-half was when Palace full-back Joel Ward appeared to misjudge a cross from Alan Nyom, which zipped off the turf, struck him in the shins and went behind, dangerously close to his own goal.

It did not help Flores when he lost Etienne Capoue to injury. Capoue, who had been the pick of Watford’s players during the first half-hour, hurt his left knee in an off-the-ball collision with Bolasie.

He tried to continue but was carried off and replaced by Mario Suarez. The pattern did not change.

Yohan Cabaye’s corner was flicked on at the near post by Damien Delaney and headed down and in by Yannick Bolasie (2nd left)

Bolasie celebrates as he scores Crystal Palace's first goal during the FA Cup semi-final against Watford at Wembley

Bolasie celebrates as he scores Crystal Palace’s first goal during the FA Cup semi-final against Watford at Wembley

Bolasie runs over to celebrate the goal with Palace manager Alan Pardew (left) after he gave his team the perfect start to the clash

Bolasie runs over to celebrate the goal with Palace manager Alan Pardew (left) after he gave his team the perfect start to the clash

Watford’s Etienne Capoue had to be stretchered off after damaging his knee in an off the ball collision with another player

Palace went into the interval on top. A bright spell from winger Wilfried Zaha caused Watford problems and he thought he deserved a penalty when his cross from the right struck Nathan Ake on the hand.

Referee Craig Pawson ignored the claims, just as he did at the start of the second-half when Connor Wickham and Miguel Britos tumbled in a heap on the edge of the penalty area on another Palace attack.

From the outset, the second-half was quicker and more entertaining than the first. 

Bolasie embarked on a terrific run down the left-wing. He went past Britos and made himself a yard on Craig Cathcart before shooting low from a tight angle. Pantilimon was able to save with his legs.

Watford levelled from a corner taken by Jose Manuel Jurado and headed in by Deeney, who beat his former Walsall team-mate Scott Dann in the air, before an extended celebration. Wembley came to life at last.

Jason Puncheon (right) and Bolasie both continued to make life tough for Watford's full-backs on the counter attack

Jason Puncheon (right) and Bolasie both continued to make life tough for Watford’s full-backs on the counter attack

Palace were denied a penalty Miguel Britos  got the wrong side of Conor Wickham and the striker got past him before being chopped down 

Palace were denied a penalty Miguel Britos got the wrong side of Conor Wickham and the striker got past him before being chopped down 

Watford's striking duo Troy Deeney (2nd right) and Odion Ighalo (centre) were isolated for the majority of the first half

Watford’s striking duo Troy Deeney (2nd right) and Odion Ighalo (centre) were isolated for the majority of the first half

Deeney (No 9) got ahead of Scott Dann to head home the equaliser from Jose Manuel Jurado's in-swinging corner

Deeney (No 9) got ahead of Scott Dann to head home the equaliser from Jose Manuel Jurado’s in-swinging corner

Deeney has been on an epic personal journey to this point in his career and he leads his team with emotions fully on display.

Six minutes later, when Palace took the lead and the Watford captain became engaged in an animated discussion with right-back Allan Nyom about who might be to blame.

The cross had been delivered from Nyom’s flank by Papa Souare, deep to Wickham who climbed above Ake to apply a wonderful header, arrowed back across goal from whence it came and inside the post.

There were half-chances at both ends. Watford went forward and Suarez had an effort blocked and Deeney could not turn a header on target. Jurado’s half-volley from 25-yards was comfortably saved by Wayne Hennessey.

Perhaps the best chance fell to Ighalo, eight minute from time. Deeney flicked a long-ball into his path. It was not easy and the Nigerian, who was lethal in the first half of the season, could not keep it down. 

Deeney of celebrates scoring Watford's equalising goal shortly into the second half of the FA Cup semi-final

Deeney of celebrates scoring Watford’s equalising goal shortly into the second half of the FA Cup semi-final

Watford thoroughly deserved to get their equaliser having looked a much better team after the break than they did in the first half

Watford thoroughly deserved to get their equaliser having looked a much better team after the break than they did in the first half

Jurado's cross from the left found Ighalo but the striker couldn't get enough power on his header to trouble the Palace goalkeeper

Jurado’s cross from the left found Ighalo but the striker couldn’t get enough power on his header to trouble the Palace goalkeeper

Ighalo shoots past Scott Dann of Crystal Palace as Watford pushed in search of a late equaliser that never materialised

Ighalo shoots past Scott Dann of Crystal Palace as Watford pushed in search of a late equaliser that never materialised

Pardew's team will face Manchester United, as they did 26 years ago, with Louis van Gaal hoping the trophy will secure his future

Pardew’s team will face Manchester United, as they did 26 years ago, with Louis van Gaal hoping the trophy will secure his future

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