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Bolasie and Wickham put Palace in FA Cup final by thwarting Watford

Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | April 24, 2016

Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford

  • Eagles go ahead early through Bolasie back-post finish
  • Hornets lose Capoue to knee injury midway through first-half
  • Ake handball in box goes unnoticed by officials
  • Deeney heads in Watford equaliser 10 minutes after interval
  • Wickham gets winning goal for Palace on hour mark
  • Pardew’s team play Man Utd in repeat of 1990 final

Eagles dare after taking sting out of Hornets

Crystal Palace v Watford - Emirates FA Cup - Semi-Final - Wembley Stadium

Yannick Bolasie and Connor Wickham put Crystal Palace into their first major final for more than a quarter of a century, as the Eagles outfought Watford resistance to win the second FA Cup semi.

Ahead with little more than five minutes played, Palace profited from a poor start by the opposition through Bolasie but were pegged back by Hornets skipper Troy Deeney early in the second-half. Parity was again short-lived, however, thanks to Wickham’s powerful winning header.

Eagles boss Alan Pardew once starred in an FA Cup semi-final and now he has masterminded victory in another. Palace will play the side they faced at Wembley in the 1990 final, Manchester United, once again.

Early opener

Setting the Eagles up to be a threat from set-pieces, Pardew’s team took an early lead, having settled into this occasion far better than Watford. Damien Delaney flicked-on Yohan Cabaye’s left-wing corner to the back post, where Bolasie steered home after getting ahead of marker Deeney.

Crystal Palace v Watford - Emirates FA Cup - Semi-Final - Wembley Stadium

Good value for their advantage, Palace proved to be the main danger to themselves with Joel Ward relieved to turn behind a dangerous Allan Nyon centre. Cabaye then saw a cross-shot from a half-cleared corner punched away by Watford cup keeper Costel Pantilimon.

Etienne Capoue came off worst in a clash and had to go off with a knee problem, but the Hornets went close to creating a clear-cut chance when Deeney’s first-time through-ball almost found strike partner Odion Igahlo. Delaney did just enough in the challenge to off-balance the Nigeria forward.

Nathan Ake was perhaps fortunate not to concede a late first-half penalty when he handled Wilfried Zaha cross, but referee Craig Pawson and his linesman appeared to miss the incident. The Eagles went in ahead regardless.

Quick-fire goals after interval

Crystal Palace v Watford - Emirates FA Cup - Semi-Final - Wembley Stadium

Bolasie drew a fine stop from a tight angle out of Pantilimon five minutes after half-time when getting clear down the left flank, bur Palace were pegged back by Deeney.

Rising to meet a Jose Manuel Jurado corner, the Hornets skipper simply showed more aerial strength than Scott Dann. Quique Sanchez Flores’ side were only on even terms briefly, however.

Crystal Palace v Watford - Emirates FA Cup - Semi-Final - Wembley Stadium

Not to be outdone, Wickham nodded in a powerful winner, out-muscling Ake as Pape Souare was allowed to cross into the box after exchanging passes from a simple throw-in.

Zaha, switched to the left when Pardew withdrew Bolasie, ran almost the entire length of the pitch with chalk on his boots, but a tame finish saw Watford get away unscathed from this counter-attack.

Palace preparing for Red Devils reunion

Ighalo and Jurado wasted Hornets half-chances to equalise again, and sub Adlene Guedioura did likewise in stoppage time as the Eagles held on for a famous Wembley win

Crystal Palace v Watford - Emirates FA Cup - Semi-Final - Wembley Stadium

Pardew must now plot to do what he could not achieve as a player, and the history of the Palace v Man Utd fixture in cup competitions has history.

Much more recent than coming up short in that 1990 replay after coming up short in the original tie which ended up a 3-3 thriller, the Eagles embarrassed the Red Devils in a League Cup clash back in 2011 with Darren Ambrose’s headline-grabbing goal and a late Glenn Murray winner.

It is the spirit of that Old Trafford upset that Pardew must try to invoke when meeting Louis van Gaal’s Man Utd on May 21st. Palace are 4/1 outsiders with Coral to lift the FA Cup in 90 minutes.

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