What has been the best FA Cup semi-final at the new Wembley?
Harry Howes | 16 July 2020
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Ahead of the FA Cup returning to Wembley for the semi-finals this weekend, we’re taking a trip down memory lane.
Arsenal face Manchester City on Saturday, before Manchester United take on Chelsea on Sunday. Will either game produce anything that compares to some of the unforgettable semi-final moments in years gone by, from Gazza’s free-kick to Ryan Giggs’ incredible solo goal?
While traditionalists will argue that Wembley should be reserved for the final, we’ve also witnessed some classic encounters since the semi-finals moved to the rebuilt national stadium in 2008.
But which of them has been the best? We’ve narrowed it down to four and now we need your help deciding.
Portsmouth 2-0 Tottenham – 2010
After winning the FA Cup in 2008, Portsmouth reached a second final in three years with a remarkable victory over top-four chasing Spurs.
The feat was more impressive considering Pompey had been relegated from the Premier League the day before, having been deducted nine points for going into administration.
Most of Portsmouth’s stars had left the club and they lined up against former boss Harry Redknapp, who had taken club heroes Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Niko Kranjcar to White Hart Lane with him.
But despite the clear gulf between the two squads, the turmoil unravelling on the south coast appeared to galvanise the Portsmouth players as they ran out 2-0 winners.
Goals from Frederic Piquionne and Kevin-Prince Boateng in extra-time sent them through to the final, shocking Spurs, who later qualified for the Champions League for the first time.
Sadly, Portsmouth’s nightmare season didn’t end on a high as they were ultimately beaten 1-0 by Chelsea in the final.
Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United – 2011
A low-scoring game between two rivals, and two of the best sides in the country, doesn’t immediately scream ‘classic’.
But this FA Cup semi-final between City and United represented the turning point of the power struggle in Manchester.
Following years of living in the shadow of their neighbours, City had steadily improved thanks to backing from their new owners and they were threatening to infiltrate the ‘big four’.
Yaya Toure was among their marquee signings ahead of the 2010/11 season and it was the former Barcelona man who settled this tie at Wembley as he capitalised on a Michael Carrick error to charge through the United defence and slot past Edwin van der Sar.
City went on to beat Stoke in the final, with Toure the match-winner once again, and it delivered the club their first major trophy in 35 years.
And the rest is history as they won their first Premier League title the following season, winning 6-1 at Old Trafford in the process.
Chelsea 4-2 Tottenham – 2017
Sometimes the best games require little context and are simply packed with end-to-end action and stunning goals.
This London derby epitomised the term thriller as Chelsea and Spurs took a break from their battle for the title to play out an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
Four points separated the pair at the top of the Premier League but both managers appeared to release the shackles for their meeting as Chelsea took an early lead through a Willian free-kick.
Harry Kane soon struck back but Chelsea went into the break 2-1 up thanks to a second from Willian, this time from the spot.
An equaliser from Dele Alli shortly after half-time looked to put Spurs in the driving seat as they ramped up the pressure, looking to reach their first FA Cup final since 1991.
But it was Chelsea who eventually triumphed thanks to a strike from substitute Eden Hazard, before Nemanja Matic sealed the win with a breathtaking effort into the top corner from 30 yards.
The Blues continued to assert their dominance over Spurs as they went on to seal the Premier League title, but they missed out on the double after losing to Arsenal in the final.
Watford 3-2 Wolves – 2019
Both sides were enjoying remarkable Premier League seasons as they were locked in a battle to qualify for the Europa League and there was an extra spice to their semi-final, with an FA Cup win offering an alternative route into Europe.
Wolves had impressed in their first campaign back in the top-flight and it looked to be a straightforward victory for them as strikes from Matt Doherty and Raul Jimenez either side of half-time gave them a two-goal cushion.
Following Jimenez’ effort the Mexican striker retrieved a wrestler’s mask from behind the goal and his celebration may have sparked Watford into action.
Substitute Gerard Deulofeu gave the Hornets a lifeline with a beautiful curled chip with 11 minutes left on the clock and, deep into injury time, Troy Deeney fired home the equaliser from the spot after being tripped in the box by Leander Dendoncker.
And in extra-time, Deulofeu sealed the comeback with a deft finish beyond Wolves keeper John Ruddy.
Following the game, Deeney criticised Jimenez for donning the mask and labelled his opponent a ‘loser’.
But it was Wolves who would have the last laugh as they finished seventh to qualify for the Europa League, while Watford were humbled 6-0 by Manchester City in the biggest winning margin in the FA Cup final since 1903.
Cast your vote
So, there you have it – four of the best FA Cup semi-finals to be played at the new Wembley. But which one was the best? Cast your vote in our poll on Twitter.
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